Today I got to take a trek though the woods, explore the town of Hamelin, and meet the Pied Piper!
The morning started out with a quick walk through Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was only out of the car for a few minutes because it started POURING. I would later find out that several of the surrounding areas were eventually evacuated due to flooding. It was quite a storm1
Fortunately, the rain started to let up on the journey to the town of Hamelin, which is known for its association to the Pied Piper. The legend Pied Piper of Hamelin, who is also known as the "Rat Catcher" or "Pan Piper" dates all the way back to the middle ages. Legend has it that a man was hired to lure rats away with his pipe, but when the townsfolk refused to pay him, he used his powers to lure their children away instead.
You can easily see the influence of this legend on the town. There were stone rats tiled on the street, and a huge statue of the Piper at the town square:
After the tour of Hamelin, it was back into the car and straight up to Bremen! The town of Bremen served as inspiration for "the Town Musicians of Bremen" story by the Brothers Grimm. Today, a statue commemorates their presence, and it's thought that rubbing the Donkey's legs brings good luck:
In addition to the statue, there is also another UNESCO World Heritage site in Bremen. The town hall is considered on of the most important Gothic Architecture sites in Europe. It was huge, and super pretty:
Bremen marks the official end of the Fairy Tale Trail. It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and a drive of about 1,000 kilometers. I definitely feel like I've gotten a much better sense of who the Brothers really were- they were real people, with real experiences, who took the time to write about what they knew. Their significance is not just in writing stories, but in preserving their culture and standing up for their beliefs, no matter what the cost. I can't wait to take these lessons back to school with me this fall.
I'll be posting another couple of updates as the jet lag wears off and as I reflect more on the trip, but for now- thanks for joining me on my journey! It's been an incredible few weeks!
The rain continues! Turns out that we're getting quite a storm in Germany this week. There's been a lot of flooding, and we've gotten to take some cool alternate routes places.
Despite the rain, it was time for a trip to Kassel! The city of Kassel, which is just north of Waldeck and Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, calls itself "the Capitol of the Brothers Grimm Trail." It was in this town that Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm spent 30 years of their life, which they called "the happiest times of our life" in their autobiographies. They would go to school here, return to work as librarians, and do a large part of their writing from the city.
It's also home to the largest museum of the Brothers Grimm. On the way to the museum, you can see the city square memorializing the Brothers for their work in Kassel:
After seeing the square, I headed to Grimmwalt Kassel, which is a museum that is dedicated to the work of the Brothers Grimm. It is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Documents, including the original printing of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale book with their notes, and several original letters from them
Did you know that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Brothers Grimm has nothing to do with Fairy Tales? In the later part of their lives, they were tasked with writing a dictionary of German Lingustics and Words. This doesn't sound all that exciting, until you learn that it was the first dictionary of its kind. A lot of Germans credit the Brothers Grimm with preserving their language and culture. Who would have thought that the dictionary was so essential?!?!!?
The other thing that they shared was how political they were. When Germany was taken over by the English and the constitution suspended, the Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm joined a group of professors who wrote a letter in protest of this decision. This was seen as treason, and they were given just a few days to flee the country. They had to move to Berlin!
I was fascinated by everything the museum had to offer, and it did a good job providing an in-depth look at their lives. I can't wait to share more later!
When I woke up this morning, it was pouring and foggy! The fog is really spooky, but definitely adds to that “Fairy Tale” atmosphere. Despite the gloomy weather, it was time to head over to the town of Bad Wildungen, which is where Snow White’s Castle is. Snow White’s Castle (really Schloss Friedrichstein) stands atop a hill, and in the mist and the rain it looks pretty spooky:
Did you know that Snow White was inspired by a real person? The Brothers Grimm were allegedly inspired for the character of “Snow White” by the story of the Margaretha von Waldeck, who was the daughter of a count. In the 16th century, she lived in the castle and died from poisoning in her early 20s.
Today, Schloss Fredrickstein is just outside of the town of Bad Wildungen. Check it out:
Today, the town of Bad Wildungen is home to a cute (but very wet) downtown area.
After leaving Bad Wildungen, Wolfhagen was next up on the list! This tiny town served as the inspiration for many of Grimms’ animal fairy tales, such as the Hare’s Bride, the Wolf and the Man, and Fox and the Cat (to name a few – did you know that the Brothers Grimm had written over 211 tales by their seventh published edition!?!?)
Just outside the town, there are old ruins of a former castle. Weidelsburg Castle was built in the early 1100s, but burned down in the late 1400s-early 1500s, which means that by the time of Columbus, the castle was already laying in ruins. Today, you can climb and explore the ruins on your own. Check it out:
Tomorrow, it’ll be time to head to Kassel, where the Brothers Grimm went to school as young teens. I’m excited to learn more!
