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GERMANY OFFERING FAIRY-TALE BARGAINS - FOR THOSE WITH FINANCES TO FIX THEM UP

SHARE GERMANY OFFERING FAIRY-TALE BARGAINS - FOR THOSE WITH FINANCES TO FIX THEM UP

Looking for a Christmas gift? Budget tight? How about a real German castle - for 63 cents?

The German government is selling 20 castles, manors and stately homes it inherited from the East German communists.Listed in a catalog titled "Fairy Tales For Sale," they range in cost from one mark (63 cents) for the 17th-century Schloss Wulkow near the Polish border to $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.

"Buyers can't simply do what they want with the properties," said Sabine Pentrop, a spokeswoman for the government's Treuhand agency, which is selling the castles. "They are cultural assets."

For instance, you can't buy Schloss Wulkow, which was badly damaged during World War II, without handing over $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 vacant Schloss Zschorna, a three-story manor house on a high foundation, was originally built in 1537 by Christoph von Beschwitz and rebuilt and extended in 1853.

A double-arched stone bridge spans the moat (sorry, no drawbridge). A spiral staircase winds upwards to an octagonal clock tower.

The road leading up to Schloss Zschorna passes through a wooded park and over a causeway between two scenic lakes. It's easy to imagine armored knights riding beneath the trees arching overhead.

Horst Friedrich, one of about 25 people living in Zschorna, remembers when the Nazis used the castle as a place to teach fascism to youths. After World War II, the East Germans used it as a place to indoctrinate youths into communism.

Castle Boitzenburg is also soaked in history.

Surrounded by lakes about 50 miles north of Berlin, this sprawling manor with towers, a "knight's hall" and a barrel-vaulted ceiling is mentioned in a document from 1276.

Margrave Ludwig, a nobleman, acquired it in 1373. Starting in 1528, it was the permanent residence for a family of Prussian nobles called the von Arnims, who renovated and expanded it over the next 400 years.

During the communist era, Schloss Boitzenburg served as a vacation retreat for East German soldiers.

Many of the properties were expropriated by the communists from their original owners, some of whom are among more than 6,000 people who have expressed interest in buying.

The original owners can't be given back the properties because of a 1990 treaty between Bonn and Moscow, but they do get some money from Germany.

Still sound good? Fax or call the Treuhand agency by Dec. 14. After that date, only concrete development plans from prospective buyers will be accepted.

Queries should be directed to the Treuhand agency's marketing department in Berlin at 011-49-30-3154-7599. The fax number is 011-49-30-3154-7447.