Lohr am Main – The Snow White town

This is going to sound familiar…

Once upon a time, a kind and beautiful princess lived in a handsome castle in Germany. Her mother died when she was still a girl, and her father remarried shortly afterwards. But the stepmother was a vain and manipulative woman, favouring her own children over her adopted stepdaughter. Inevitably, the relationship snapped; the princess fled away from her family, over great hills and through deep forests. Eventually she settled and lived in exile in a community of dwarfs working in the local mines.

The princess (well, Baroness, technically…) was Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? But you have almost certainly recognised her already as “Schneewittchen” from the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale: or, in English…

Snow White.

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Maria Sophia was born in this castle in Lohr in June 1725, and is described in family chronicles as being “an angel of mercy and kindness”. She appears to have been much loved by the local population too for being “charitable towards the poor and the suffering”: a true people’s princess.

Regardless of any association with Snow White, the charming narrow streets and colourful timber-framed buildings of Lohr am Main effortlessly inspire imagery of fairy tales and other magical children’s stories.

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Shortly after the death of Maria Sophia’s mother, her father remarried Claudia Elisabeth Maria von Venningen who, as we all know, has since developed an unfortunate (and probably undeserved) reputation for vanity and murderous intent. The besotted husband bestowed his new wife with a gift of a magnificent mirror, which is today proudly displayed in the Spessart Museum in Lohr.

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The Snow White mirror in the Spessart Museum, Lohr

Yes, this is the REAL magic mirror: who knew this actually existed? It was reputedly able to talk, and an interesting feature is the motif on the upper right, stating “Amour propre” (“self-love”); a reference to the vanity of the user, perhaps? Of course we will never know for sure, but it is easy to see how a story was crafted around this exquisite piece of ornamental art… how a fairy tale was born.

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The Spessart Museum in Lohr am Main

As you explore Lohr and learn more about its history and heritage, more and more connections to the Snow White story can be found. Take the dwarfs for example: people working in the local mines at that time were typically much shorter than the noble classes, through malnutrition and use of child labour. Apples have been grown on the sunny hillsides surrounding the town for centuries, and the fêted local glass industries would have been well capable of creating a glass coffin for the unfortunately-poisoned young princess.

Another important element of the story is the flight of Snow White away from her wicked stepmother through (in Grimm’s words) the “great forest” to a place “beyond the mountains”. Today’s visitors to Lohr can follow in her footsteps via the “Schneewittchenweg“: the Snow White hiking route. Ash (12) and I followed a section of the well-marked trail deep into the mighty “Spessart” woods.

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For the avoidance of any doubt, this is not a kid-friendly themed stroll with cute dwarfs and miniature houses lining the route, no way… This is Germany, where hiking is taken seriously, and the Schneewittchenweg is a 35km hard slog up and over lumpy hills, with nothing even remotely Snow White-themed to see or do along the way (at least not in the 10km section from Lohr to Partenstein).

Don’t get me wrong: it was a great hike. Ash and I relished the physical challenge and appreciated the absolute calm and natural beauty of this “great forest”. But do bear in mind that your average seven year old Snow White wannabe will probably not be so impressed…

But don’t worry: back in Lohr itself there are plenty of kid-friendly activities for Snow White-loving families to see and do. For example, a trail organised by the local tourism office takes kids on a scavenger hunt around the town in search of the seven dwarfs’ hats, incorporating an excellent playground and showcasing some fascinating Snow White-themed public art along the way. Highly recommended!

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And speaking of art, Lohr recently paid €110,000 for a new sculpture of its most famous daughter to take pride of place outside the town’s theatre. Here it is:

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The fairest of them all?

Um… not what you were expecting, huh? It’s not what many residents of Lohr expected either, leading to plenty of raised eyebrows and a predictably vibrant discussion over the appropriate use of public funds…

But, in the artist’s defence, is art not an excellent vehicle for stimulating discussion and providing us with food for thought? After all, certain elements of fairy tales seem painfully dated – and sometimes even totally inappropriate – in today’s world. For example, here is an extract from the original Grimm fairy tale, immediately after Snow White wakes up from her nasty bout of apple poisoning:

“The prince said… ‘Come with me to my father’s castle. You shall become my wife.’ Snow-White loved him, and she went with him.”

Well, that was hasty… Is this really the type of inspiration and ideals that parents wish to instil in their daughters?

