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Short escapes

Tharpaland Kadampa: A Buddhist retreat for stressed-out Berliners

Need to tap out? Take a trip north to Tharpaland Kadampa, a lake-side meditation centre in Brandenburg offering inner peace.

Photo: Tharpaland Kadampa Meditationszentrum

The grounds

Tucked off a nondescript country road in the thick of the woods, it would be easy to miss Tharpaland, even with its towering White-House-like main building. The structure was originally built by a certain Herr Sommer for his 11 children and now hosts a mixture of working visitors, weekending meditators, Buddhist monks and long-term staff. There is a pleasing uniformity to the building, which has two wings on each side of both the top and bottom floors, housing the guest rooms, offices and meditation rooms.

In the end, what many people are looking for is a way to make sense of the anxiety and fear that comes with our troubled times.

As you wander around the property, you’ll find a scattering of outbuildings. The old stable, a red-and-orange brick building designed to look like Rathaus Neukölln, includes lodgings for both staff and overnight guests. The orangery, built to reflect East Asian influences, is currently being converted into flats where Tharpaland’s directors hope families and couples will live full-time. If you’d like to do a group trip or a solo silent meditation, the old servants’ quarters at the back are designed for larger parties and longer stays.

The experience

Photo: Facebook / Tharpaland Kadampa Meditationszentrum

The meditation crowd may be familiar with Vipassanā, a type of silent meditation that focuses on an awareness of the self and body. Buddhist meditation, instead, is focused more on connecting with and helping others, which often starts with finding peace in one’s own life. The centre gets teachers from all over to do special retreats in both English and German (their regular weekend getaways are in German only) and the majority of courses are beginner-friendly.

One of the most impressive parts of the facility is the meditation room itself: a quiet space with tall windows that look out over the backyard (particularly dreamy as the sun goes down) and inset with an enormous, gilded shrine to the key players in Buddhist practice.

There is a certain appeal to the Buddhist experience, even as a decidedly secular outsider. As Antje, my guide around the property, points out, the Buddhist idea of karma – often misunderstood – means that everyone is jockeying to do the greatest good for those around them. While other, similar communal-living projects fall apart, the lack of ego at the heart of Buddhism has allowed Tharpaland to stick around.

The practice

Photo: Facebook / Tharpaland Kadampa Meditationszentrum

Berliners are an easily distracted bunch, so what draws young people out to a meditation centre in the middle of Brandenburg? “People are interested in meditation, but they don’t really know how to go about it,” explains Gen Ananda, a resident monk and teacher, while sitting Spree-side after a day at their Berlin-based meditation space.

“We teach them how to relax the mind, how to focus on something virtuous or good.” In the end, what many people are looking for is a way to make sense of the anxiety and fear that comes with our troubled times. “Life has become more difficult. It’s easy to be stressed,” he says. “Conditions of modern life generate a natural interest in something that creates a balance.”

Courses and retreats

You can book the shared dormitory at €30 per night including full board, or shared rooms, twin rooms, singles and apartments for between €40-85 per person including full board. The centre also has a “working visitor” programme that allows you to pay for your stay with worked hours. The café is open Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays from 12-17, serving Kaffee und Kuchen.

Getting there The centre is an easy 45-minute journey by car, but you can also get there in under 90 minutes by train. From Gesundbrunnen, take the S25 to Hennigsdorf, where you’ll switch to the tiny RB55 train heading towards Kremmen. Alight in Schwante, then walk or bike the remaining two kilometres to Tharpaland.

Need more Short Escape ideas? Head to Saxon Switzerland for cosy autumn camping, Stahnsdorf Cemetery for spooky woodland walks, and don’t forget to check our death-proof* mushroom-picking guide.