City of Gelnhausen, Germany
|Once upon a time, in thickly
forested central Germany, there lived two brothers by the name of Grimm. The
elder, Jacob Ludwig Carl, was always serious beyond his years; the younger,
Wilhelm Carl, although sickly, was personable and friendly. From early
childhood, they both loved tales of enchantment about generous kings and
good-hearted queens, golden-haired princesses saved from disaster by
stalwart princes, turreted castles and cozy cottages, wicked witches and
Jacob was born in 1785, a year before Wilhelm, in Hanau, now a traffic-congested suburb east of Frankfurt. Their birthplace was destroyed during World War II, but in Neustädter Marktplatz there stands a larger-than-life bronze statue of the dour-faced workaholic brothers--appropriately pondering a large book. This marks the beginning of the Deutsche Märchenstrasse, the German Fairy-Tale Road.
|September 29, 1985
TRACING GERMANY'S FOLKLORE TRAIL
By JOHN DORNBERG; JOHN DORNBERG IS A FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT AND AUTHOR WHO HAS WRITTEN FROM GERMANY FOR MORE THAN 25 YEARS.
Germany at its most nostalgic is a land of legends, myths and folklore - Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Those stories evoke memories of childhood, but they also conjure an image of Germany at its most romantic. Moreover, they are way stations along a vacation route mapped out for travelers by the German Tourist Board - the Fairy Tale Road. A winding, twisting northward itinerary through the states of Hesse and Lower Saxony, from Hanau to Bremen, it leads for 370 miles along secondary highways and bucolic byways through some of West Germany's quaintest villages, oldest towns and lushest countryside.
German Half-Timbered Houses Route (Fachwerkstrasse)
A new road in Germany! If you want to see some of the most interesting half-timbered houses in Germany try the The Half-Timbered House Road .
When many people come to visit Germany, they are often recommended to tour along the Romantic Road, because they want to see the quaint little towns in Bavaria, with those cute half-timbered houses. But did you know, that the most half-timbered houses that can be seen in Germany, are not even on this road? In Germany there are other "roads" with names, such as the Allee (tree-lined) Road, the Fairy-tale Road, the Wine Road, and of course, the Half-timbered House (Fachwerkstrasse) Road. The Half-timbered House Road is 2000 km long, and runs from Stade in the North towards Reichelsheim in the South.
The Half-Timbered House Road
The tour starts in Grünberg, goes on to
Lich, then Butzbach, followed by Gelnhausen, Steinau an der Straße, Fulda,
Lauterbach, Schlitz, Bad Hersfeld and ends in Rotenburg (an der Fulda) not
Rotenburg ob der Tauber.
Gelnhausen, The Barbarossa City
It's hard to imagine that this small town,
just a short drive away from Frankfurt/M, was once the capital of the Holy
Roman Empire, THE center of the known world, in fact. Because Frankfurt/M
is a big city today, whereas Gelnhausen is a small town. The reason could
be because Gelnhausen was Barbarossa's city, and Frankfurt was the
coronation place for a number of Holy Roman Emperors. Today Gelnhausen has
the quaintness of a small town in Germany, although that "Old World"
characteristic has been cherishingly preserved. If you take a walk through
the narrow streets and allies in the old town, you can almost feel the
ghosts of history walking past you.
Frederick Barbarossa Castle Gelnhausen
Portrait of a town
Gelnhausen, once chosen by the royal house of Staufer and granted status of a free city of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Frederick - Barbarossa or Redbeard -, can look back on a truly stirring past.
Gelnhausen has experienced more economic and social highs and lows than almost any other German town.
An 800 year struggle for peace and freedom distinguished the town and its inhabitants whose bravery, love of justice and diligence were vouched for as early as 50 BC by Julius Caesar in his book “de Bello Gallico” (The Gallic Wars).
Today Gelnhausen resembles a dreamy small town. Nestling romantically in the Kinzig valley and surrounded by gloriously wild scenery, this attractive corner of the Earth offers the visitor a fascinating picture all the year around.
