Roof covered tomato plants, overloaded fruit trees bursting with apples, pears, plums and peaches, multitudes of blooming flowers, rows of freshly laundered sheets hanging on clotheslines next to a field of Shetland ponies and historic homes, barns and fence surrounded by lush green grass and stately trees — all vivid images of my friend’s country home in Tornow, Germany.
My friends are film producers who spend much of their time living and working in Berlin with their family. Weekends, vacations and summers are spent at their country house 60 miles north of the city. During my visit this summer, I had the good fortune to accompany them to this beloved retreat. While they worked, I harvested tomatoes, apples and plums in their garden. Later, Marijke made a lovely meal from the fresh ingredients and afterwards, took me for a walk around the neighborhood, nearby farms, through the grounds of an old estate turned into a vacation escape for Berliners and the surrounding woods.
The tomatoes are covered by a roof to protect them fungi in the rain and are watered with an irrigation system. The garden around the house is abloom with many flowers — lavender, huge nasturtiums, potted plants summering in a courtyard, salvia, sunflowers growing from seeds I’d given her last summer and more. Near the barn, there are two new raised beds filled with a cover crop. I urged Marijke to start a fall garden with cold crops — onions, lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, garlic and beets. Several fruits trees – peach, plum, pear and apples are surrounded by fallen fruits and loaded with ripened fruits which I begged to pick. There is an incredible brick compost structure built from materials found on the property which my hosts filled with food scraps from the city and I with rotten apples collected from under one of the over laden trees. Such abundance, color and fresh air blue sky peacefulness — easy to imagine why my friends love to travel here as often as possible.
A short walk from the house is a country retreat situated on the estate of an old mansion. The property featured old barns converted into small apartments, a lodge house, a central dining hall with an outdoor sitting area, ponies and farm animals, a fire pit, fruit trees, a large rambling vine-covered mansion, an old chapel, paths through the woods, an expansive clothesline with sheets and towels blowing in the breeze, farm fields, and lots of space for kids to play, dogs to run and places to simply relax in nature. A couple lovingly manages the estate despite the challenges of making enough money to create a sustainable enterprise. Charming and rustic — an idyllic place to escape to!
My day in the German countryside was very nearly perfect. My only regret is that the drizzly morning made us skip a swim in the local river. Just as we were packing up to return to the city, the sun broke through the clouds and brightened up the afternoon. Phooey! I hope there is a next time!