Ahead – the hotel that thinks ahead of the times
A cosy vegan hotel on the River Elbe
In the northwesternmost corner of the German state of Brandenburg, somewhere between Hamburg and Berlin, you’ll find the historical castle “Burg Lenzen” in the beautiful Elbe River Landscape Biosphere Reserve (Brandenburg). The castle, which is a listed building, and the surrounding town have a colorful history which is still being written. The newest chapter is a hotel which looks set to be very different from other hotels, and it certainly piqued our curiosity here at VELIVERY, because it’s a completely vegan hotel.
When we had the idea of writing about a 100% vegan hotel, there was a lot of interest, and when we saw that the AHEAD HOTEL isn’t far from Hamburg, we quickly made the decision to go there ourselves. So, child and dog in tow, we set off towards Lenzen an der Elbe.
As soon as you arrive in the town, you see old timber houses and cobbled streets with all the charm you would expect of a historic town. Soon we arrived at the castle, where a sign bore witness to all the history that the town and castle have seen. But first of all we wanted to go to lunch, because we were all hungry. Barely had we got through the door when a nice lady said to us with a smile: “Can I help you guys?” We immediately felt at home in the friendly atmosphere.
„place to v“
We were told how to get to the “Place to V” restaurant and entered a room with a breathtaking view over the old castle garden. Our young daughter found it very amusing to distract the nice waitresses from their work, and we were able to take time to peruse the varied menu of lunch dishes. Caesar salad, onion soup, traditional German “meatballs”, kale, veganized German sausage with curry sauce and fries, pasta Carbonara and the Ahead burger. As we were ordering, it dawned on us that here, you don’t have to ask whether something is vegan, because this question has already been answered – even if you have individual requests. We decided to go for the traditional German “meatballs”, the burger and the vegan chicken pieces from the children’s menu. All the food was expertly prepared, with plenty of love. We loved the food so much that we ordered two portions of rice pudding with fruit even though we were actually already full. Just as we were about to go on a walk to help us digest, Jonas came up to our table to say hello. Jonas and Kim are the ones in charge of this special hotel. Curious, we agreed to meet up with him later, as we wanted to get a bit of fresh air after the lovely meal. In the splendid autumn weather, we walked past historical buildings in a wonderful landscape through which the River Elbe carves out her path with calm, gentle strength.
Time for coffee and cake, then to see a hotel room
By the time we came back from our walk, it was the perfect time for coffee and cake. As we all love sweet cream cakes, we ordered two slices of “Donauwelle”, a traditional German cream cake with cherries and chocolate. Seeing as we had just walked alongside the River Elbe, it was funny to be eating a cake named after another river (the “Donauwelle” cake is named after the River Danube)! The cake we enjoyed at the hotel is perhaps one of the best examples of the fact that following a vegan diet doesn’t have to mean going without food you enjoy. The layers of cream were luxurious and rich yet light and airy, the base was moist and light – a real dream, which would certainly be able to give any non-vegan recipe a run for its money. Happy and content from all the cake, we met Jonas, who took us on a tour through the castle – a listed building. He showed us a very comfortable-looking room in what used to be the attic, and started explaining how the AHEAD HOTEL works, and how he and his business partner Kim had the idea of opening a 100% vegan hotel with a contemporary feel.
As is typical for the hotel sector, both of them completed training before working in various hotels all over the world. When they got to know each other while working abroad, they were the only vegans in their team. That was how the idea of a 100% vegan hotel was born, and they mulled the plan over in their heads for some time until, at some point, they had a finished business plan. They wanted their hotel to do more than just offer vegan meals. They wanted it to be more than that – for it to move with the times and go even further, by being ahead of its time. Kim’s and Jonas’ vision was a climate-positive, truly sustainable and ecological hotel with a 100% vegan restaurant. They looked all over Germany for the perfect property in which to make their dream a reality. When the pair saw the castle in Lenzen for the first time, they both knew that this was where they would be able to make their vision possible. And despite Corona, things moved fast. Very soon, it was time for the AHEAD HOTEL to open.
Past and future
As has already been mentioned, the castle’s history is very colorful. It dates from around the year 1200 during the Early German period, and more and more elements were added to it over the centuries, such as the baroque guildhall dating from 1725.
After having changed hands several times between private owners, the castle was obtained by the socialist government of the former East Germany – which had dispossessed an architect by the name of Renner. The government converted it into a home for veteran party members, and it wasn’t until 1993 that it was given back to the Renner family. Leonie Krekel (née Renner) then gifted the castle to the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) in Lower Saxony. The castle was subsequently extended to become a center for floodplain ecology, environmental education and a visitor information center. The BUND is still the landlord today, about which Jonas says the following: “It’s nice when you know your rent is going to an organization like them, and not to any old company that’s just looking to make a profit.” That certainly fits in with the ethos here. The young hoteliers really put a lot of thought into what they want their project to achieve. “We want to lead the way and be one of the most sustainable hotels around: fair, ecological and mindful. We want to work for a better world, where humans, nature and animals live in harmony.” That’s what it says on the hotel’s website, and they live by their principles. All the furnishings are sustainably produced, all rooms have recycling bins, and you won’t find any down pillows in any of the soft beds. You really notice that the hotel’s values are a lived reality. The hotel supports climate-friendly projects with other sustainable hotels, and the hotel’s climate footprint is positive. And for anyone who comes seeking relaxation, there is plenty of space for meditation and for peace and quiet.
A day full of deliciousness
We talk to Jonas about many other things such as sustainability, about being serious about making changes, and what is needed to implement them. He is a calm, collected conversation partner, and it’s interesting to find out and better understand what makes this hotel different. Before we know it, it’s already time for dinner. From the lounge we make our way over to PLACE TO V, where our table is already waiting for us. Everything on the menu sounds interesting, and our daughter is head over heels about all the items on the children’s menu. We decide to go for the pasta with truffle, which is absolutely on point, and for mac ‘n’ cheese. The macaroni cheese is to die for. The cheese sauce is lovely and stretchy, just as you would expect from this American classic. It’s served with crispy breaded cauliflower, which, with its roasted aroma, is the perfect accompaniment to the pasta. Even though we had already seen and eaten so much, I couldn’t resist tasting the kohlrabi tonnato with vegan “tuna” – absolutely delicious! All of this was washed down with some lovely wine, and we were in seventh heaven! We would have liked to have tried even more of the menu, and the day trip almost turned into an overnight stay. But, when we looked into the eyes of our two-year-old daughter, we saw that that was enough for one day, and that it was time to go home. On the way back, everyone was quiet for a while, just processing everything we had seen on this beautiful and scrumptious day at Burg Lenzen. Even the dog was soon snoring in a peaceful canon with our daughter, and it was clear to us that we would definitely be coming back to the lovely AHEAD HOTEL with its friendly atmosphere, beautiful buildings and amazing food.