• Germany's news in English

Finding quirky camping options for the summer holidays

15 Jun 2011, 08:02

Published: 15 Jun 2011 08:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

On a quiet leafy street in the trendy Berlin district of Neukölln, tourists are enjoying coffee and home-made cake in a sunny, plant-filled courtyard beside their camp ground.

It’s the perfect spot to relax in a hammock and soak up some rays. But should the weather take a turn for the worse, these visitors won’t get caught in the rain: At the Hüttenpalast, vintage caravans and cosy wooden huts are protected from the elements inside an old vacuum cleaner factory.

The Hüttenpalast, which opened in May, is the latest option for travellers in Germany looking for accommodation that goes beyond the predictable. Like venues that offer the chance to quite literally hit the hay in Bavaria, or sleep in the canopy of an ancient Saxon woodland, it takes advantage the unique character of its locale to offer a quirky take on the camping experience.

Events manager Silke Lorenzen and fashion designer Sarah Vollmer have lived in Neukölln for seven years – an up-and-coming neighbourhood packed with independent galleries and artists’ studios.

Tired of directing visiting friends to accommodation in the more touristy areas of Berlin, the couple decided their corner of the city needed a hotel of its own. In keeping with the German capital’s propensity to reuse old industrial spaces, the duo immediate thought the factory was the perfect setting for their project.

“As soon as we saw it, we fell in love with the backyard,” said Lorenzen, her enchantment with the space clearly undiminished after many months of hard work.

“Actually the plan was to have hotel rooms. But if we just made hotel rooms you wouldn’t see the factory hall any more, so that’s where the concept of having a room inside a room came from.”

Caravans dating back to 1950s were sought out – to be transformed by the talents of their creative friends and neighbours. The most striking is a 1970s East German model, which local designer Yoraco Gonzalez has lined with hundred of sanded wooden blocks, the variegated surface recalling sea-smoothed pebbles and imagined holidays of caravan’s past. Silver birch branches have been installed to surround it with a copse of artificial trees.

The blend of vintage and modern design is proving a hit with guests. “When you see it for the first time, it’s a surprise because you’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luděk Lužný, a member of a Czech dance group staying at the Hüttenpalast recently. “But it’s very comfortable. For a group it’s perfect because you can sit outside your caravan and chat with people.”

If the urban camping experience has a uniquely Berlin flavour, what more fitting way to enjoy Bavaria’s picturesque farmland than sleeping under the stars, amid swaying stalks of wheat?

Click here for a photo gallery of quirky camping options

Farmer’s daughter Monika Fritz came up with the idea for Bett im Kornfeld (Bed in a Cornfield) during a time of financial hardship: “I was sitting in the kitchen thinking about life and about holidays and I thought, what could I do for a holiday that would be cheap, romantic and a little bit adventurous? The song ‘Bett im Kornfeld’ by Jürgen Drews came on the radio and I thought, I have never slept in a cornfield in my life!”

Twelve years later, Fritz continues to make the crooner’s image of bucolic bliss a reality for her guests each summer, at a working farm near the spa town of Bad Kissingen in northern Bavaria. Pitches are carved out of a wheat field for the few weeks in August when the crop is at its golden-hued best, and piled with straw for campers to snuggle up in.

But couples planning a roll in the hay should bear in mind that sleeping in a communal field does not afford much privacy.

“It’s not only to be romantic but also to spend time with other people,” Fritz warns.

“To say, it’s okay to sit with my neighbours in the evening, and even to hear them snore!”

Story continues below…

For those seeking an outdoor experience with a little less exposure, the Baumhaushotel, or Tree Fort Hotel, next to the Muskauer Heide forest in Saxony, could be just the thing. Comfortably kitted-out tree houses are set in the Kulturinsel Einsiedel, an amusement park themed around myths of the Turiseder, fictional folk said to have inhabited the area 1,000 years ago.

With labyrinths and 50 metres of underground tunnels to explore, the Kulturinsel clearly has plenty to keep kids entertained. But the staff members insist that there is something here for guests of all ages.

“It’s also great for couples and seniors,” said Kulturinsel’s marketing assistant Christiane Neuberger. “We have some great culinary specialities to enjoy and it’s a lovely place for walks. It’s a lot of fun for people of every generation.”

Staying at an adventure playground may not be everyone’s idea of a grown-up holiday. But like the Hüttenpalast and Bett im Kornfeld, the Baumhaushotel is a flight of imagination executed with passionate dedication and a keen sense of fun.

And what are summer holidays all about, if not an escape from everyday life?

Related links:

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd