intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
It’s as if the key to this magnificient half-timbered manor-farmhouse had been lost for 200 years. Everything seems in perfect shape, “as it was then” at the Herberge im Kleegarten (the Clover Garden Inn): with its broad, waxed wooden flooring, its painted interiors with decorated motifs on the walls, age-old doors with wrought iron locks, rural cupboards and dressers, not to mention the abundant furniture and day to day utensils, canopy beds, lamps, copper pans and precious glass…
Most of the houses in Europe used to be constructed in the “half-timbered” style, built on a solid framework of interlocking wooden beams, capable of supporting the floors right up to the roof. This framework, laid directly on the foundation walls, thus defined the layout of the rooms and their subsequent apertures. All that remained to be done was to lay the roof tiles and fill the walls in with wattle and daub (woven lattices of wooden strips covered with a mixture of clay, straw, lime and sand) or (dried or baked) bricks, covered in plaster. The doors and interior walls, as well as the windows with their little panes of glass, completed the construction.
As such buildings were a particularly vulnerable fire risk, they were often daubed with a protective coating (moulded according to prevailing fashion) which covered them completely (making them invisible today). Some were even rebuilt in stone. Fortunately, some regions have put the spotlight on such heritage constructions. This is the case for Wanfried and the little hamlet of Heldra (baptised the most beautiful village in Hesse in 2003), whose historic houses have been recently saved from ruin by a handful of courageous heritage lovers.
August Hermann Francke
The main body of the Herberge im Kleegarten dates back to 1621. This impressive, three-storey building was the residence of a lord of the Landgraviate of Hesse, to whom the vast agricultural lands and surrounding hilly forests belonged. There were other buildings round the courtyard: accommodation for workers, a barn and farm buildings. The manor was the family home of the famous Lutheran pastor August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), professor of theology at the university of Halle and founder of an important foundation for the religious education and accommodation of orphan children.
Armes de la famille von Grotthausen
In 1741, the von Grotthausen family occupied the domain. This family was well introduced at court as attested by various historical documents. Most of the interior design of the manor dates from this period, particularly the fine staircase, the flagstones on the ground floor and the numerous panelled doors.
The vaulted cellar, accessible via a trapdoor, houses a wine cellar protected by metal bars and an old studded door, as if its owner feared his precious bottles might go walkabout. Wilhelm Pippart, grandfather of the current owner and author of a book on the legends of the region, used to tell his children that this was once the manor’s old prison…
An 18th century painted panelled wall on the second floor fascinates heritage specialists with its motifs which stand out from their bluish-grey background. Between two garlands of fruit and flowers are two panels inspired by Greek mythology as well as two little pet dogs. These two cute little dogs were fashionable status attributes of upper class ladies. Experts think this décor reproduces the symbols of a (discreet) German Female masonic lodge , to which the wife of Frederick the Great used to belong.
Amazing painted panel of the 18th c., rich in symbols
Restoration works in 2000 © Herberge im Kleegarten
In reality, this remarkable site – now a listed historical monument – was in a terribly delapidated state at the end of the 20th century.This is really thanks to Helmut and Sigrid Pippart, both doctors in Wanfried and cultural heritage enthusiasts of their region, that this venerable aristocratic mansion has regained its former lustre and period atmosphere. Their in-depth knowledge of history and traditional building techniques, the numerous specialised craftsmen whose skills they have harnessed, their impressive collection of antiques and their bubbly enthusiasm have enabled them to get a circle of volunteers involved. About twenty historic houses around Wanfried have already been rejuvenated thanks to their intervention.
19 layers of lime-wash paint
The conservation work on the Herberge im Kleegarten has been recognised with various prizes, including the very prestigious 2003 Deutscher Preis für Denkmalschulz, reflecting an exemplary restoration approach in Germany. Various analyses of the old paintwork a are visible on the walls, examples of archaeological research carried out in situ. Up to 19 layers of superimposed lime-wash paint have been discovered, some decorated with delightful motifs, which have inspired the current redecoration.
Second floor dining-room
What is exceptional about the Herberge im Kleegarten is that it presents itself as a 19th century residence (with some 18th century nooks and crannies). Its period living spaces, olde worlde bedrooms, salons and dining rooms are all furnished with very traditional, authentic furniture and masses of objects which recall bygone ages. As guests you will spend the night (almost) alone in this grand mansion, redolent of so many souvenirs; free to wander through all the rooms and appreciate for yourselves the paintings, wrought iron features, vases and carafes, stained glass and decorated walls which bring such vitality to the building.
First owners’ original bed room, with its colourful painted décor around the stove
It was the tradition in old Central European houses to provide each door with a jutting out threshold. This mini-step (which we recommend you learn to avoid when walking round when night has fallen) is very useful as it reduces the space under the door to a minimum (and thus avoids draughts), obviating the need to level the parquet flooring over the whole surface.
The inn is well known throughout the region for its cuisine, which makes a point of featuring regional specialities (in particular very fine cured meats). The head chef is known for his talent but sometimes you may be lucky enough to see Dr. Pippart himself in the kitchen!
Interior of an Art Deco caravan
The rooms and restaurant are traditionally busiest from Thursday to Sunday. The other days are more relaxed (and easier to book). It is worth noting it is also possible to stay next door in the old village shop (in a more contemporary setting) or in one of the old fashioned caravans which have been furnished just like dolls’ houses (for those who like the genre). Finally, real traditional straw mattresses (Strohsacklager) have been put in the attic of the old bakery oven, to welcome globe-trotters on a tighter budget. A bathroom has been built in the garden for their use. The barn, which is very spacious, is an ideal place to organise all kinds of festive gatherings.
Well known to history buffs in Germany, the Herberge im Kleegarten has never really had to promote itself to attract the curious. If the truth be known, its owners are keen to keep themselves off the itineraries of mass tourism.Their marvellous 19th century domain is reserved for cultural heritage enthusiasts and all those who yearn for the lost charms of the countryside – far, far away from telephones, television, credit card readers and other internet networks. You have been warned!
Old door handle
Don’t be put off by the inn’s internet site, which is only available in German. The staff at reception speak enough English (and French) to answer your emails and welcome you in person!
Nous avons été, ma famille et moi, très impressionnés par cette très belle maison ancienne, si typique du patrimoine du centre de l'Allemagne. Son calme et sa sérénité, au milieu d'étendues de champs et de forêts, la chaleur de son ambiance, dans le confort et l'intimité de sa structure de bois, nous ont enchantés. Chaque objet ancien, gravure, coffre ou serrure, était prétexte à discussion avec les enfants.
L'endroit idéal pour s'extraire quelques jours d'une vie agitée et se retrouver "comme dans le temps" ! Ni téléphone, ni internet, ni télévision...
Dommage que les pompiers aient exigé d'aménager une colonne en maçonnerie au centre du bâtiment, avec des portes coupe-feu tout à fait en décalage avec le style si évocateur du vieux manoir... J'aurais rêvé aussi de retrouver les fenêtres d'époque, mais les boiseries n'étaient hélas plus en état d'être restaurées...
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