For the second summer,
we incorporated a literary dimension
into our travel experience.
Some 25 kilometers east of Frankfurt,
Hanau is perhaps best known
as the birthplace of the Grimm brothers,
as the starting place
of the Maerchenstrasse (the fairy tale road),
that extends northwards
from the statue of the brothers in Hanau’s town square
through Steinau an der Strasse
(Steinau on the street)—
creatively so-named for its location
right on the Via Regia,
the old trade route from Frankfurt to Leipzig.
Through Steinau the two preschoolers romped
until they were twelve years old—
through the city in which their Dad was magistrate,
through the stately Renaissance house
the city provided them (the Amtshaus),
playing in the shadow of the castle there—
that of the nobility of Hanau
with its tall, strong tower and its moat,
and the shadow of the church (the Katharina church),
right next to the castle,
and in the stream behind their house
and into the woods.
After their Dad died,
of all the family, only the two brothers moved
further north to Kassel,
where their aunt (their mom’s sister) lived.
Teenagers there, they continued their education
and also worked as librarians,
and continued to live, move and have their being
in the shadow now of the Wilhelmshoehe Palace,
the Loewenburg, the various churches of Kassel,
and the shadows of the thickly forested hills of north Hessen
(still the greenest state in Germany,
with woods blanketing a full 42% of the land).
Deep in the Reinhardswald (Reinhard’s forest),
north of Kassel,
in a now not so thick thicket of oak trees,
we spent the night in the Dornroesschenschloss,
the castle known as the Grimm brothers’ inspiration
for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
The next day, we drove the ten kilometers over to Trendelburg,
and stared up at the rounded turret
said to be the visual inspiration of Rapunzel’s story.
For even fairy tales are always set
in the details of the landscapes—
the very specific details of the landscapes
in which they are told and heard.
Fantasy grows from the same roots as reality.