Today, I headed to Steinau, which is the house of the Brothers Grimm. Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm spent a great part of their childhood here, as did their painter brother, Ludwig Emil Grimm.
The Grimm house is located on a quaint stretch of cobblestone road with some very iconic looking fairy tale houses. You could tell that the Grimm Brothers took a lot of inspiration from their hometown. Check it out:
After a quick walk around town, I ventured to the Grimm House: (note- the museum has a strict no-photos policy, so I was only able to capture the outside…)
Did you know that in the 1800s, it was very hard for women to work? Instead, it was common for large household responsibilities to be passed along to the first born son, even if they were young. That’s what happened to the Grimm Family. After their father died of pneumonia, the Grimm family was plunged into poverty, and they were forced to move from their happy childhood home. Jakob (and, because they were close in age, his brother Wilhelm) inherited a lot of responsibilities at age 10-11! They would handle them for the next couple years, until leaving for schooling in the town of Kassel (more on that in a few days!)
Next, it was time to head over to Alsfeld, which is the start of Little Red Riding Hood territory. It’s named for the red caps that unmarried ladies used to wear. Alsfeld is also called the Fairy Tale town, and it’s easy to see why:
The town has also been voted as "Model European City".
Tomorrow, I will be visiting Bad Wildungen (the town that inspired "Snow White" and Wolfhagen (the town that inspired many Brothers Grimm animal stories) and seeing some castle ruins. I can't wait to climb around and explore!
Here at last! This spot marks the start of the German Fairy Tale Road. Hanau is the birthplace of the Grimm Brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm (die Brüder Grimm) It was founded in year 1143. A lot of the original town was completely destroyed during airstrikes in WWII (including the original house the brothers were born in). In the past few years, the city has been working hard to rebuild.
Jakob Grimm was born in 1785, and his brother Wilhelm Grimm was born 1786 to an upper middle class family. The two boys lived in Hanau for the first few years of their lives, before moving to a house in Steinau.
The city seems thrilled with its heritage- flags bearing "die Bruder Grimm" line the streets, and the statue seems to take up a good part of the square. Check it out:
In addition to the statue, the city also boasts the Philippsruhe Castle, which was built in 1700 to 1725 and is home to a wide variety of artwork. It has an absolutely beautiful park, which I like to image Jakob and Wilhelm playing around in as children.
Tomorrow, I head over to Alsfeld and Steinau- the town where the Brothers Grimm grew up and eventually learned to call home.
As I was reading the complete collection of Brothers Grimm fairy tales in preparation for this trip, I was completely taken aback by how gory some of them are (several of them end with "and then everyone was dead." Not exactly the same as the "happily ever after" we're so used to) . Having visited two mediaeval castles, I can safely say I understand where the Brothers Grimm took their inspiration for these tales from.
Castles were used in mediaeval times to protect the surrounding towns. They served as armory to help defend against invaders. There was also a court and some family life, but for the most part, castles were all about defense and protection. They were also the center of crime and punishment.
The Imperial Castle of Nuremberg is an excellent example of this. First built in 1027CE, it housed a variety of Emperors as they travelled through the countryside. In the 1300s, it also became a town hall and center for law. It was the home to court life, and there was a wide variety of the finery that we'd expect from castles, like fancy cups and crowns, amazing art, and fancy furniture.
It also had a shocking number of weapons and artillery pieces that served for protection during wartime.
The castle also had a tower, called the Sinwell Tower, which was used for keeping lookout.
One thing that surprised me was how much the city had to rebuilt after WWII. Nuremberg was Nazi headquarters, and was heavily attacked during the war. In 1945, pretty much the entire city had to be rebuilt from scratch. The city has posted pictures of the damage everywhere as a warning.
After touring Nuremberg, it was time to head to Burg Colmburg. (My picture from the road didn't turn out, but here's what it looks like:)
;_Burg Colmberg is a castle that was built as a wooden tower in the year 711CE. In 1128CE, the castle was extended and further built to be a fortified fortress and robbery castle. It became the defensive heart of the city and provided protection to the inhabitants. In the late 1960s, it was purchased and converted into a hotel. Visitors can opt to eat or spend the night there.
I couldn't WAIT to get some writing done in an actual, real-life castle! I made an (extremely rough, due to lack of time/internet.) video tour of it. Check it out:
It was incredible to walk around on something that's been around for almost a thousand years. I wonder what stories the walls would tell if they could talk!
