Steinau an der Strasse: Go back to fairy tale beginnings
September 4, 2012
Once upon a time, there lived a pair of brothers in Germany who would one day become arguably the best known fairy tale collectors and writers in the world. Their names were Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
If you don’t already know the Brothers Grimm by name, you’ll definitely know some of their characters. It’s like reading a who’s who of fairy tale legends: Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel are just a sampling of the all-too recognizable names that graced the pages of their story collection “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” (“Children’s and Household Tales”).
Guests can immerse themselves in the world of the Brothers Grimm by visiting their childhood home in Steinau an der Strasse, which now serves as a museum for Grimm and fairy tale history and is about an hour’s drive from Wiesbaden.
The Brüder Grimm-Haus was Jacob and Wilhelm’s home from 1791 to 1796. They spent much of their preadolescent years in the Steinau house. The large house served as the home of the Grimm family and office of the district magistrate, a position their father, Philipp, filled until his death in 1796.
The lower floor features a reconstruction of the family’s kitchen, personal possessions, 19th century scientific and linguistic writings by the brothers, a history of the family in Steinau and a gallery of drawings and graphic art from their youngest brother, Ludwig Emil.
This area of the house offers an eye-opening look at the scholarly influence for much of the brothers’ ambition, and highlights their achievements, such as their work on compiling a comprehensive German dictionary, that were overshadowed by their fairy tale success.
The entire upper floor is a dream come true for fairy tale junkies. Colorful displays, memorabilia and interactive experiences make it a place where visitors could live happily ever after enjoying the various displays. For example, one room offers dioramas showing amazingly detailed scenes from famous Grimm tales. Visitors can guess what fairy tale is being shown and then check their knowledge by raising a door that hides the answer.
“The fairy tale is part of everyday popular culture,” museum curator Burkhard Kling said.
That statement is illustrated with a fun “Little Red Riding Hood” exhibit, which highlights the impact the tale has had on pop culture from the 19th century to present.
Guests learn that the brothers invited visitors to tell them stories and later wove them into some of their tales. Other fairy tales they invented themselves and still others they put their unique twist on existing characters.
Initially, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm didn’t intend “Children’s and Household Tales” to be primarily for children, thinking scholars and adults would be the main readers. It was only after the illustrated versions became popular that they realized they could appeal to adults and children, Kling said. Later editions streamlined the text and took advantage of the dual appeal.
Some translations of their tales and adaptations have changed parts of the tale, but the moral lessons remain intact. For example, I was surprised to learn that in the Brothers Grimm tale “The Frog Prince” it wasn’t a kiss that turned the frog into a prince, rather an angry throw against the wall that caused the transformation.
A visit to the Brothers Grimm House and the charming town of Steinau, featuring half-timbered houses that look like the setting for one of the brothers’ fairy tales, is highly recommended for all ages.
On the QT:Directions: Brüder Grimm-Strasse 80, 36396 Steinau an der Strasse, Germany. From Wiesbaden, take autobahn A66 to Frankfurt and stay to the right for autobahn A3. At exit 54 (Fulda), turn right onto highway B45. After a mile, exit right on highway B43A to Fulda. Keep right to get onto autobahn A66 to Fulda and take exit 47 for Steinau. Take a right after the exit and turn left in about a mile (follow the signs to Brüder Grimm-Haus). The house is about one mile on the left. Street parking is available.
Times: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closes the Sunday before Christmas and reopens Jan. 2.
Costs: Admission for both the Brothers Grimm House and Museum Steinau is 5 euros for adults and 3 euros for children. Tickets for groups of 15 or more adults are 3 euros a person and children in groups of 15 or more are 2 euros. A family of four or more can get in for 10 euros. Guided tours are available (in English or German) by calling in advance and cost 33 euros plus a reduced entry fee per person.
A combination ticket granting admission to the Brothers Grimm House, Museum Steinau and the nearby castle is 6 euros for adults, 5 euros for children and 12 euros for a family.
Food: Not on site, but there is a wide variety of options within a short walk of the Grimm house.
Information: Website for the museum is in German only. There is a QR code you can scan with your smartphone on the website — and through pamphlets at the Grimm house — which will take you to a text and audio guide (in multiple languages, including English) of some features of the house. Call the Grimm house at (06663) 7605, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Mark Patton