It is fair to say that my visits to Kuckucksmuehle have been erratic, and to date I have spent 3 individual periods in Heiligengrabe: 3 weeks from October to mid-November 2018, mid-January to mid February 2019 and finally late February to very early March.
If there were anything I could remark following these periods it is that I have plethora of hugely varied experiences to draw from when I recount time spent here. In the following passage, I will explain some of the core principles I think underpin what makes Kuckucksmuehle so unique and enjoyable.
One of the first sights you will see if you arrive at Kuckucksmuehle in the day is the vast garden of foods being grown organically. This is a vital component to life at Kuckucksmuehle and it will not take you long to realise how rich and engaging meal times (and cooking!) become when you use ingredients which have been (at least in part), grown collectively by you, the hosts or other volunteers.
Substitution and invention are commonplace for a meal at Kuckucksmuehle but lead to some very memorable food experiences. Particularly meals such the recent Pumpkin and Mushroom croquettas with roasted pumpkins seeds and kale chips as well as Franz’s vegetable and sauerkraut pie. Who said pies need meat?!
If you are looking to visit Kuckusckmuehle as a volunteer don’t miss out on an opportunity to help cook or to cook yourself.
A note of fair warning for anyone visiting Kuckucksmuehle is that there are 3 dogs. Before long they will have irrefutably wormed their way into your heart; as someone not wholly familiar with the persistent company of dogs I found the initial learning curve difficult. Let me explain:
The 3 dogs at Kuckucksmuehle are ‘Podha’ , ‘Moomoo’ and ‘Black’. Compared with my typical experience in the UK, Moomoo and Black were typical in terms of size and weight, but when I met Podha I was shocked - he is a blonde-furred giant of a dog who has a snore louder than a human!
Despite initial impressions all 3 dogs are undeniably adorable, and each has their own distinct quirks to get used to:
• Moomoo is his own man (/Dog) and becomes hard of hearing when he wants to do something you don’t want him to
• Podha likes petting. Constant petting. No wait don’t walk away, you haven’t finished petting! But he can bark at you and become wary of you if you don’t treat / approach him in a way that he understands, you can read about how to treat Podha and the other dogs. When Podha is treated right he will transform from a blonde beast into a heart-melting mass of fur
• Black is cunning and crafty, he’s doesn’t always want petting, in part because he’s clever enough to be very self sufficient in most aspects. When he does want a fuss he becomes very cuddly indeed - look for Black eyeing you up from a couple of feet away and wiggling his entire behind back and forth – a funny sight!
The öst Prignitz region where Kuckucksmuehle is located, is very remote. Wittstock is the nearest moderate-size town about a 20 minute drive away. It only hosts a small amount of shops but there are a smattering of cake shops, and all have jaw-dropping cakes.
I having a near-rampant sweet tooth (I’m working on it..maybe) and I haven’t explored much else in Wittstock except this, but 5 stars all round!
Additonally if you visit as a volunteer for long enough you might get the opportunity to make a trip with Franz to the mystical Wittstock kebab shop – a nice treat indeed.
After an extended stay in Kuckucksmuehle something that is obvious is the affinity that Franz and Aimee have with people from a wide range of places despite the remote location of Kuckucksmuehle – guests have come and go and in my time at Kuckucksmuehle I have met German friends Ben, Tina and Maria so far, as well as neighbours Veikko and Regina who are close friends also.
Robert, who studies in Berlin and rents a room at Kuckucksmuehle drops in when he can and it is always a pleasure to see him. Even though it is not his native language he sure can sure flex his wit in English as well, you’d be hard pressed not to be in good spirits in his company!
Othewise people unknown to me frequently drop in, such as neighbours with donations of clothes and friends from different places. One thing is always true: everyone is friendly and keen to spend time talking with everyone staying at the house.
Each time I have come back to Kuckucksmuehle there has been vastly different people to live alongside and thus hugely different interactions and collective experience. So far I have encountered a pensioner-age Italian man (he had an incredible physique, better than me!), someone from Scotland, a couple (Plymouth, UK and the US respectively), someone from Canada, a Brazilian couple, someone from Tunisia, someone from Spain and someone from Argentina.
I’m sure I’ve missed some nationalities as well, it is well and truly a multinational house! Writing this makes me emotional thinking back to truly wonderful moments with such a wide range of people, such as laughing over board games.
I would give the advice that on whatever capacity you visit Kuckucksmuehle try to always lend your time to others whilst thinking in the current moment to get the most out of it, and strangers will all of a sudden mean so much to you.
In fact when I started writing this article I viewed all of my topics as equal, but on reflection the friends supersedes all.
Do I see myself coming back to Kuckucksmuehle in the future? Undoubtedly
Do I wish I could relive things already experienced? That is an understatement
Should you volunteer at Kuckucksmuehle? This is a personal decision, but I believe that a hugely diverse range of people can give their skills and in return gain fantastic experiences from Kuckucksmuehle.