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Castles on the RhineWhen you imagine a castle, do you conjure up a structure in which kings and queens and their court lived a romantic life of intrigue and grandeur?

Well, now that you’re in Europe, you can learn the truth: In reality, those upper classes lived brutal and short lives in cold stone fortresses that were designed to be killing machines.

Separate fact from fantasy about these structures and earn one college credit at the same time on a University of Maryland University College weekend seminar Aug. 30-31 at Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany.

On the first day of "Castles on the Rhine," participants attend a lecture that looks at the 200-year development of the Rhine River castles, the lifestyle and culture of their inhabitants, the myths and legends surrounding them and an analysis of siege warfare from the perspectives of both inhabitants and attackers.

On the second day, class members enjoy a Rhine River cruise starting in Eltville to view 21 castles in their historical settings, disembarking in Braubach for a study tour of the Marksburg Castle, the only fortress on the river that was never destroyed.

The class is taught by Dr. George Neblett, who is writing a book on the subject.

The cost of the seminar with credit is $184.50, for which military tuition assistance will pay. The cost of the cruise is 35 euros. Spouses and friends also may participate in the cruise.

More details at local UMUC offices or by sending e-mail to

London fashionFrom Sept. 14-19, London’s Fashion Week features the newest designer collections to hit the catwalks.

It’s a glittery world of celebrities, models, high fashion and chic parties. While you probably can’t snag a ticket for this high-end event, you still have the chance to check out and buy the newest fashion and accessories Sept. 24-28 from 150 of its designers during the London Fashion Weekend on the lawns of the Natural History Museum.

In addition to the shopping, you can sign up for a seminar of style and beauty tips from catwalk experts (6 pounds or about $11) and sit in the Elizabeth Arden beauty studio for a makeover. Advance tickets are recommended. Opening hours are 5-9 p.m. Sept. 24 (15.50 pounds); noon-9 p.m. Sept. 25 (10 pounds); noon to 5 p.m. (10 pounds) and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 26 (15.50 pounds); 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 27 (12.50 pounds); and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 (10 pounds). Find details at

Rock ’n’ roll auctionIn 1967, guitarist Jimi Hendrix literally set fire to his Fender Stratocaster guitar on the stage of the Finsbury Astoria. With burns on his hands, Hendrix was taken to the hospital. With burns on its neck, the guitar was taken by press officer Tony Garland and kept in his garage until his nephew rediscovered it in 2007.

On Sept. 4, the guitar joins other pieces of rock ’n’ roll memorabilia up for auction at the Idea Generation Gallery. It’s estimated the guitar will go for 500,000 pounds (about $940,000). Entry to the auction is free. Details at

Best BetsDENMARK: For being 95 years old on Saturday, the Little Mermaid sitting in Copenhagen’s harbor looks pretty good! The famous statue was created by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen and unveiled on Aug. 23, 1913. A public birthday party to celebrate the milestone will be held at the harbor with music, balloons, swimming performances and other activities. Find more details at

ENGLAND: Up to 30 million sequins, 150,000 feather plumes and 1 million hours went into making and decorating the extravagant costumes of the participants in Monday’s carnival parade in London’s Notting Hill. So you know it’s going to be a flashy affair. "Welcoming the World" — a tribute to the city’s multicultural visitors and to the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London — is the theme of this year’s Caribbean street party, considered second in size only to Rio de Janeiro’s carnival. Masked bands, DJs, steel bands and dancers, all moving to a calypso beat, will make up a 3½-mile-long procession, while sound systems on the streets will join in with reggae, ska, disco, funk and soul music. Live acts entertain and hundreds of food stalls serve international cuisine. The official hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For details, go to

HUNGARY: For the second time, Budapest’s techno parade has been canceled due to financial and safety issues. The costs of organizing and cleaning up after the rave event, as well as the traffic complications and safety concerns, have led the municipal government to organize instead the Bónusz Electronic Music Festival on Aug. 30 in the Syma arena. Top DJs from France, the Netherlands, Canada, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Austria, the United States and Hungry will create a techno environment with music and lights that its Web site calls "the highest-budget event of the all-time Hungarian party scene." Advance tickets cost 4,990 Hungarian forints (about $30); on-site tickets are 5,990 Hungarian forints. Doors open at 7 p.m. More details at

SWITZERLAND: Zurich’s Münsterhof square will be thrown back to the Middle Ages this weekend during the city’s annual Historical Medieval Spectacle. Experience a bit of the city’s history through medieval crafts workers, musicians, entertainers and an evening pre-Reformation carnival play called "Der Ablasskrämer" ("The Peddler of Indulgences"). The fest runs 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Entry is free.

— Jayne Traendly

Stripes in 7

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