Finding Fairy Tales in Marburg, Germany

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It was there, in the woods, where I found a trace of the Grimm brothers.

Hilly and covered in forests, Marburg, Germany is home to the University of Marburg, where Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm attended school in the early 1800’s.

Marburg has left vestiges of the Grimm legacy all over the city: who wouldn’t appreciate these fantastic dwarf hats adorning their daily commute?

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Or these fellas?

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But only in the forest do you feel as if you’ve accidentally slipped into the pages of your old beloved tales.  Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs in my wake as Rumpelstiltskin peered at us from behind the narrow trees in the cold winter light.

Despite the years gone by, the stories live in the forest.

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January and February were by far the most difficult months of the year.  Although sprinkled with a couple wonderful memories, the beginning of the year proved unbelievably difficult.  Not just for me–nearly everyone I knew suffered from an extreme case of winter blues.  If at any point this year I needed a reminder of what I loved, it was then.

So, more than a little heart-broken, I packed my bags and hopped a train to Marburg to visit an old friend.  Only when I got there did he mention, ever so casually, “Oh yeah, so the Grimm brothers went to school here.  And there’s a museum devoted to them nearby.”  Without realizing it, I had plopped myself in the heart of one of my lifelong dreams.

People oftentimes claim that fairy tales matter because of the morals they teach us.  This may be true, but for me, they remind me of my childhood: wild imaginings in the Virginian woods, splashing through the creek with my little brother, making flower crowns in the sun, climbing trees and writing stories about horses and fairies.  Those memories are intertwined with ink sprawling across faded pages, describing the woes of Cinderella or The Girl Without Hands (which, if the name didn’t indicate, is creepy as fuck and definitely not for kids).

As a child, I loved playing “Make Believe” with my little brother more than anything else.  I still do to be honest, only now I have the  socially acceptable outlet of writing for it.  Whether we were living in ostrich nests in Africa (because why not) or escaping the clutches of the Evil Witch Mombi, we let our imaginations take reign over reality.  Somehow, exploring Marburg rekindled that feeling.

I was in the presence of something remarkable, not just in terms of the Grimm’s imprint on society, but on my life as well.  They defined my childhood, stirred in me a desire to write.

There, in the woods of Marburg, discussing my novel in annoying detail with my friend, I found the essence of the Grimm brothers-that indescribable storytelling feeling that has guided me throughout my life.

 

If you don’t value fairy tales the way I do (or the way you should), don’t fret; the city is charming in its own right.  Unlike most of Germany, Marburg escaped the devastation of World War I and II that destroyed most of the country’s historical sites.  As a result, you can still see the “Old University” of Marburg, which now houses the university church, the department for religious studies, and a representative lecture hall.  The Marbug castle, or “Landgrafenschloss Marburg” (so glad I Speak French), along with St. Elizabeth’s Church are also in tact and open to tourists.  Coincidentally, the lack of tourists makes Marburg a fantastic tourist destination.  Nestled in the countryside an hour away from Frankfurt, the city is comprised of residents and university students, creating the perfect balance of old and new.  Take note though: most people here do not speak English.  I felt like a blubbering fool for days.  With all the fantastic historical sites and cobblestone streets, the city lends itself to the kind of worldly, European adventure the media has helped us envision.

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And yet…given that it’s a university city, absinthe bars are a mere stone’s throw away from St. Elizabeth’s Church.

So really, something for everyone.

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