Approaching Gut Boltenhof has the air of a Miyazaki film: the tiny trundling bus deposits you at an equally tiny stop, which is almost dwarfed by the sprawling Boltenhof property. In the early-sunset days of winter, arriving after dark means you’re greeted with the glow of the barn down the cobbled path, coaxing you in with campfire smells. All of this feeds into the vision that couple Jan-Uwe and Andrea Riest have for their space: a “little village” where people can live close to the land that feeds them.
Chickens roam freely, bristly hogs root through the mud, and donkeys nuzzle at your pockets hoping for a treat.
Originally built in the 1870s, the property was bought by Jan-Uwe’s father in 1996 with a plan to create an “Urlaub auf dem Bauernhof”, an experience popular in former West Germany but less so in the East, where private farms didn’t exist on the same scale due to centralised agriculture.
Jan-Uwe took over the family business in 2014, and carries on the tradition on a property that now includes twelve holiday homes (for 2-8 people) as well their Landhotel, the old manor house. If it’s available, the couple recommends the ‘Brandenburger Zimmer’, which was designed using only materials and manufacturers from the region.
As a farm-to-table experience, Gut Boltenhof couldn’t get much closer. The animals are dotted across the property, some practically right outside your doorstep. Chickens roam freely, bristly hogs root through the mud, and donkeys nuzzle at your pockets hoping for a treat. It’s oddly calming to visit the enclosures in turn, watched curiously by cows and goats as you stroll around the yard. To get even closer to the action, you can join in for feedings at 8am and 3:30pm daily.
Outside of their menagerie, the Riests own about 80 hectares of farmland, 10 of which are currently used for their own kitchens – but they’re hoping to change that. In the future, they plan to expand the scope of their farm, creating a closed-circle living experience in which nearly everything they eat is produced in-house and longer-term residents live and work on the property.
Your afternoon stroll translates directly to your plate. At the centre of Gut Boltenhof’s food ethos is a focus on organic, regional ingredients: at the moment, most of what you eat is sourced either directly from their farm or from the region at large and is always organic.
Head up the hill past the honking geese, and in about 15 minutes you’ll pass through the forest
Meat from the farm takes centre stage, like roast goose and beef ragout for dinner and homemade sausage for breakfast, but there are also options for vegans and vegetarians (fresh spinach risotto, a muesli bar, and – a welcome find in the heart of Brandenburg – Hafermilch). The dishes we opted for on our visit, a crispy trout with soft, buttery potatoes and veg for dinner and fresh eggs with a sharp parmesan-like cheese on warm bread for breakfast, proved to be simple and comforting.
Meals are served in the Weideküche (pasture kitchen), a renovated, softly-lit barn with flickering candles that also houses the farm shop (open 8am to 4pm), where you can buy enormous multi-coloured squash, pressed apple juice, local cheeses and other seasonal treats. In the spring, Gut Boltenhof aims to reopen their fine dining restaurant, a seven-course experience that acts as the upscale alternative to the homely farmhouse fare of the pasture kitchen.
If you want to venture off the property between mealtimes (the animals and yours), you have a couple of choices. The Uckermärkisches Seenland is easily one of the most beautiful parts of Brandenburg, with several well-travelled cycle paths running through it.
Grab a rental bike from reception and head out along the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle route or – our recommendation – the path to Haussee, which is particularly nice. Head up the hill past the honking geese, and in about 15 minutes you’ll pass through the forest and arrive at a clear and undisturbed lake, ideal for a winter swim. After your dip, cycle back to finish the day with a sweat in the wagon sauna as you prepare to face the Berlin bustle once again.
At a glance
Train: From Potsdamer Platz, take the RE5 towards Rostock and alight at Dannenwalde, walking or taking the shuttle (bookable in advance via Gut Boltenhof) to travel the remaining 5km. Otherwise, take the same train to Fürstenberg (Havel) and then the 838 bus to Boltenhof. Note: the 838 is a Rufbus on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays and must be booked at least 90 minutes in advance.
Car: The drive takes about an hour and a half, straight up through the Uckermärkisches Seenland.
Hotel rooms start from €110/night, and holiday apartments from €95/night, for two people. An added €30/night “token” is also taken per guest per night, which can be put towards food, bike rentals, the farm shop and other amenities.