Escape: Hessenburg

I love the countryside around Berlin, down to the Spreewald and all the way up to the Ostsee. However, if you wanna stay the night, things get tricky: most hotels don’t match the beauty of the surrounding nature, to put it politely. If you agree, you might be feeling the same joy I did when I discovered this gem through a lovely email sent to me by a landscape architect who highly recommended the Kranichhotel close by Stralsund as an escape destination. I clicked the link and floored I was. Couple weeks later, I packed my dog, jumped in the car and headed north to find the most beautifully renovated mansion in the middle of nowhere.

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Hessenburg used to be a real Burg, a castle – remains of its moat and tower mound can still be seen – the place later got its name from the new estate owners, family Hesse, who bought the land in the 18th century. Well, the name sounds more grand then what it actually is: a lovely sleepy, little village with few more than 200 inhabitants, about 30mins from the impressive beaches of the Baltic Sea.

In the center of the village sits the two floor, red brick building, surrounded by a lush park and some farmhouses. I arrived a little after lunch on a Sunday, and immediately took off for my first hike, walking 5km north to the Bodden, the giant laguna formed between the peninsula of Fischland-Darß-Zingst and the mainland. My dog and I passed impressive fields, bright birch forests and green meadows without seeing many people, occasionally meeting a senior on a squeaky old bike. Returning to Hessenburg hungry, I headed to the little café, that is part of the estate, and serves a simple and delicious local fare and scrumptious cakes.

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The luscious park surrounding the Kranichhotel
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Breakfast in bed

The next day, I woke up to a stunning view over the luscious park. A couple years ago, the main road still went through that very park, dividing the mansion from it and causing much distress. The owner of the estate, Dr. Bettina Klein, put in a lot of work and patience to have it replaced, giving the center of the village a tranquility that is only to be disturbed by a man on his horse carriage. This isn’t a joke, and just another example of the impressive work of Dr. Klein, who bought the run down plot more or less spontaneously at an auction over 20 years ago. Since then, and against all odds, she never stopped believing that one time, this place would recover its former splendor.

After renovating and opening the café 10 years after its acquisition, her next project was the mansion, at that time stricken with mold, rotten beams and a roof full of holes. Reconstruction turned out to demand way more time (and money) than expected. But instead of plastering it all over to recreate a cheesy image of what the house might have looked like at one point of its history, Dr. Klein went another way: she kept it open and raw, inserting the necessary facilities in the six apartments on elevated wooden floors. The bare walls wrap the rooms, that are equipped with a few well chosen furniture pieces. The naked material of the building is complemented with warm wooden floors and rose colored carpets and bed covers. Alike the bathrooms, with elegant faucets on a free standing antique bath tub (again with a great view of the garden), and a giant, frameless mirror on top of white tiles.

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A light and very German meal after my hike: potatoes with Quark and herbs
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The upstairs art exhibition featuring works concerning cranes

I rarely write about interior that extensively, let this be proof of how much I liked it. Upstairs, you’ll find a small contemporary art exhibition with works by Khadija Carroll, Alex Schweder, Hadley + Maxwell and many more, who came to the mansion to create works concerning the ever present crane.
Why the crane? It’s kind of a symbolic bird of this region, you’ll find loads of restaurants and inns bearing its name. Apart from its importance in many folk tales, this has to do with a very real phenomenon: the elegant bird takes a rest on the long flight to South Europe and Africa in Autumn, when up to 60.000 flock together in the national park around the Bodden.

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Hessenburg, as said, is very quiet, the hotel and its café are the only touristic ventures, which, to me, is not a downside. It’s a great starting point for explorations of the surrounding countryside and especially for this stunner of a beach: the Weststrand on Darß. I’ve not been there yet and was completely amazed by its beauty: the rugged coastline is subjected to the vigorous waters of the Baltic sea, whose current takes up the sand from the beach, transporting it to the northern shore. Beech woods grow only mere meters away from the water, so they too get ripped of the beach, resulting in a number of them laying square across the sand, with their bark washed away, and bright red wood exposed by the salty waters. I’ve rarely seen such a picturesque beach in Germany, and yes, I’ve been to Rügen, which is great, but this one’s just wow!

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The amazing Weststrand
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My ride. Renting a convertible actually makes a lot of sense, as one sees loads more of the landscape.

My two nights at Hessenburg were immensely enjoyable and I had a hard time leaving. You don’t need to plan much to come here, just let the nature guide you to countless hikes. Good restaurants can be hard to find (especially if you don’t eat fish), but the hotel staff and Dr. Klein can help you out with some good places.
Hessenburg can only be reached by car, in case you don’t own one, let me suggest to rent one through our cooperation partner, CarUnity, an app that allows you to rent private cars including insurance.

Kranichmuseum & Hotel
Dorfplatz 2-5
18317 Hessenburg/Saal

Tel. +49 38223 669900
Rates from 35 Euro / night p.p. including breakfast

Disclaimer: I was invited to stay two nights, free of charge, by the hotel.