Few foreign tourists venture into the countryside north of Berlin; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern doesn’t have quite the same ring of romance as Bavaria does. But in fact, the landscape is charming, with winding lanes, rolling fields, networks of interconnected lakes and well-preserved villages. It’s a delight to drive along Mecklenburg’s country roads, many of which are allées lined with linden and chestnut trees. A landed aristocracy once owned large estates in Mecklenburg, as evidenced by the dozens of castles, palaces and manor houses scattered across the region. Many we stumbled upon during recent explorations, such as Schloss Vietgest and Schloss Vollrathsruhe, are in states of picturesque decay. Some of the most impressive palaces, such as Schloss Schwerin and Schloss Güstrow, have become museums. And a few others have been converted into atmospheric hotels. My favorite time of year to visit is May, when rapeseed fields blaze with yellow flowers.