It is laid out like a labyrinth in a wheat field in Bavaria in southern Germany. You arrive at “reception” – a circus tent – before being led along paths to one of 19 “rooms” where you sleep.
Forty-year-old Monika Fritz says she first had the idea when she heard on the radio a 1970s German folk hit called “Ein Bett im Kornfeld” (“Bed in a cornfield”) by crooner Jürgen Drews. She then teamed up with local farmer and town councillor Otto Funck, 64, and the hotel is now in its seventh year, charging €7 ($10.30) a night – €3 for kids – plus €8 for a hearty breakfast.
“The people that come here are looking to get away from the everyday and to get close to nature,” Fritz told AFP, who calls her business “romantic, good value and adventurous.”
Dubbed the “thousand-star hotel,” it is not quite under the stars that you spend the night, however. There is a small awning above you to keep the rain off, but through the open sides you can still see the night sky and the sunrise the next morning.
Open for just two weeks during August, there is little in the way of privacy with just four or five metres (13-16 feet) of wheat – actually triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye – between each individual sleeping area.
But being able to hear one’s neighbour’s night-time activities or snoring didn’t seem to bother the 30 or so guests braving the open the same night as AFP. Nor did they seem overly bothered by straw stabbing you through your sleeping bag or the complete lack of mod-cons.
“It was magical and so comfortable, I saw a thousand and one stars,” says enthusiastic 22-year-old student Wiebke Aszmutat, her blond hair all in a mess after a night out in the open.
To ease her slight aches and pains, Wiebke then made a beeline to the “wellness” section of the hotel where she planned to lay down in a container full of potatoes for a an unusual, rustic massage.
Her boyfriend, 27-year-old Christian Wohlfart, who was less impressed by the sleeping arrangements but who “loved the sunrise,” meanwhile planned to put his legs in a basin of clay. The whole experience was his birthday present.
Other attractions on the programme include a box full of “healing earth” you can squelch in with your bare feet, a “romantic” bed – an iron bed-frame filled with straw – and a maze in a neighbouring sweetcorn field.
“For the kids it’s paradise here, they live outside all day, completely free,” says 35-year-old Irene Weiss as she sits around the remains of the previous night’s fire. “We could have slept on straw in my parents’ barn but I am telling you, this is something else.”