German Castles Make Fairy-Tale Gifts

LOOKING for a Christmas gift? Budget tight? How about a real castle - for one German mark (63 cents US)?

The German government is selling 20 castles, manors, and stately homes it inherited from the East German communists.

Listed in a catalog called ``Fairy Tales For Sale,'' they range in cost from one mark for the 17th-century Schloss Wulkow near the Polish border, to 3.8 million marks ($2.4 million) for Schloss Zschorna in this hamlet north of Dresden.

There's a catch, of course: You need to buy the land under them separately. And if the castles are in ruins, the buyer will be forced to restore them in an appropriate style - which could cost a fortune.

For instance, you can't buy Schloss Wulkow, which was badly damaged during World War II, without handing over 51,000 marks ($32,000) for the land it sits on. And you must also present renovation and development plans fitting the character of the schloss - German for castle.

The communist government expropriated many of the properties from their original owners, some of whom are among the more than 6,000 people who have expressed interest in buying. The original owners can't be given back the properties for free, however, because of a 1990 treaty between Bonn and Moscow.

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