Gelnhausen, is an historic jewel set in the Kinzig valley, picturesquely situated on the southern slopes of the Büdingen Forest between the foothills of the Vogelsberg and the Spessart. However, the idyllic scenery was, some 800 years ago, by no means the determining factor for the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick I nicknamed Barbarossa or Redbeard when he enclosed the three focal points of the existing settlement “Geilenhausen” and elevated it to the status of a town. It is historically recorded that the river Kinzig at that time formed the boundary between the imperial territories (terra regis) to the north and the Archbishopric of Mainz to the south. It can be assumed that, for the Emperor’s part, military and political considerations were reason enough for the fortification of the town and the erection of a stronghold (the Kaiserpfalz or imperial palace). Gelnhausen was also of considerable importance for trade. After all, the town did lie at the crossroads of two important trade routes: on the one hand the Reff- or Weinstrasse (Pack Road or Wine Road) running from Frankfurt via the Büdingen Forest to eastern Germany, and on the other hand, the Birkenhainer Road which leaves the Reffstrasse at Gelnhausen and goes south into Franconia via the Spessart hills. As a third and by no means insignificant reason, the river Kinzig, which was still navigable in the Middle Ages, should be mentioned. The river permitted the transportation of bulky goods, especially timber from the Büdingen Forest.
The town’s strategic and geographical position have, therefore, essentially dictated its rise to economic and social prosperity. So it is not surprising that for centuries Gelnhausen was counted amongst the most important town of the realm.
The Imperial Diet held in Gelnhausen in 1180 is of special interest. At this meeting the lands and possessions of Henry the Lion (Heinrich des Löwen) were redistributed after he had been outlawed. This was a proceeding whose efforts went beyond the frontiers of the Empire at that time. Had control of Henry’s lands remained entirely in the Emperor’s hands, a united German “Reich” such as came into existence in the 19th century could have been created. (The decisions taken at the meeting are recorded in the “Gelnhausen Charter”.)
The reader from England will note with interest that the ransom negotiations for the warrior king and celebrated crusader Richard the Lionheart were held in Gelnhausen in 1196.
Gelnhausen’s dependence on the Emperors’ favor and the privileges he accorded which, on the one hand, brought the town prosperity and authority, proved, on the other hand, to be a disadvantage. As the power of the House of Hohenstaufen waned, the town lost more and more of its political and economic importance. Finally, Gelnhausen was mortgaged by Emperor Charles IV (Kaiser Karl IV) – the town had become completely insignificant. Unrest throughout the realm – numerous feuds, warring disputes between the various mortgagees, the Peasants’ War (der Bauernkrieg), the Thirty Years War, as well as the plague and other epidemics, left Gelnhausen paralyzed in poverty. The population sank to 200 souls.
The town made only a slow recovery, plagued by troubles and privations caused by plundering, hostile attacks by envious neighboring princes, and the indifference of the various mortgagees.
Slowly trade and commerce began to recover and eventually to flourish. The population increased and a steady new building program hallmarked the “Free Imperial City”.(“Freien Reichsstadt”).
In 1708 Count Johann Reinhard besieged the town in an unsuccessful attempt to force it to renounce its privileged right of owing fealty to the Emperor alone, a right which was eventually abrogated by the decision of the Imperial Deputation in 1803. Gelnhausen had lost its rank as a Free Imperial City.
Henceforth, the town belonged to the Elector of Hesse. The increase in economic and social prosperity in the second half of the 18th century led to Gelnhausen being designated a County Town (Kreisstadt) in 1821.
Alongside the growth in artisanship, industry began to develop, albeit on a more modest level (e.g. a light bulb factory and a rubber works/Gummiwerk ).Having overcome the chaos of the 2nd World War and the immediate post-war years, Gelnhausen developed into the metropolis of the Kinzig valley, in both the political and economic sense of the word. Gelnhausen lost its status as a County Town in 1974 as a result of the redrawing of the political map whereby it was merged with the districts of Hanau and Schlüchtern..
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