Hessen, with its ominous forests, brooding castles and red-roofed villages, was the stomping grounds of the Grimm Brothers, and its dream- and nightmare-evoking landscapes inspired many of their famous fairy tales. Accordingly, the Fairy Tale Road (Märchenstraße) meanders north for 370 miles from the town of Hanau, the birthplace of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, passing through many places associated with the famous duo, including Marburg, where they studied. During the American Revolutionary War, over 19,000 Hessen mercenaries, known for their loyalty, bravery and discipline, were hired by England to help fight the rebels. The Americans did everything in their power to entice the “Hessians,” as they were called, to desert – in vain. Only 10,500 Hessen soldiers returned to Germany after the war, 4,500 having died of injury or illness and another 3,000 electing to settle in America.
Bike tour around Germany's largest reservoir
Before it reaches the Fulda river, the Eder river gets stopped in its tracks by a 48 meter wall, forming Germany's largest artificial lake. The Edersee, which is surrounded by gentle hills, fields and forests, is now a part of the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park. It is home to countless waterfowl and migratory birds. A particular highlight is the beech forest in the nearby Kellerwald, which has some of the oldest virgin forest in Central Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to explore the lake is by bike. The bike path, which is not very steep, goes around the entire lake. It will lead you through the Edersee wildlife park and over the dam, which is the best place to take in the sheer size of the reservoir. You can shorten your route by using the ferry crossing. (4 hrs, 48 km, elevation change: 760 m)
Ruin on a former volcano
The summit castle on the 524 meter high Stoppelsberg was already destroyed shortly after its completion, after the knights of Haune had organized a robbery in 1397 in Niederhessen and the landgrave took revenge there. It was not until 100 years later that the basalt building was rebuilt and given its present square shape. From the keep one has a wide view over the Kuppelrhön. The castle can only be reached on foot, but easily from Oberstoppel. A beautiful circular hike begins in the Fulda Valley and leads up the 20 million old “Long Stones” and back via Ilmesmühle. (round trip: 12 kilometers, 3 hours, up and down: 429 meters)
Time-honored university town with student-like flair
The centuries-old university town is picturesquely situated on the banks of the Lahn River. Through the old town between the river and the Schlossberg winding alleys and stairways lead past magnificent half-timbered houses to the market square with its Gothic town hall. The most beautiful building is the Church of St. Elizabeth with the relics of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia. Until the 17th century the castle towering over the town was the seat of the Landgraves of Hessen. Today, life is shaped by the University, almost 30,000 students creating a lively and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
American observation post on the border of divided Germany
This American observation post on the border between East and West Germany stands on a hill with a good view to the east. What now seems like a pleasant overlook in the idyllic central German landscape once played a crucial role during the Cold War. The NATO countries assumed that an attack from the Warsaw Pact nations would be launched through the so-called Fulda Gap. Today, Point Alpha is a memorial and a meeting place that commemorates the division of Germany and the confrontation between the two power blocs.