food / travel

Monkey Luxury - Germany Offers High-End Tree-House Hotels

The eccentric offerings at Baumhaushotel Solling in Uslar, Germany, sleep six people each and come with a toilet and balcony. Others have flat-screen TVs and slate bathtubs. They also happen to be 10 meters off the ground. Check out these tree house hotel

A hotel in a tree
A hotel in a tree
Knut Diers

They have names like "Sternengucker" (Star Watcher), "Freiraum" (Freedom) and "Baumtraum" (Tree Dream). Altogether, there are seven of these insulated, heated tree houses along the forest's edge in Germany's Weser Uplands. Some of them are linked by stairways, and each can accommodate two to six guests – plus dogs. Pets, like their owners, are welcome year round.

Lying in bed in Sternengucker you really can watch the stars – there's even a telescope on hand if you want to do some serious observing. Freiraum offers guests a double bed that, with the help of a crank, can be moved outside to the balcony.

Welcome to Baumhaushotel Solling in Uslar. The whole area surrounding the little settlement is a paradise for nature lovers and canoeists. The hotel itself offers guests a sun terrace and BBQ options on the grounds, along with communal showering facilities. All this costs 150 euros per person, per night, breakfast included. There's a 25-euro surcharge on weekends, with 16 euros for every further person over the age of 13. Children over seven pay 8 euros.

Baumhaushotel Solling, Germany's first tree house hotel, opened in 2005 in Kulturinsel Einsiedel just north of Görlitz in the state of Saxony. It features eight eccentrically and extremely artistically designed tree houses perched eight to 10 meters up in forest trees. Each house can accommodate six guests, and has a small living area, a sleeping nook, and toilet. Most also have a balcony.

The comfort-minded will wish to avoid the cold outdoor "shock shower" in the morning (instead of toweling off afterwards, guests are encouraged to let the breeze dry them) and book one of the three tree houses with indoor bath and shower. In its defense, the shock option does offer superb valley views and the sight of the rising sun.

A highlight here is the lush, healthy breakfast buffet included in the 227 euro family price, which covers two adults and two kids.

In Rosenberg, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, the Wipfelglück tree house hotel group runs seven houses on stilts that for ecological reasons don't have running water. Water for the sinks is provided by jerry can, and there are dry toilets -- although complete sanitary facilities at a nearby camping ground may be used by tree house guests.

The group presently has another tree house hotel nestled in oak trees in Mönchberg east of Frankfurt. That facility boasts a Kneipp bath. The Wipfelglück group plans to build up to 10 tree house hotels in Germany. It charges from 79 euros per person (including breakfast), with children between 3 and 16 paying only 39 euros.

Sleeping with wolves

Just launched in April is the luxurious TreeInn in Dörverden-Barme between Bremen and Hannover. This is basically a sleek design house elevated five meters above ground with picture windows and a huge roof terrace offering a view of a reserve that is also home to wolves.

The house can accommodate three people, and among its amenities are a flat screen TV, minibar, wireless Internet, flush toilets, and a whirlpool. Guests can order meals to be delivered to the house. Breakfast is included in the summer rate of 350 euros per night. The winter rate is 250 euros.

In Bad Zwischenahn, in Ammerland in Lower Saxony, Germany, about 40 minutes from the North Sea, Hidden Treehouse Resorts runs four tree house suites built from larch wood and other organic materials on stilts in an oak and beech forest.

Each "allergy friendly" suite of 39 square meters can accommodate four guests. The floor heating, designer bathtub made of slate, Egyptian cotton bed linens, wireless Internet and more almost make you lose sight of the fact that you are perched four meters off the ground and that you can see deer and pheasants when you look out the windows.

Since the suites are heated, they are open year-round. Two people pay 180 euros per night; third and fourth guests over 18 pay 55 euros extra per night, 35 euros if under 17.

Read the original article in German

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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