Robert, how did you happen to become a manorhouse-owner?
I’ve always had a thing for old houses. I am a former GDR-citizen, I grew up in Rostock at the Baltic Sea and right after the Wall fell, I bought a run-down tannery and restored it. When I was studying medicine in Berlin at that time but I kept coming home regularly to Mecklenburg in order to search out for old houses for a reason I wasn’t fully aware of. At the same time I established my communication-agency, with which I developed a concept of the long night of science in Rostock. And suddenly it hit me to develop a similar concept for manorhouses. I thought: Wow, so many old houses in the middle of nowhere.We have show them to people! It wasn’t on my mind back then to own such a house myself, but I guess I already grew an underlying desire.
Approximately more than 2000 manor houses exist in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Why did you choose a ruin instead of a rather solid building?
I remember that when I saw Vogelsang the first time, I did not like it. It was so so wrecked and you could not access it without the help of the responsible facilitymanager. It turned me off back then, but seen from the perspective now it was a good thing, that he took care of it and tried to hold back strangers, because it spared the house from those evil minds which might have taken out the original wooden floors or other historic interiour.
In the end it was a good mixture of several factors which I took into account: There was the aspect of being in good company of manorhouse owners, who live nearby and who were already experienced in the field of countryhouse-tourism. I think the vast land and the paddocks attracted us, too, as we were having an eye on the idea of horse-riding tourism. We have a great stable and above all this it was probably my mums personal refugee story of how she found shelter in Teterow – a small town not far away, which gave me some emotional comfort in this region and which finally convinced me to buy it.
What was the darkest moment you’ve experienced so far with this house?
I initially bought this house with another woman, who, shortly after we bought it and after I had just spend 300 000 Euro in first renovations, suddenly changed her mind. She was in a crisis and told me, that she would leave me and I could do with the house whatever I wanted. At that point things became complicated, as she was co-owner and I had to get her out of the land register. In the end I had to buy the house from her for a much higher price as it was way more worth after some restauration, of course. And then I was broke.
(sighs with a smile)
A lot of relationships fall apart due to the great amount of nerves you need to have in order to realize and maintain such a monstrous project. Those old houses demand the attention of a human child and it is not unlikely that one of the partners surrenders. Especially, if you need to live in there during the time of the renovation. It can totally knock you out to run such a place.
Have you ever thought on surrendering?
When I bought this ruin, everyone said, I am mental, although they knew that I had already succuessfully restored the old tannery in Rostock. Everytime I start a new project, I make up a masterplan. What’s the best and most efficient solution for now, how do I get people involved as help. So far, I think we did quite a good job despite our rather humble budget.
Luckily, we soon could establish a little business with the house, despite its rather bad condition it was in back then. It was far more worse as it is now. We’ve had to face very random problems, some minor, some major ones, but no matter how dark things seemed at times, I have never come to start thinking: I hate this house, I wish it was gone.
Isabel and me we are the maids of this estate and of course it appears to be a burden here and there. After three or four really intense years of hard work, we have finally come to the point were we have gotten paid back for all the effort and the fun part kicked in. We are mainly booked out during the summer season, it could always be better, but I won’t dare to complain.
Where do you see the potential of manorhouses for all of us these days?
The whole revival of manorial heritage is what keeps me going. I think that manors still bear the possibility of becoming the living room of a village. It is the acknowledgenment of the history of those houses and the renaissance of countrylife which melt together at the moment and I really think we are experiencing a very remarkable era. 30 years ago the manors in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were politically separated from the lands, which mainly meant they were amputated as the cut off from the land meant, that it was no longer connected to the source of income due to agriculture – which was the reason why they were called Gutshäuser here. Because the „Haus“ belonged to the „Gut“, hence, when the Gut is gone, what sort of Haus is left then?
Today modern people bought some of these houses and run it with various kinds of concepts – most turned it into a hotel, some started to turn it into a cultural center, some turned it into a modern monastry. I think the way people make use of them mirrors our Zeitgeist and at the same time, I guess they could be an answer to questions like demographic changes, new countryliving, the needs of our society.
How do you imagine your life without your manor?
I never thought oft hat. I am sure it would be very boring, definitely less inspiring. After all, the house does not hurt me, even though I am already full of dirt since I am here. But you constantly have to make up your mind about any- and everything, which can be exhausting at times.
How has this adventure changed your perspective on life?
I have come to be less dreamy, I am more of a realist now, I guess. This place does not mean holiday for me, there is always something to get done – be it moaning the lawn, feeding the animals, chopping wood, or just clean up. But we cherish the encounter with various people and their ideas, we are happy to be part of projects, which they want to realise here with us. In such moments I am content and calm and I feel pride and joy about what we have already achieved.
„It’s like searching out for the Northern Pole – for a very long time there was no light at the end of the tunnel, it was kind of nomansland and it still is in a way – but in a good way, though.“
Do you think that you will be finishing this house one day?
I rather hope that the following generation will keep on going. I am that type of person who likes to develop a project. When I am done I am going to start the next project. I like to give it away when something is finished, it does not nourish me anymore. So I am very happy to declare: My manor will never be finished and I am glad, because I don’t wish to give it away.