Lots of households used to have pianos or other keyboard instruments, and the Zimmer household was no exception.
Since there was no electricity when this piano was made, it had two candle holders for lighting.
Second photo: Manfred Zimmer acquired this instrument when a neighbor called him to say that it had been put out for collection as junk. So he went and rescued it, and spent many hours restoring it.
Third photo: These old mechanical adding machines performed useful calculations for many decades, for instance in the grandmother's delicatessen shop, before being replaced by pocket calculators. For hundreds more such historic adding machines, have a look at the Arithmeum tips on my Bonn page.
Next: Trains from Frankfurt to Steinau
In the 1970s this place was called the Thalhof and was simply a restaurant with a farmyard and a small private zoo.
Gradually it developed into a large adventure park called Erlebnispark Steinau. They still have farm animals on display (including eggs hatching) and a petting zoo where the smaller children can go in and pet some of the animals. But they now also have numerous playgrounds and slides, a summer bobsled run and various carnival rides for those who like that sort of thing.
The admission price is for the entire day and includes use of all the attractions. There are no extra fees for any of the rides or such.
We paid 37 Euros for two adults over 60 and two children under 1.30 meters. If we had been a bit younger and the children a bit taller, we would have had to pay seven Euros more.
One of the more popular attractions is the hopping hill, which they call a “giant jumping pillow” (first two photos), where up to twenty children can jump at any one time.
Next: Adventure Park II
In the dry moat of Steinau Castle there is now a children’s playground. Local families like to come here and have picnics while the children play.
On hot summer afternoons there is always enough shade from the steep walls of the moat.
The entrance is through an archway near the marionette theater.
In the castle there is a museum about some of the prominent people who have lived in Steinau, including of course the Brothers Grimm. Also there is a kitchen on display, as it might have been in the 16th century, and other exhibits about the history of the castle.
Combination ticket (Museum Steinau, Grimm House and Steinau Castle)
Adults: 6.00 Euros
Children: 5.00 Euros
Families: 12.00 Euros
(Prices as of 2012)
Second and third photos: Also there are some impressive historic tapestries. OK, I'm not any sort of expert on tapestries, but they seemed impressive to me.
Fourth photo: As I have mentioned before, the museum also includes a display of marionettes from the nearby Holzköppe Marionette Theater.
Next: Playground in the castle moat
In 2012 we took two of our grandchildren, aged 7 and 5, to a performance of the fairy tale Cinderella (in German Aschenputtel) at the Holzköppe Marionette Theater.
It was done of course in the German version, in which Cinderella is flown to the king’s ball by two white doves, instead of going in a horse-drawn coach that turns back into a pumpkin at midnight.
The marionette performance was quite simplified for the children (leaving out some of the gory details in the Grimm Brothers’ version) and included a cute little dog for Cinderella.
The young king had a kindly old adviser who explained that since theirs was a very poor kingdom (not a Königreich but a Königarm – this being a play on words in German for the benefit of the adults in the audience), the menu for the royal banquet would consist of sausages and potato salad.
As I have already mentioned, when the Grimm brothers were transcribing fairy tales they thought they were making a collection of purely German folklore, but inadvertently they also included some French tales (like Cendrillon = Cinderella) for the simple reason that some of their informants were the descendants of Huguenots (French Protestants who had emigrated to Germany in the 16th or 17th centuries to escape religious persecution).
There have been several operas based on Cinderella. The best known is La Cenerentola (in Italian, but based more or less on the French version of the story) by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), which I have seen several times in Wiesbaden, Nürnberg and Frankfurt am Main (both at the Frankfurt Opera and in an outdoor performance by the Kammeroper).
There is also a French opera called Cendrillon by Jules Massenet (1842-1912).
Next: Steinau Castle
This museum is in the barn that once belonged to the Grimm family's house -- actually an official residence since the Grimm brothers' father was the Amtmann, something like a local magistrate appointed by the ruling Count.
The Museum Steinau is not about the Grimm brothers particularly -- there is a separate museum for them just opposite -- but about other aspects of the history of Steinau, particularly its importance as a station on the medieval trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig.
Today you can travel from Frankfurt to Leipzig in three and a quarter hours by InterCityExpress train, and there are thirteen such trains per day. But in the Middle Ages this journey took at least two weeks by stage coach, and passed through numerous small duchies and other more or less independent countries, some of which checked passports and collected tolls.
The museum has several films and audio stations (in German) showing how it was to travel in those days, and there are exhibits of historic border stones and some of the equipment that travelers had to have with them in those days.
Other exhibits show the workshops devoted to making and repairing saddles, wheels and axles -- and the traditional ceramic production that also flourished here in the Middle Ages and up until the beginning of the twentieth century.
In 2008 the Museum Steinau was awarded a quite prestigious prize, namely the Museum Prize of the Savings Bank Cultural Foundation of Hessen and Thüringen. This prize honors "a particularly successful implementation of a museum concept."
