Monday, December 1, 2014

Princess Castles and Grimm's Tales

One of the amazing things about living in Germany with children is the fact that many fairy tales originated here.  The Grimm's tales were created here, and thus one can really travel the "Fairy Tale Route" and visit castles, forests, and towns from these tales.  We've noticed also that the woods here are different from those in New England, there are less bugs and they seem more fantastical.  You can really imagine a prince galloping through the underbrush or Little Red Riding Hood (or Little Red Cap, as she was originally known) picking wildflowers.

It's worth noting that the original Grimm's Tales are really worth reading - they are much darker and (we think) more entertaining than the Americanized versions we read in the United States and watch in Disney movies.   We have this book, and love it.

In the past months, we took our children to three "princess castles" - Snow White's castle, Rapunzel's Castle, and Sleeping Beauty's Castle.  Here were our thoughts!

Snow White's Castle

 Close to Frankfurt is the small town of Lohr am Main.  It contains what is now known as the Spessart Museum, a beautiful castle which was the home of the original Snow White.  If you call the Lohr tourist office, they can arrange an English-speaking guide to take you around the museum (which is what we did).  Alternatively, it can be explored independently.  This museum explains the history of Lohr and it's surrounding areas, and the story of Snow White.  For example, the area around Lohr contained many mines, and people who lived in the mines often suffered stunted growth (the seven dwarves), there was indeed an evil and murderous step-mother with a "magic mirror", which is on display in the castle, and Snow White did flee through the woods.  In the original Grimm's story, the step mother must dance in hot iron shoes until she dies (very dark!), and the museum shows how such shoes would have been made.  Lohr is also a cute town to explore, visit the river, and have lunch among the half-timbered houses.  This is a great, memorable day trip for any child (or adult) familiar with the Snow White story.  And, the darkness of the original Grimm's fable makes this delightful to both boys and girls.

Rapunzel's Castle

A couple of hours northeast of Frankfurt is what is referred to as Rapunzels' Castle, in the tiny town of Trendelberg.  It is called Hotel Burg Trendelberg, and when my mother was visiting we drove up and stayed over for one night.

We drove to Trendelberg through the town of Kassel, and visited and had lunch at  Berkpark Wilhelmshohe, a castle with amazing grounds and gravity powered water features.  We then drove to Trendelberg.  This is really the German countryside - very pastoral and lots of little villages.  It is incredibly picturesque.

We arrived at Rapunzel's Castle and parked near the tower.  It has a long braided rope hanging down from it.  We entered the castle courtyard and were completely in awe of the beauty and magic.  To top it off, the castle regularly lets re-enactors use their grounds for sword fighting practice, so we walked into a full show of sword fighting.  We checked into our rooms, which were spectacular, and then were greeted in the courtyard by Rapunzel herself, who told us her story (in German).  We climbed the very precarious steps in the tower, gawked at the views, found A LOT OF four leaf clovers in the yard, played around the castle, and had a fancy dinner in the restaurant.   It was sheer magic.  I cannot recommend this place highly enough.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle
About a 20 minute drive from Rapunzel's Castle is Sleeping Beauty's Castle, which is also a hotel, called Dornroeschenschloss, in Sababurg.  Adjacent to the castle is a wild animal park, which I really wanted to visit, but we were too pressed for time.  We did however, visit the hotel and have a snack and hot chocolate.  The children speculated as to whether Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel had playdates.  Sleeping Beauty's castle is larger than Rapunzels, and in our opinion, while very beautiful, not nearly as quaint or child- friendly.  We were glad to have chosen to stay in the Rapunzel castle rather than Sleeping Beauty's.  

Magical travels...
Germany is an amazing place to explore the origins of many famous fairy tales.  Visiting such castles is sure to delight the child in all of us.  It's important to bring magic to our travels, and the German Fairy Tale Route is a great way to do this!

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