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Schloss and Bauhaus

Rococo palaces and spas, half-timbered houses, mad King Ludwig's castles, Bauhaus austerity and cozy interiors are what spring to mind in Germany.

Visit Munich's Nymphenberg palace and park studded with rococo "castles;" the Amelienburg, the Pagodenburg and the Badenburg. The traditional Maidult Fair takes place in Munich on the Mariahilfplatz where, for nine days in May, good bargains can be found in antiques and second-hand goods.

In Potsdam, outside of Berlin, see Sanssouci, the summer residence of Frederick the Great and a peak example of grand, glittering rococo. In Dresden, see the Zwinger palace, a masterpiece of Baroque with stage-like decor, but in stone. In Coburg, see Schloss Ehrenburg where Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, grew up. Its gemütlicht interiors have many mementos of the Queen, who often stayed there. In Schwangau, see the prime example of King Ludwig II's Wagnerian castles, Schloss Neuschwanstein. Planned by scene-painter Christian Jank in late Romanesque style, it is the archetype fairytale castle.

To trace the development of the Bauhaus school, check the Bauhaus Archive Museum in Berlin. The building, designed by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, brings together all elements of Bauhaus architecture, interior and furniture design, graphics and art.

Also consider a trip to Dessau, in the east, where the Bauhaus was based from 1925 to 1932. In addition to the Bauhaus Building and its regular exhibitions, you can see the former home of Swiss painter Paul Klee, now the Design Centre of Saxony Anhalt.

For the latest ideas, travel to Frankfurt, bustling center of commerce, where a design fair is held every January showing the latest colors, materials and furnishings in mostly mass market trends.