We spy a young girl costumed in a bright red headdress. This latter-day red-riding hood could be on her way to grandmother’s house. After all, we are in the region in Germany’s states of Hesse and Lower Saxony where the Brothers Grimm lived and worked.
In the Schwaim valley near Alsfeld, the Brothers gave the world some of its most enduring childhood memories -- Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, the Pied Piper. As a protected landmark Alsfeld and its surroundings not only conjure up visions of children’s stories, but the darker legends of German folklore as well.
With the city built in overflowing, half-timbered stages above the stone arcades of a 16th century market, the town square could be a setting for an opera based on “Faust.” With every wooden dwelling in the inner city leaning in support of each another, the floor of our room took on at least three separate inclines between the bathroom and the window. To reach the bathroom was an uphill trudge.
Women still wear a red cape (the German translation for Red Riding Hood) in the Schwalm Valley. Marburg abounds with student taverns. In Fritzlar St. Boniface chopped down Donar’s sacred oak, symbolizing the advance of Christianity over paganism. The Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel displays their manuscripts. The brothers were once employed at the university in Gottingen, which claims 29 Nobel laureates.
Travelers should be wary of the densely wooded countryside between Kassel and Gottingen. This is where Hansel and Gretel encountered an evil old witch. At Steinau's Renaissance caste, the Frog Prince sits on a fountain leaf quietly awaiting a kiss that will free him.