Once upon a time, I lived near Hanau, Germany–the birthplace of my childhood heroes, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. What greater inspiration could a writer want? Walking through the exact woods that the Grimm brothers once frequented, visiting castles and abandoned towers … no wonder my first draft of Liberty Frye was scribbled out during those 13 magical months. These photos are from that time, and capture many of the settings for Libby’s adventures.

But step one: A rough map of Libby and Ginny’s quest through the State of Hessen, Germany:

Map of the State of Hessen from Liberty Frye

Libby’s adventure begins when she and her parents arrive in Germany via the Frankfurt International Airport, which just so happens to also be how Sam and I first arrived.

And as for Ginny and Sal, perhaps the skyscraper below was one that their plane skimmed over before landing in a field outside of Gelnhausen.

A view of Frankfurt skyscrapers from one of the many green spaces in downtown.

Maybe Frankfurt’s funky blend of modern and traditional architecture–of efficient modernization layered with ghosts of the past– (such as that in central Frankfurt’s Romer Platz below), was what first sparked the idea of Liberty Frye: how two realities, seemingly contrary to each other, exist in ways that are invisible to many.

Frankfurt Romer Platz

Maybe. But I think the real magic behind Liberty Frye happened when Sam and I moved to the village of Rodenbach, which is about a fifteen or so minute bicycle ride to where we worked at the the army base in Hanau. Here, in this village surrounded by forest, we discovered trails weaving between half-timber homes and crumbling towers.

Forest Trails through Rodenbach, Germany.

Every week during the warmer months, I would ride my clunky Dutch bike (that I purchase for 30 Euro at the Frankfurt Flea Market!) through these woods, usually to visit the Hanau Market downtown. It was during one of my first magical bike rides that I encountered the Roman ruins of what was once an abbey.

Ruins of St. Wolfgang Abbey in Rodenbach, Germany.

This place becomes the setting for Sabine’s hut in the woods that Libby finds one snowy evening. You can just make out the squat, stone structure to the back right of the tower.

Stone hut at the ruins of St. Wolfgand Abbey in Rodenbach, Germany

Encountering such places in the land of the Brothers Grimm, how could a person not start believing that fairytales … are real? That these paths lead to underground labyrinths, to invisible castles, to dimensions only discovered by those who know that a road sign provides a clue to a code, to a hidden portal, to another universe?

Secrets of the Fairytale Wood

But you don’t have to be a metaphysical adventuress to find the magic of the Grimm Brothers, because these paths also lead to the Hanau town square. Here, a giant statue of Jacob and Wilhem Grimm looms over the weekly market. And behind them, at Christmas time, the Hanau Rat Haus transforms into an advent calendar.

Jacob and William (Wilhelm) Grimm statue at Hanau Marktplatz

It is here that Libby and Ginny search for Wolfgang’s bakery located off the market square.

Although the Grimm brothers were born in Germany, they actually grew up in Steinau, which is a short drive from Hanau. Today, their home is a museum devoted to all things Grimm-related.

Grimm brothers' childhood home in Steinau, Germany

Libby never visited their home. After all, eluding an evil witch and saving your parents’ lives can take a toll on one’s sightseeing. But below are some more places that became settings for Libby’s misadventures:

View from Ronnenburg Castle Tower

It is here, in the towers of Rodenburg Castle, that Zelna imprisons Libby, and it is a view such as this one that Libby discovers in Chapter 9, The Prison Tower.

Ronneburg provided all sorts of inspiration for Libby’s imprisonment, including this kitchen, courtyard and armory room:

Inspiration for Zelna's kitchen in Chapter 11, Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen
Inner Courtyard of Ronneburg Castle, Germany
Ronneburg Castle Armory room, Ronneburg, Germany

And medieval, walled town of Rothenburg, where Libby’s parents eloped years ago:

Rothenburg Christmas Market, Rothenburg Germany

Rothenburg has a gorgeous Christmas Market, where I first sampled Shneeballen. It also hosts a peculiar torture museum, displaying curious items such as the Flute of Shame … for bad musicians!

Or the whimsical town of Gelnhausen and its surrounding countryside, where Sal and Ginny make their impromptu landing:

Gelnhausen, Germany

So much inspiration, and only thirteen months to experience, absorb and process into a 1000+ page adventure about a girl who discovers life is nothing what it seems, and that the stories behind the Brothers Grimm were not just real, but alive–that their legacy exists in double lives and crypt-keepers … and even in one’s own family. Seven years and many drafts later, a 350-page book called Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen was born.

Since then, Libby’s journey of self-discovery has expanded as widely as her future adventures in the South Pacific and China. I’ll post about those later, but to me, this magical place called Germany is what started another life.






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