That’s right, back on the Fairy Tale Route last weekend, this time we went to its very heart.
Near Kassel, former hometown of the Brothers Grimm, lies the sleepy rural town area of Witzenhausen. And this is where we began our journey, surrounded by frogs for coffee and cake (that 3 pm-ish German meal time). Zur Warte inn relishes the area’s spawning of the tale of the Frog Prince by hosting an extensive collection of knickknacks and garden ornaments. In summer, they even offer a frog cake (gummy frogs only) on Sundays.
Relaxed from our break, we headed next to the city where it all began. Kassel celebrates the lives and work of its two famous former inhabitants, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, with a very modern museum about history from long ago. Visitors to the museum Grimm Welt wind their way through a neon alphabet of exhibits each representing a one-word title for the artifacts at hand. It’s very multimedia: video clips of fairy tale-inspired films, a forest of audio-equipped “trees” telling stories in German and English, a magic mirror that comes to life, fairy tale houses to climb into, a wall of text to read with 3-D glasses, and so on. Many of the artifacts are items belonging to or handwritten by the Brothers Grimm themselves. Coming November 24: an exhibit about “The 8th Dwarf.”
In addition to fairy tales, part of the museum is dedicated to another life’s work of the famous brothers: the creation of an elaborate and seemingly unpractical dictionary. More like an encyclopedia, it was published in alphabetical installments. Exhaustive research went into understanding the German language and how it was used for the work, so much so that the Grimms’ competitors criticized their work for the convoluted notes they contained. The tedious nature of the books made them best suited for language specialists only. And the brothers never lived to see the dictionary completed. After over 20 years of work, by the time of their deaths the letter F had not yet been completed.
Work on the dictionary project continued after they were gone, of course, and was eventually completed around 100 years after it had begun. Naturally, at this point, the earlier sections needed to be revised because they were becoming outdated. Language evolves over time, after all.
In the late 1990s, the dictionary even got with the times enough to go online – oddly in its original form. C’mon…
A few more fortuitous sights (as always!) awaited us along our journey. A rock-hurling giant with a scraggly beard ushered the way to his hiking trail by the side of the road. And once day had turned to dark chilly night, an eerie aura-encircled moon hung above bare winter tree branches as we watched over Kassel from the rooftop of Grimm Welt.
For more fairy tales:
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall about one of Snow White’s mirror-producing hometowns
Following the Footsteps of the Brothers Grimm gets to the source of the Pied Piper, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood. Plus a monstrous-sized cream puff from a gingerbread house.
Norway in a Fish Tale. My own fanciful tale about my favorite trip of all time.