Calling anyone who has ever daydreamed about bread crumb trails: Hansel and Gretel wannabes need look no farther than Germany’s Märchenstrasse, a 370-mile route snaking through the forests and valleys of the central Hessen region that inspired the Grimm brothers, who first published their famous tales 200 years ago.
On this “Fairy-Tale Road” north of Frankfurt, travelers choose their own endings at storybook villages such as the Pied Piper’s Hameln and at Knallhutte tavern, where the librarian brothers compiled lore at the hearth of an elderly storyteller. But fairy tales have no real sense of time or place, says Burkhard Kling of the Brothers Grimm House in Steinau, so purists shouldn’t expect to decipher precise settings.
What visitors can seek: Cinderella’s Polle castle ruins glow like the heroine’s gown; guests can sleep in a four-poster bed in Sleeping Beauty’s turret in Sababurg. As in any Grimm tale, the plot thickens at every turn: Hikers can trace Snow White’s escape route past spindly trees, and these days cyclists thread Knull forest, the lair of the big bad wolf.
This article, written by Kayt Sukel, appeared in the December/January issue of National Geographic Traveler.