Germany - Off the beaten track
There's more to Füssen than its famous trio of Ludwig II castles. Its compact centre, with its tangle of lanes, is full of historical buildings; check out the Hohe Schloss. There are excellent views from the top of Tegelbergbahn, reached by cable car, and nearby are the Bavarian Alps.
King Ludwig Wilhelm II would have got along like a castle on fire with Walt Disney, but he didn't get along with his ministers and relatives, who had him diagnosed as unfit to rule Bavaria; soon after, he was found mysteriously drowned. Ludwig II's legacy consists of the three fantastical castles he had built near Füssen: Neuschwanstein (which inspired Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle), Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof.
The Harz Mountains rise picturesquely from the North German plain, a quick train ride from the tourist centres in the south. They don't have the peaks and valleys of the Alps, but they offer a great all-seasons sports getaway without some of the Alpine tackiness and tourism.
In Goethe's Faust a character named Frosch calls Leipzig 'a little Paris.' He was wrong - Leipzig is more fun. Street-side cafes pour out onto the streets, and underground music clubs thud throughout the night; the town also has some of the finest classical music and opera in the country - it was once home to Bach, Wagner and Mendelssohn.
North Frisian Islands
The North Frisian Islands reward those who make the trek with sunshine, sand dunes, sea and pure air - much of this area is a national park. Paths and boardwalks are provided for strolling. One island, Helgoland, was used as a submarine base in WWII and you can tour the strong bunkers and underground tunnels.
This gentle, picturesque university town, just 35km (22mi) south of Stuttgart, is a place to wander winding cobbled alleys past half-timbered houses and old stone walls. From the heights of the Renaissance Hohentübingen Castle (now part of the university) there are fine views over the steep, red-tiled rooftops of the altstadt (old town). Today's students are the proud custodians of a rigorous liberal intellectual tradition, and can be seen in every cafe plotting earnestly to save the world. The market here is a treasure, filled with fruit and vegetables, and this is one town where some of this crisp and fresh produce might actually turn up on your plate. Also check out the nearby Rathaus and its delightful clock.