Germany, Castle by Castle

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 2, 2008

Q. I am planning to take my 14-year-old grandson to Germany in June for a tour of medieval castles and fortresses. Which of these would prove most interesting for a teenager enthralled with dungeons, dragons and knights?

Linda Giammattei, Fairfax

A. When it comes to the relative merits of German castles, there seems to be little agreement, although on one issue there's no dispute: You are the coolest grandmother ever, bar none. And according to Astrid Baur, who has one of the coolest jobs ever, having given castle tours for the past eight years (, 202-580-8732), her hometown fortress should be stop No. 1. Of course, Baur grew up in the Bavarian town of Fussen, literally in the shadow of Neuschwanstein, Germany's most famous castle (the ones in the Disney parks are Neuschwanstein knockoffs), a 19th-century structure built by King Ludwig II (

"It's also the most visited castle in Germany," Baur said, "but it's not a typical one. Castles were typically built to protect whoever was living there, but this one was for a mad king who wanted to dream and get away from people." For bona fide dungeons and faint echoes of derring-do, she recommended the castle at Marksburg on the Rhine River ( Most castles that would capture a 14-year-old's interest date from the 12th and 13th centuries, and almost all have been at least partially destroyed in the years since. "But they couldn't get to Marksburg, so it's exactly as it was 800 years ago."

"Another Rhine one which is absolutely marvelous is Eltz," Baur said of a pristine fairy-tale structure surrounded by thickly forested terrain, not to mention the occasional spooky mist. "And of course Heidelberg castle" on the Neckar River, which has sustained enormous damage over time but still possesses a lovely moat and knights' hall.

We're planning a family trip to England and are interested in seeing a couple of English Premier League soccer games. Can you please provide some guidance?

Scott Swartz, Fairfax Station

You just want to see a game, right? It doesn't have to be, say, Manchester United, right?

The thing is: Tickets can be purchased from across the pond for matches involving any of the 20 teams in the Premier League (the most important in English soccer), but availability varies widely, according to Visit Britain, the country's official tourism agency (, 800-462-2748). For Americans, as a general rule, if it's a team you've heard of -- e.g., Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United -- you'll need to plan long in advance.

On the other hand, if the team's unknown to you (Fulham) or has a mildly humorous name (Tottenham Hotspur), you may have better luck. Tickets for various teams can be found at TicketSwitch (, 011-44-870-906-3860), which partners with Visit Britain, or at any of the teams' Web sites. For links to these, as well as more ticket info, visit the Premier League's Web site, at Among the companies offering hotel and ticket packages is Travelcare Sports (, 011-44-870-906-5835).

Send queries by e-mail ( or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company