The museum is open daily from 10.00 to 17.00.
Second photo: Inside the historic barn they have built metal ramp so museum visitors can easily move from one level to another. I think this would also be usable for people in wheelchairs.
Third photo: Several exhibits deal with transportation through the centuries, from medieval stage coaches to the present-day InterCityExpress trains that just barrel on through Steinau without stopping.
Next: Part of the medieval road
When people speak about the Brothers Grimm they are usually referring to just two of them, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859), who are best known as the collectors and editors of Grimms' Fairy Tales. But there was also a third, younger brother, Ludwig Emil Grimm (1790-1863), who was quite a well-known artist in his day. Though the Grimms' House and Museum is devoted mainly to the two older brothers, it also includes a room in which the paintings and drawings of the younger brother Ludwig Emil Grimm are on display.
Other exhibits are about the daily life of the Grimm family here in Steinau and in Hanau, and about the linguistic and literary research carried out be the two elder brothers Grimm during their careers as university professors. Jacob Grimm, in particular, was well known as a historical linguist during his lifetime. In 1822 he formulated a set of correspondences known as Grimm's Law, which show how certain sounds changed, in a regular way, from the Proto-Indo-European language to the Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC.
As professors the Grimm brothers were among the founders of a then-new course of study at German universities called "Germanistik". Nowadays we usually translate this as "German language and literature", but in their day it also included folklore, etymology and dialects. And patriotism.
The top floor of the museum is devoted to the Grimms' most famous project, their collections of fairy and folk tales.
When the Grimm brothers were transcribing fairy tales they thought they were making a collection of purely German folklore, but inadvertently they also included some French tales (like Cendrillon = Cinderella) for the simple reason that some of their informants were the descendants of Huguenots (French Protestants who had emigrated to Germany in the 16th or 17th centuries to escape religious persecution).
What I admire particularly about the Grimm brothers is their courageous stand as members of the Göttingen Seven (see my Steinau Intro page). Civil disobedience was practically unheard of in Germany in nineteenth century -- or in any other century except maybe this one.
Like the Museum Steinau, the Grimm House and Museum is open daily from 10.00 to 17.00.
Prices as of 2012:
Admission to both museums (Grimm Brothers' House and Museum Steinau)
Adults: 5.00 Euros
Adults in groups of 15 or more people: 3.00 Euros
Children: 3.00 Euros
Children in groups of 15 or more: 2.00 Euros
Families (four or more people): 10.00 Euros
Combination ticket (both museums and Steinau Castle)
Adults: 6.00 Euros
Children: 5.00 Euros
Families: 12.00 Euros
Second photo: Steps leading up to the entrance. (Unlike the Museum Steinau, the Grimm House does not seem to be accessible to people in wheelchairs.)
Third photo: The Grimm House from the outside.
Next: Museum Steinau
After visiting the Museum Steinau, the Grimm House and the Castle Museum (in 2008), I was on my way out of Steinau on the bicycle route R3 when I came across this "Private Museum" at Brüder-Grimm-Straße 31.
The woman standing in the doorway in the first photo is Hildegard Zimmer, who runs the museum with her husband Manfred.
This is the house where Manfred Zimmer was born in 1941, and he has lived in this house all his life. His family has owned this house since 1520, and his direct ancestors have lived here since the beginning of the 19th century. His grandmother ran a delicatessen in this house from 1921 to the middle of the 1960s.
When his parents died, Manfred Zimmer decided it would be worthwhile to preserve the house and its furnishings. When he started renovating the house he came upon numerous historic household and agricultural tools, which he spent many hours restoring. Eventually he and his wife turned the entire ground floor into a museum to display all these historic items, plus some others that have been given to them by neighbors. I asked if they ever went to flea markets, and they said, they went to look sometimes, but they have never bought any items at a flea market or anywhere else.
Admission to the Private Museum is free, but they do accept contributions.
Second photo: Inside the Private Museum.
Third photo: Four cast-iron heating stoves, plus a container for transporting coal.
Fourth photo: Hildegard Zimmer never tires of explaining what each of these tools was used for.
Fifth photo: On the right is an old kitchen stove. Some people in this region still do their cooking on this kind of stove.
Next: Private Museum II
What I like about this park is that it has lots of opportunities for active play for the children, not just passive rides. Also it is clean and well-tended.
You can bring your own picnic lunch or reserve a site for grilling. They also have a self-service restaurant and various refreshment stands.
A big disadvantage of the park is its limited accessibility. It is up a steep hill from Steinau and is not on any bicycle route, just a narrow road with fast cars. There is a bus line, MKK 94, but the buses run only three times a day and only on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays – so seldom as to be practically useless. Strangely, the buses start at the train station in Schlüchtern, not Steinau. Those who come by bus get a two Euro reduction on the admission price, but this cannot be combined with any other reductions such as for age or height.