Hunting has long been a tradition at castles, and this one is no different- there were deer running around everywhere!
It's been an awesome day, and I learned A LOT of new things about how the middle ages and castles worked. It also shed some light on the stories from the Brothers Grimm that I'd wondered about. Tomorrow I'll hit the official start of the Fairy Tale Trail in Hanau. It's marked by a giant monument to the Brothers Grimm.
As I got ready to head to the North of Germany, there was on more stop to make. Marienbrücke is a bridge that was built a long time ago, but modernized in 1886, when King Ludwig II built it in steel (if you look closely, you can see it in the picture above). That bridge is still standing today, and you can use it to take cool pictures of the castle:
After climbing several hundred feet from Marienbrücke, there was a cliff overlooking the castle again. I quickly spliced together a (rough) video explanation for the castle:
Afterwards, I stopped into the charming town of Fussen, home to Kloster Sankt Mang Füssen (also known as Fussen Abbey). It was founded in the first half of the 9th century, and is well over 1000 years old!
Today was my last day in Fussen. Tomorrow, I head up to Nuremburg and Burg Colmburg. Stay tuned for more updates!
Today, I got to do an unexpected 10 mile look through the south of Germany into Austria!
The whole reason I wound up in the Alps is a combination of loving to hike, and also the fact that they inspired a great many Romantic Era writer. From Lord Byron to Charles Dickens to Mark Twain, the Alps appear in a TON of writing from that time period. The English major (and avid hiker!) in me simply couldn’t leave Germany without climbing those mountains.
All big fans of the Alps!
The trails themselves were nice and big and everything was well labelled, which made it easy to wander. The views were incredible, and you could easily see how they inspired everything from Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi” to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
It was a long walk though!
Luckily, near the top of the first summit, there was a hiking stop with food! I was absolutely starving, but everything was in German and my Google Translate app wasn’t really working, so I asked (in incredibly poor German. Actually, I’m pretty sure they only understood me because I pointed to it…) to have the first thing on the menu.
Turns out “Kaiserschamentv mit aplelmus” is a sort of funnel cake with applesauce. It was actually pretty good! I also drank a TON of water, because that’s hiking rule #1.
Being in a country with only a basic understanding of the language is giving me a whole new perspective on how the world works. For example, I rely SO MUCH on symbols and pictures to understand everything. From what I can tell, Germany does a really great job of standardizing a lot of its common signs. For example, every bathroom here is labelled with "WC." Without a lot of these signs, I'd be completely, totally lost. It was a good reminder that providing images and common symbols to students, especially those who are pre-reading, alleviates a lot of confusion and anxiety.
Then it was time to high-tail it down off the mountain, because we were about to get some crazy storms in Fussen! The town is in what’s called an Alpine Region, which basically means that the weather is affected by the surrounding mountains. Just like in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, storms sometimes come in suddenly, and often form in the afternoon. I definitely DID NOT want to be on a mountain in the middle of a storm.
Made it back just in time.
The nice thing about the weather is that it gave me an excuse to get some decent writing done. I have the hardest time writing if the weather is nice out- it always feels like I should be DOING something, rather than just writing about it. But, when the weather is nasty outside, it’s nice to curl up inside with a laptop, and put my thoughts to screen.
Plus, I got a great supply of snacks from Aldi’s Germany!
Hopefully, the storms will pass us soon, and then I’ll get a chance to experience the town of Fussen! Until then, I’m going to take some time to put my feet up (cause they’re kind of sore after walking for 10 miles…) and try my hand at writing some of my own Alps- inspired tales.
Thanks to a combination of a VERY early bedtime yesterday and incredible jet-lag and time zone confusion, I was up and ready to go at…3am. This allowed some time to get ready, plan a route, and mentally prepare for driving on the Autobahn. Basically, the only thing I’d heard about the Autobahn previously was that it had no speed limits. When I was coming through customs into the country, the agent also warned me to drive slowly, so I really had no idea what to expect. I was so nervous when I first got the keys, but I took a deep breath and headed out.
Fortunately, it wasn’t scary at all! It was woodsy and well labelled, which was sort of like driving through Vermont.
Some 2 hours later, I found myself in Schwangau, located in Southern Germany. Schwangau is home to Neuschwanstien and Hohenschwangau Castles, and was the summer home for the Bavarian Kings.
