German Farm Stays
A Chance to Travel Close to the Land on a Budget
German farm vacations have undergone important changes in recent years. Most are no longer just a matter of a spare room in a farmhouse. The owners have become very professional and have made big investments—in everything from saunas to solariums—to attract the increasingly discriminating guests. Despite the improvements, though, farm vacations remain a real bargain compared to hotels.
The Websites of German vacation farms offered here only rarely have English translations. We are sorry about that (though you can use Google Translate and other such tools to help you navigate them), and hope you can be satisfied with the pictures, videos, and price quotations. The exclusive usage of German does say one thing loud and clear: the farms are almost exclusively patronized by Germans, and it would be hard to imagine a better place for people, especially families, to blend completely into the German culture.
The farms have become an important source of income in the increasingly unpredictable agricultural market, especially for the smaller operators that make up the bulk of German farms. The country has about 2,500 vacation farms, bringing in some 12.5 million visitors a year.
The German Agrcicultural Society (Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft, DLG) lists at www.landtourismus.de/443.html a large number of German farms that meet its standards, and has subdivided them into three subcategories; Farm, Vineyard, and Rural. The last named are non-farm rural facilities such as former farms, village pensions, rural homes, or countryside hotels. The society has just designated the “10 best” of its farms for 2009, and we will describe them below.
The farms, which offer a complete respite from the hectic life of the city, are especially good for children. The standard farm will have cows, ponies, horses, sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and of course dogs and cats. Wild storks, foxes and deer can often be seen in the surrounding woods.
Kids can feed and pet most of the animals, ride the ponies, watch the cows being milked, and even try their hand at milking. They can look for eggs, sometimes even being paid for what they find. Bicycles and canoes can be rented. There are playgrounds, old tractors which the kids can drive themselves, campfires, and grill evenings.
Breakfast can include wood oven bread baked from the farm’s own grain, milk, cheese, and butter from the farm’s cows and eggs from the chickens. Other meals there may offer homemade sausage, and (for the parents) perhaps a homemade liqueur from the farm’s own berries. In the farm’s guestbook one parent wrote: “the children just don’t want to go home.”
Accommodations range from single rooms to apartments to separate buildings. A 2-bedroom apartment, preferred by families with children, will usually have a kitchen with a stove, coffee machine, dishwasher, microwave and toaster, a living room with satellite TV, and perhaps a balcony. Prices per day range from around €50 to €85 ($75 to $125), depending upon such factors as the number of persons, season and luxury of the accommodations. Warning: the rooms are usually smoke-free!
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The following are Germany’s “top ten” vacation farms as determined by a panel of judges from the German Agricultural Society (DLG).
Gutshof Bastorf, is also on the Baltic, at Bastdorf, and offers health vacations, including several offering massages or fasting for quick weight loss. An unusual feature, not recommended for the fasters, is the Bon Bon Factory, producing sweets for young and old. You can pack your own and take them with you, or consume on the premises.
Gut Sommereichen, is between Dresden and the Polish border at Gaussig. It grows its own grains and bakes them into hearty breads either in a wood oven or even over an open fire. It has an antique tractor, and young and old can get a “license” to drive it. Visits to the famed porcelain city of Dresden are popular.
Theresienhof is in the Hunsruck area, close to the Frankfurt-Hahn airport, a center of low-cost flights, and the precious gem working city of Idar-Oberstein. It offers barrier-free apartments, without the obstacles that interfere with wheelchairs.
Steigerwaldhof, lies between Würzburg and Nürnberg at Markt Taschendorf, and isn’t far from the famed storybook city of Rothenburg. It prides itself on the wooden furniture in its accommodations, and you have your choice between beech, pine, oak, spruce, birch, alder, ash or maple.
Wieshof-Ebertsried, in the middle of the Bavarian Forest at Kirchberg, is just the place for the environmentally concerned. It converted recently to become an organic farm. Animals are given the proper environment and chemical fertilizers are avoided. Mushroom soup from “grandma’s recipe” is offered.
Abrahamhof, is in the beautiful pre-alpine “Five Lakes” region of Bavaria, Europe’s largest nature preserve. It’s great for sailing, swimming and sunning, and has spectacular views of the distant mountains. For all that the gemütlich city of Munich, with its beer halls and film studio, is just to the north.
Lohner-Hof. This farm, near Bavaria’s beautiful Chiemsee Lake, has been in business since 1599. The playground has a swing, slide, giant trampoline, and shady sandbox. Kids who help with the feeding and otherwise care for the animals are awarded the “Bambini Stall Diploma”.
Esterer Hof, also near the Chiemsee, has a newly installed infra-red center. In the winter it offers cozy Kaiserschmarrn evenings; Kaiserschmarrn is a celebrated Austro-Bavarian pancake made with lots of eggs and butter, flour, milk, and such other goodies as nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, caramelized raisins and chopped almonds.