Like many young children, my kids adore fairy tales. My daughter especially loves to have them read to her. I know what you’re thinking, another princess obsessed preschooler. And yes, she does love to read about princesses, but the most frequently requested tale is Rumplestiltskin. While they may have developed a love of fairy tales elsewhere, only in Germany would these stories be such a prevalent part of their young lives.
Germany is of course home to the Brothers Grimm. The brothers did not create the stories, they merely assembled versions of well-known folk tales from the women they were associated with. (For an interesting bit of background on this read Clever Maids: A Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales) They weren’t the earliest collectors of folk tales, this was popular with contemporaries at the time, and the first collection of written fairy tales was French. But they did embody the burgeoning spirit of a not yet united Germany, which was chafing against the French dominance of the time. These tales were first collected as a way to preserve the language and culture, but they were soon embraced by the populace and became so much more.
Even today fairy tales are popular in Germany.
If you enjoy a good fairy tale, Germany is the place for you. You can travel along the Märchenstraße, Fairy Tale Road, following your favorite tales through the heart of Germany. You can find a Märchenerzähler, fairy tale teller, along the way. I would highly recommend attending a performance and, many festivals will include a Märchenstunde, fairy tale hour. Even if you don’t understand the language, a good fairy tale teller is magical. If none of those interest you, you can visit your favorite fairy tale at one of the many fairy tale parks.
Fairy tale parks usually follow a standard format. Stories are played aloud over dioramas which depict the highlights. Some are in buildings large enough to walk through, others offer you a glimpse inside through a window. Often these dioramas involve some sort of motion and the younger audiences are transfixed by moving scenes from their favorite fairy tales.
We’ve visited three such parks. The first was the Märchengarten in Blühendes Barock Ludwigsburg, which we discovered quite by accident while we were at the annual Kürbis (pumpkin) Festival. We did not tour the entire fairy tale garden. We saw less than half of the 40 displays, but the areas we visited were lovely. The animation is a lot of fun for the children, as is the short train ride. We enjoyed it despite having difficulty following the German. It was also interesting for us to note here that many of the more popular fairy tales were ones we were unfamiliar with. Have you ever heard of Frau Holle? The wolf and the seven little goats? Sterntaler? Max und Moritz? Neither had I, but you’ll find these right alongside Sleeping Beauty and Snow White in Germany.
The Märchengarten made for a nice addition to our daytrip to Ludwigsburg. It was opened in 1959, and it retains the retro charm. I quite enjoy these more laid back parks, but if you prefer more action you’ll probably favor Legoland or Europapark. If you are in the area, and have younger children, I would recommend a visit. Entrance to the Märchengarten is included in the entry price to Blühendes Barock, 8.50 Euro for adults and 4.50 Euro for children, with family tickets available.
Our second trip to a Märchenpark was to Freizeitpark Traumland and Bärenhöhle, in Sonnenbühle. This is a fantastic daytrip with younger kids.
We arrived early to visit the Barenhöhle – the bear cave before the rides opened. There was a bit of a wait for the guided tour to begin. The tour led us through the underground caverns directly outside the park, and here we were shown our first cave bear skeletons. This first encounter with the giant bear was impressive, but it seems each cave we’ve visited since has their own cave bear. Once we emerged from our subterranean adventure, we set off to explore the fairy tale park. The park is divided into sections, the first of which is a trail through many favorite fairy tales. After we had our fill of fairy tales, it was time for the rides. The children got their first taste of a roller coaster, jumped on giant trampolines, flew on swings, rode ponies and took in the sights from atop a giant Ferris wheel. Most of the rides are suitable for very young children and we enjoyed all of them, especially the Ferris wheel and the pony rides.
The park is open daily from April to November. Entrance is 12.50 Euro for adults and 8.00 for accompanying children. All rides, with the exception of the pony rides, are included in the entrance fee.
Most recently, the children and I spent a day at Freizeitpark Märchenwald outside Munich. This was probably our favorite of the three. The fairy tales, rides, and playgrounds are interspersed throughout the generously sized park. We spent all day there and still managed to miss a couple of the corners. The rides and playgrounds were appropriate for most age groups, and my children are now old enough to explore many of the attractions independently. They really enjoyed crawling through the suspended mesh tunnel maze, which looked a bit like a giant hamster cage. The maze house was another exciting activity for the children. This house has three sides through which one can exit and enter, between which are a series of tunnels, detours and obstacles – beware, this attraction is definitely constructed for the smaller guests. Some of the tunnels and doorways are a bit tight for those of us over 4 feet tall. After nearly getting wedged inside, I let the kids do this one on their own! They rode trains, ponies and cars, whooshed down giant slides, and whirled around in the spinning flower blossoms. It was their favorite day in our two weeks of travel.
The fairy tale dioramas were similar to those we had seen in other parks, but with an English option also available. Between rides, we stopped to listen to the now familiar fairy tales. Another fun display was old Macdonald’s farm. The children raced around the building pushing the buttons allowing the different sections of animals to join in a boisterous round of the children’s song. We enjoyed searching for the smaller animals while we listened to the singing pigs, ducks, horses, and cows.
The rides, playgrounds and fairy tales make this an excellent trip for younger children. If you are spending time near Munich, this is definitely a worthwhile trip. Arrive early, as this is a very popular family destination. By midafternoon, the park was getting pretty crowded, making the lines a bit longer and the playgrounds a bit too crowded to enjoy.
The park is open daily from April to October. Rides are included in the entrance price, 13 Euros for adults and 12 Euros for children over 85 cm.