“Make people happy and the rest will take care of itself” is the motto of Burig Bolthole, which is one of our favourite mini-break locations and just a 40-minute drive from Berlin.
It was a cold winter’s day when we called owner Annika, as she was trying to psyche herself up to make the shopping trip across the Brandenburg border into Berlin.
“It’s so easy to slip into the village mindset,” laughs Annika. “Despite being less than an hour away from Berlin, it feels like another world. I remember the first time we visited the house: it was a grey day and neither Hugo my partner or I were thrilled about the trip, but as we drove out of Neukölln, through Grünau, and into Brandenburg, we found ourselves more and more mesmerised by the peace created by the forest. We saw the house and fell in love.”
Annika and Hugo had been searching for somewhere they could buy to help stressed-out city dwellers escape the city at the weekend, after themselves having been stressed-out city people. “There came a point where we felt like we were just blindly rolling along in Berlin and we knew it was time to commit to our own project. The idea of helping people unwind by providing them with somewhere to holiday really spoke to me, it's a joy and a privilege to be involved with creating special experiences for people in their free time. We wanted to build a place where weekend mini-breaks were easy and affordable.”
“When we saw the house, we initially thought - easy, this just needs a lick of paint - but, of course, it wasn’t that simple,” Annika laughs. “We now look at renovating it as an ongoing labour of love.”
“The original vibe was 80s DDR, but we’ve now opted to create something more traditional, and are design stylish German apartments by slowly working some Altbau vibes back into the building. We have three apartments, and each is in a process of continual improvement (but don’t worry, all the holiday essentials are there!). A large reason that we keep swapping in new pieces of furniture is that we want to find the right pieces, the same goes for decor - I’m always looking out for antiques and second-hand design pieces that will match the apartments’ personalities.”
The three apartments are gorgeous, each is uniquely designed. The loft apartment is kitsch and cosy, full of dark wood; the garden apartment is much brighter and has a mid-century feel (and, obviously, features lots of plants and access to the garden); and the cottage apartment has dark blue walls, bold furniture and a wood burner. Plus each features elements from the local landscape, including nature prints of things you can find on your doorstep.
“The landscape is one of the main reasons we bought the place,” muses Annika. “The forest starts behind the house - we’re in the middle of the Müggel Spree Regional Park - and you can walk or bike to the Spree where there is a gorgeous sand beach and a bathing spot. We could really see why people would want to come here to unwind”
However, we can’t talk to Annika and not ask her about the incredibly popular restaurant she and Hugo run. “I’m on my way to the vegan supermarket in Neukölln to stock up on food for this weekend’s service. It’s funny, we never intended to run a restaurant and yet here we are with a vegan German restaurant in the middle of nowhere. We’ve seen the restaurant grow in popularity over the last three years and at times we are booked out and even have queues forming for tables.”
“Long story short, the house came with a restaurant attached to it. It was open sporadically over the last 4 years or so, and our neighbours asked what we were going to do with it. This building has had a restaurant for over 100 years with lots of different people running it. Most local people have some sort of relationship with the buildings. It was originally attached to a butchers shop and, apparently, it was a hub of activity and community during the DDR for the whole region. We learnt pretty soon that when you have a - small local restaurant, it belongs to the whole community and not just the owners. We were happy to try it out. The only ‘problem’ is that we’re both vegan!”
“We had thought about offering cakes and light snacks initially when a good friend - who is also an incredible vegan cook - said no, it should be a Deutsch Küche, aber Vegan! She helped us a lot with the set-up and got us on track to create some of the classics expected in a country restaurant."
"When people come into our restaurant, they find food on the menu that they recognise, schnitzel and bauernfruhstuck for example, which is all delicious and just so happens to not contain any animal products! We offer a very small menu of freshly prepared seasonal food. We use some organic produce, do most of the shopping locally, and then for specific vegan or non-plastic items we shop in Berlin.”
“It took a while for some neighbours to warm up to the food, but now we have our regulars coming in at all times of the day. It’s wonderful to see locals chatting with guests visiting from Berlin and swapping stories. This feeling of community is really the heart of the restaurant.”
The restaurant is currently only open on Saturday and Sunday, and you’ll find a limited menu of rotating dishes that when they’re gone they’re gone! As well as German food, you can also find Indian, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. The restaurant is tiny so it is advised to book in advance where possible.
To find out more about the holiday apartments, read our full review.