Next: Private Museum I
This castle, in the middle of Steinau near the town hall and the marionette theater, was built in the years 1528 to 1560 as the country home of the Counts of Hanau, who were the rulers of this area.
The castle is surrounded by a dry moat. There are two bridges across the moat, leading to entrances at opposite sides of the castle.
During the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) the castle was attacked at least once, namely in 1634, when one wing of the building was destroyed by Croatian troops.
Next: Castle Museum
The full name of Steinau is "Steinau an der Straße" meaning "Steinau on the street" or better on the road or route.
The road in question is the medieval trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig. This section of the original road was uncovered in 2002 between Steinau and Bad Soden-Salmünster. In 2006 it was installed here in front of the museums in Steinau where everyone can see it.
If this road looks rather bumpy -- well, it was. Evidently that's the way roads were in those days.
My theory about this is that fixing broken wheels and axles was a mainstay of the local economy.
Second photo: Here is a sign with a photo showing where this section of road was found.
The regional bicycle route R3 now leads across the Kinzig Valley Dam and then turns right to follow along the reservoir, which is just downstream from Steinau.
The dam was built between 1976 and 1982 (we used to drive past every week in that period) for three purposes: protection from flooding, serving as a source of water during droughts and generating electricity. Supposedly the dam is high enough to protect against any floodwaters, even if they reach the highest level that has been recorded in the past thousand years.
Second photo: Looking out over the dam from the reservoir. The town of Steinau is just beyond the reservoir.
Third photo: The main railroad line between Frankfurt and Fulda goes along the north side of the reservoir.
Fourth photo: View of the reservoir from the bicycle route R3.
The Town Hall was built in 1561.
The façade includes eight statues (four of which are visible in the photo). They represent eight occupations that used to be common in Steinau in bygone centuries. These are the blacksmith, the bricklayer, the harvester, the carpenter, the mother, the potter, the scholar and the innkeeper.
These statues are modern replacements for the original statues that were put there when the town hall was built in 1561, the originals having disappeared at some unknown time in the course of the centuries.
Second photo: The fairy tale fountain (from the 1980s) between the town hall and the marionette theater, with the tourist information office in the background.
Third photo: Children playing at the fairy tale fountain.
Fourth photo: Tables in the pedestrian zone of Steinau’s main street, the Brüder-Grimm-Straße.
Next: Holzköppe Marionette Theater
Across from the town hall is the "Holzköppe" Marionette Theater. The name “Holzköppe” is a word in the local dialect meaning wooden heads, which is what the marionettes all have.
The sign on the front says that the troupe has been in existence for 88 years (they change the number every year, of course). Their website says the first performance was in Bad Hersfeld in 1924, when a group of students from the University of Göttingen did a marionette production of "Doktor Faust".
For the first thirty-one years they were a travelling company, until they finally got the chance to settle down in a permanent building in Steinau in 1955.
The founder of the marionette theater was Karl Magersuppe (1900-1981), who went on doing performances up until his death at the age of 81. After that his widow and then his son took it over, and now the third generation of the same family is still doing the performances.
We went to one of their performances with our then very young children, in the 1970s – and again with two of our grandchildren in 2012.
Second photo: On the day I took this photo (in 2008) these performances were scheduled: Hänsel and Gretel at 3 pm and Doktor Faust at 9 pm. Of course they do a lot of performance based on the Grimms' Fairy Tales, and they keep doing the traditional Doktor Faust (not Goethe's version) which has been a standard of German puppet and marionette theaters for hundreds of years. And on the following Sunday afternoon they were doing the Frog King, another one of the Grimms' Fairy Tales.
Third photo: Some of the marionettes on display at the nearby Castle Museum.
Fourth photo: The fairy tale fountain between the theater and the town hall.
Fifth photo: Entrance to the theater.
Next: Cinderella at the Holzköppe
This is the Grimm Brothers’ House (formerly the old courthouse) built from 1791-1796
This house was restored in 1998 under direction of the City of Steinau an der Strasse and the International Grimm Brother Society (internationalen Brüder Grimm-Gesellschaft e.V).
The Steinau Administration House, which is known as the “Grimm Brother House” today, is a stately Renaissance house with a stone foundation and a very ornate half-timbered construction on the first floor. The building, including the outbuildings, such as the stalls, is a picturesque villa that is surrounded by a wall and houses the Grimm Brother Museum.
Open: From March 1, until December 20, 2002, daily from 2:00 pm. until 5:00 p.m.
Guided Tours: Guided tours for groups can be conducted if they are registered in the city’s tourist office for anytime during the year. The tour lasts a half an hour to an hour, and the price is 25.00 Euro plus 1.50 admission fee per adult or 1.00 Euro per child.
Adults – 2.00 Euro
Children – 1.50 Euro
Adult Groups with at least 15 People – 1.50 Euro
Children Groups with at least 15 People – 1.00 Euro
Family Ticket (with at least 3 people) – 5.00 Euro