Once upon a time, folks in a pretty, rural, and relatively untraveled part of central Germany between Frankfurt and Bremen got together to see how they might put their region on the map. “Let’s see, who’s lived here that anyone really cares about?” they wondered aloud.

“I’ve got it!” someone ventured. “How about those Grimm boys? Quiet, mousy types, always had their noses in a book. Cared more about words than they did about people. But they sure told a whopper of a tale. Plus, all those characters they wrote about, Goldilocks, the Pied Piper, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel . . . they all lived in these parts, too.”

“Meine Gütte, we’re on to something,” the crowd roared. And that, if you choose to believe it, is how the Fairy Tale Road came to be.

The so-called Fairy-Tale Road (Märchenstrasse) meanders for 595km (369 miles) north from Frankfurt through the states of Hesse and Lower Saxony, from Hanau, where the Brothers Grimm were born, to Bremen. Following the entire route is a five-day adventure at least, taking many twists and turns to the towns and villages where the librarian brothers lived, worked, and studied, until they left the region for Berlin in 1840. Along the way are half-timbered houses strung along cobbled lanes, castle towers on the horizon, and green river valleys edged with dark, gnarly forests. This is the land that inspired the tales that still fascinate children and adults around the world. While some towns and villages on the long route have no bona fide association with the Grimms, they are picturesque enough to qualify—you’ll find yourself wondering if a witch or wizard might live in that thatched cottage by the road, or if a princess is taking a century-long snooze in the castle tower you see in the distance.

Trains serve a few towns on the route, but getting from place to place by public transport is for the most part inefficient and time-consuming. Unless someone transforms a pumpkin into a coach for you, the only easy way to follow the route is by car, maybe picking up a vehicle in Frankfurt and dropping it in Bremen, or vice versa.