The Museum Steinau is in the barn that belonged to the house where the Grimm family used to live, but it is not about the Grimm brothers particularly — there is a separate museum for them on the other side of the courtyard. This museum is 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.
As the museum’s website notes: “Museum director Burkhard Kling has developed a concept that represents Steinau as a typical station on the trade route.” In 2008 the Museum Steinau was awarded a quite prestigious regional 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.”
Inside the historic barn they have built metal ramp so museum visitors can easily move from one level to another. This also makes the museum accessible for people in wheelchairs.
The full name of the city of Steinau is “Steinau an der Straße” meaning “Steinau on the street” or better on the road or route.
The road in question is, of course, 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 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, as I have previously mentioned in one of my Gelnhausen posts, is that the bumpy roads were more or less intentional, since fixing broken wheels and axles was a mainstay of the local economy.
Virtual tour of Museum Steinau, Brüder-Grimm-Straße 80,
36396 Steinau an der Straße, Germany.
My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2021.