Few foreign tourists venture into the countryside north of Berlin. Mecklenburg doesn’t have quite the same ring of romance as Bavaria does. But in fact, the landscape is charming, with winding lanes, rolling fields, networks of interconnected lakes and well-preserved villages, their brick houses and farmsteads looking much as they did a century ago.
A landed aristocracy once owned large estates in Mecklenburg, as evidenced by the dozens of castles, palaces and manor houses scattered across the region. Many we stumbled upon during our explorations, such as Schloss Vietgest and Schloss Vollrathsruhe, are in states of picturesque decay. They tend to be unguarded, allowing one simply to drive up to get a closer look. Some of the most impressive palaces, such as Schloss Schwerin and Schloss Güstrow, have become museums. And a few others, notably the Schlosshotel Burg Schlitz, have been converted into atmospheric hotels.
Set amid 400 acres of parkland, pasture and forest 120 miles north of Berlin, this 20-room manor house dates to the early 19th century, although it was built on the foundations of a much earlier castle. The Soviets expropriated the property in 1945, and it served as a school and retirement home until, after seven years of renovations costing some 60 million euros, it opened as a luxury hotel in 1999. The current owners took over in 2010 after years of managing the charming Weinromantikhotel Richtershof, my favorite option in the Moselle Valley. The Burg Schlitz staff welcome guests with the same warm and unforced hospitality I experienced there. Check-in takes place in the semicircular Garden Salon, reminiscent of a Pompeiian villa, which also serves as a public lounge. Aside from the white Gothic Wappen-Saal formal restaurant, decorated with stained glass and coats of arms, the other historically atmospheric spaces in the hotel were not open to the public during our stay and are apparently reserved for events.
Fortunately, we had been allocated the hotel’s largest and grandest accommodation, the surprisingly reasonable 1,075-square-foot Grafensuite. Originally the living quarters of Count von Schlitz and his wife, this comprised a vestibule, study and main salon, from which pocket doors separated the bedroom, walk-in closet and immaculate white-tiled bath. The suite’s most unforgettable feature was an elaborate coffered ceiling punctuated with gilt rosettes, but numerous other touches added to its regal feel: the parquet floors; silk-upholstered furniture; embroidered bed cover; and bronze nude in a wall niche. Modern conveniences were not sacrificed, as evidenced by the Bose CD player and Nespresso machine. After an elevated but unfussy dinner of creamy mushroom soup with truffle ravioli, deer carpaccio with arugula and wild herbs, and herb-stuffed Cornish hen breasts, we retreated to our spectacular salon to sip some rare Obstbrand (fruit brandy) recommended by the engaging sommelier.
Following breakfast in the sunny Café – Brasserie “Louise,” the hotel’s casual restaurant, we spent a day happily puttering around Mecklenburg. A 90-minute drive from the hotel, Schwerin’s old quarter survived World War II intact. There, we discovered one of Germany’s most romantic palaces, set on an island in a lake. The Hanseatic towns of Wismar and Rostock are even closer. But don’t make the mistake that we did and leave too little time to enjoy the amenities of Burg Schlitz. I especially regret not fitting in a horse-drawn carriage ride to a picnic. Fortunately, Mrs. Harper did find the time for a “Luxury Royal” treatment in the spa. This elaborate experience involved leg, arm and scalp massages as well as an extended facial involving the application of fresh aloe and a moisture mask. Like everything else at the Schlosshotel, its price was considerably lower than it might have been at comparable hotels in more famous locations.
The forest seemed straight out of a fairy tale, with towering conifers, beeches and overgrown stone obelisks.
While Mrs. Harper relaxed in the spa, I went for a hike around the property, following a map provided by reception. The forest seemed straight out of a fairy tale, with towering conifers, beeches and overgrown stone obelisks. (The hotel’s next major project is the full restoration of the park and its monuments). Sometimes the forest opened into views of hilly countryside punctuated by the steeples of distant villages. Passing through an allée of gnarled cherry trees, I came to the Rötelberg, the highest hill in the area, from which a sensational panorama anchored by a massive ancient oak tree appeared like the inspiration for a painting by Caspar David Friedrich.
AT A GLANCE
LIKE: The cheerful and personable staff; the excellent food; the romantic forested grounds; the relaxing spa.
DISLIKE: The pretty but not always comfortable furniture in our suite; the lack of lounges open to individual guests.
GOOD TO KNOW: Though the hotel has mainly German guests, most staff members speak at least a little English. At the foot of the property’s driveway, Zum Goldenen Frieden serves hearty local fare amid countless racks of antlers.
Schlosshotel Burg Schlitz 93 Junior Suite, $320; Grafensuite, $560.D-17166 Hohen Demzin. Tel. (49) 39-961-2700.