…Princess Anna Grace and her Squire Clayton Theodore asked to survey Germany’s Fairy Tale Route. So, for the AIS Fall Break this year, we packed the five-horse turbo-charged diesel carriage and set forth for a weeklong road trip through Germany and all places Brothers Grimm.

Our departure day began gloriously, with blue skies and perfectly autumnal foliage.

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Unfortunately, with but 22km remaining to our first overnight destination, we and so many other travelers were ground to a complete halt for FOUR HOURS on the A8 northwest of Munich because of a terrible accident. Two medical helicopters landed on the highway, and more than a dozen other emergency vehicles arrived on the scene. We reached our destination in time to freshen ourselves and sit for dinner in the hotel restaurant, our hearts heavy with the events of the afternoon.

After breakfast the following morning, the Steiff Museum! Not exactly on the Fairy Tale Route, but a perfect start to the holiday theme. Even if one is not into hugging life-sized giraffes, the story of Margaret Steiff and her beloved creations is worth the visit. Mostly, though, Princess Anna (and all of the other teenage girls at the museum) came to ride unicorns and hug handmade stuffed animals.

Inching closer to the Fairy Tale Route, we left Bavaria for our next overnight in Somber Town Mainz. The city is in a metropolitan triangle that includes Frankfurt (been there, and don’t need to do it again!) and Wiesbaden, known for shopping (except it was Sunday, so, no), leaving Mainz and its Gutenberg Museum as an interesting, if not theme-related way to pass the late afternoon. And indeed, the well-curated museum held our attention for quite some time; we were awed to be able to view up-close and in person three original Gutenberg Bibles. No photographs permitted, and no postcards in the gift store, oddly.

The only photos I snapped in Mainz.

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Leaving the museum we set off in search of dinner. I never, ever thought I would write that Vienna is a lively cosmopolis on a Sunday comparatively, but Mainz really could have been the inspiration for Somber Town in the Christmas classic, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  Stores AND restaurants were closed; people wandered about like zombies, casting wishful glances at the darkened storefronts. Near to our hotel the only open restaurants included an odd Tapas/Tavern and a sketchy-looking Irish Pub, so with the Squire now in tow we ventured toward the train station, optimistic that even a small grocer might be open. Ha.

A Fairy Godmother must have been tagging along with us, for in taking a different path back toward the hotel we found the “Royal Imbiss” and its succulent rotisserie chickens, just-baked flatbread, and fresh and crisp salad makings. Across the way, Princess Anna Grace noted a Currywurst stand, and our dinner was saved!  If the Royal Imbiss existed on Trip Advisor or Yelp, it would receive top marks from us.

Now, our lodging in Mainz was an apart-hotel, meaning that in theory we should have been able to settle in at the dining table with our meal. But, no, the Somber Town Suites dining table only had two chairs (and only two sets of dinnerware and bath linens). Plus, the promised Internet was a fail. Upon check-out the following morning I politely informed the former Stasi Guard clerk that the apartment lacked the necessary amenities for the “extra guest,” and that the Internet did not work. Her death stare scared me.

All said, our holiday was off to a troubled start. (Spoiler: the holiday far exceeded expectations)