Did you know that the southern part of Germany was once considered a separate kingdom? The Kingdom of Bavaria was formed in 1805 as a result of the Treaty of Paris, and continued to exist until the end of World War 1. The Bavarian Kings, also known as the Wittelsbach family, held the crown for over 100 years. Even after the kingdom was abolished and Bavaria became a part of Germany, the Wittelsbach family remained very influential in politics. During World War 2, they were incredibly anti-Nazi, and many members were eventually imprisoned in concentration camps.
Probably the best-known member of this dynasty is King Ludwig II, who is also known as “Mad King Ludwig.” He had some crazy habits, including only eating outside (even in the pouring rain and in snowstorms) and staying up all night, every night, and playing on sleighs. He was also a dreamer during the time of Romantic Literature and the Brothers Grimm. While this allegedly made him rather a poor head of state (Bavaria wound up in a TON of debt), it did make him a wonderful patron of the arts. King Ludwig II was so inspired by Fairy Tales, Biblical stories, and the operas of Richard Wagner, that he decided to build Neuschwanstein Castle, calling it “Fairy Tale” castle. (Note- The castles both had a fairly strict "no pictures" policy, so some of the pictures have been used from other websites. Credit is given below any photos that I did not take.)
Nestled in the heart of the Alps, Neuschwanstien Castle looks like something out of a dream. King Ludwig II spared no expense when designing both the interior and the exterior. After a LONG walk up to the castle, it was time to take a look at the inside. Check it out:
After our tour, I was all ready to move in (how cool would it be to live in an actual CASTLE?), but it turns out that most of the castle is unfinished, due to Ludwig II’s sudden death. In fact, Ludwig II only actually spent 11 nights in his masterpiece before his imprisonment and death.
The castle that was lived in is Hohenschwangau Castle, which is just a few meters away. The building that we see today is technically a palace, since it was used for recreation and not shelter and defense. However, it stands on the ruins of the fortress Schwangau, which was likely built around the year 1300, where it was used for defensive purposes as the primary home to medieval knights. The castle eventually fell into ruins over time, but was re-discovered by King Maximilian I in 1829. The king was so impressed with the ruins and the location that he insisted on building a palace on the existing ruins.
Check it out:
Whew! What a full day, filled with all kinds of interesting history (and a shocking number of fidget spinners- they've definitely made an appearance here in Germany!) Tomorrow, the plan is to hike through the Alps. These mountains inspired a great many romantic writers, and I’m excited to experience them firsthand!
Ashford, we have touchdown (or is it liftoff?)! I’m stepping out of space travel to follow my English-major roots. Over the next 2 weeks, I will be following in the footsteps of the Brothers Grimm to learn more about what inspired the Fairy Tales we all come to know and love so much.
After a LONG flight from Bradley to Dublin, and a slightly shorter flight from Dublin to Munich, I stumbled out onto the Tarmac for a German adventure. Despite the jet lag, I hopped on the S-Bahn and headed into the heart of Munich.
Throughout the centuries, Munich served as the center for many famous writers and artist, including writers Thomas Mann and Henrik Ibsen, the “Father of Realism”, composers Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and many other prominent figures who used Munich as a setting to create masterpieces. Munich literally translates to “home of the monks,” and was most likely founded in 750 CE by Benedictine Monks. I say “likely,” because records have not conclusively stated when the city was founded. Officially speaking, the first record of the city is from 1157, when Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria, helped the monks fortify the city for a marketplace.
This marketplace still exists today as Marienplatz.
In the middle ages, they held tournaments and jousting events. It’s still an events center, but today they were celebrating a Pride event. It was interesting to see such an incredibly modern event in the heart of such amazing history.
Marienplatz had many cool historical landmarks- including the Town Hall- but my favorite was the Glockenspiel, which is a clock that features knights jousting when it hits a certain time. At 5pm, it came to life and the figures danced across. It’s amazing to think about the engineering that must have gone into something like that (note: due to the large crowed from the Pride event, this video is taken directly from Youtube.)
Wandering down the road from Marienplatz, I happened to stumble upon the famous “English Gardens.” Built in 1789, the “English Garden” is one of the largest city public parks in the world (it’s even larger than Central Park in New York City!) Interestingly enough, the “English Gardens” were originally planned as a military exercise, to give soldiers something to do after the Revolution.
Today, the park is where many local residents go on the weekends to relax. I saw several people swimming in the Eisbach (Isar) River- it was flowing so quickly, there were even several people trying to surf it! (video posted is from Youtube- I was so jet legged I totally forgot to take video!)
Whew! It was a jam-packed first day and I am exhausted! Tomorrow, I have a three hour journey to Fussen, a city in Southern Germany that borders with Austria. It also is home to several castles, including Neuschwanstein Castle, which served as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty! I can’t wait to share it with you!