In challenging the conventional image of Snow White so radically, I personally like to think that the artist is merely asking us to question many of the stereotypes that we find in fairy tales and other forms of popular culture, and I applaud him for that (even if I don’t actually like the sculpture itself). That said, this hilarious artwork is obviously going to disappoint young Snow White fans like my daughters.

By contrast, actually meeting Snow White in person in her castle and listening to her telling fairy stories… now that was a huge hit with Mia (9) and Poppy (6)!

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And therein lies the beauty of Lohr am Main – you can find your personal fairy tale there, your individual interpretation of the story of Snow White through art, nature, history and culture. We loved it.

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON VISITING LOHR AM MAIN

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(Map adapted from http://www.railpass.com)
  • Lohr’s Tourist Information Office  is located at Schlossplatz, 5, just opposite the castle. Closed on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday.
  • The “Magic Mirror” is located in room 215 of the Spessart Museum (Schlossplatz, 1). €3 admission, €2 for children. Closed on Mondays.
  • Snow White reads fairy tales (including, of course, “Snow White” itself) in the Spessart Museum on the second Sunday of each month from April to November.
    • Currently available in German only.
    • Our kids speak German fluently. However if, like me, your German is a bit dodgy, then reading the original version (translated) of Grimm’s “Snow White” before your visit may help you follow the story.
  • The children’s scavenger hunt (German and English) is available at the Tourist Information Office. Plan on spending at least a couple of hours; you will get pleasantly distracted along the way.
  • We stayed at the excellent Youth Hostel at Brunnenwiesenweg 13. Spotlessly clean, friendly staff, plenty of games and space for the kids, and only 10 minutes walk from the town centre. Yummy pancakes for breakfast too.

Daisy the bus visited Lohr am Main in April 2018

(c) 2018 Jonathan Orr

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Author: daisythebus

Family travel bloggers based in Luxembourg. We write about "off the beaten track" travel adventures with our four children. Expect to read about nature, outdoor activities, culture and alternative ways of discovering the world around us.

12 thoughts on “Lohr am Main – The Snow White town”

  1. Thank you for a. Fascinating and beautifully written post. I had no idea the original Grimm’s Fairy take was based on a true story. Sounds like the town does a nice job with the trail and storytelling. Is that a Disney oitfot the princess is wearing??? I have just remembered, when I lived in America I was part of an amateur dramatics group. We did an annual pantomime and Snow White was one of the favourites. I played the wicked stepmother, as I kept saying a role I had been method acting my whole life.!

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  2. I like how you pulled from the city and the woods for activities. So interesting to read some historical facts next to the famed fairy tale, it really adds a layer of complexity to our understanding of the tale, doesn’t it? I wish I had known more about this town when we were in Frankfurt last October…it looks charming and I love seeing the public art and references to Snow White. It kind of reminds me of the town in Italy that is famous for the Pinocchio story (I actually haven’t been but read about it in the guide books prior to our travel in Italy). And lucky you to not have to fight any crowds over the Easter holiday! Great post! #FarawayFiles

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  3. Oh my, I love this post. I am not sure if I have heard about this town before but If I have had, I didn’t know it was the place related to Snow White’s story. I really like how they make the most of the story. The details are great! I like the way you interpreted the message behind the sculpture. It got me thinking about how we like to perpetuate some stories even though they have nothing to do with our values.

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    1. What a kind comment – thanks! I think that the local tourism authorities are (rightly) starting to make the most of their Snow White connection, but the town is a remarkably low-key attraction at the moment. We were – literally – alone in our Youth Hostel, during the Easter School Holidays!! I would bet that this place will be much more famous in ten years’ time. Thanks for reading!

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  4. I’ve seen the sign along the autobahn as we drive in that direction, but I didn’t actually think it would be anything interesting! NOW I HAVE TO GO!! Love Disney stories and half-timbered towns so will definitely need to add this to my list!! #FarawayFiles

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  5. What a wonderful place to visit! I love hearing about the origins of favorite stories and had no idea about this one. I’ liked the bit of graffiti at the end! #farawayfiles

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  6. What a fantastic place to explore with kids! I absolutely love finding the real stories behind the fairytales and not a bit surprised that it was based on a real story. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

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  7. Gosh! I had no idea that Snow White took its inspiration from real life! Where Hansel and Gretel real too, can we visit the gingerbread house? Lour am Main looks beautiful, we are well over due another German sojourn. #CulturedKids

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