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A holistic retreat in the heart of Germany

Every morning after breakfast, my friend and I sliced some apples into chunks, walked around to the back of the main building of Hof Oberlethe and followed the wide path until it dissolved into a little meadow and pond. This little meadow connected to a larger meadow where three or four horses grazed. After our first offering of apples, they came running whenever they saw us.

The alpha horse tried to keep his companions at bay so he could have all the apples for himself, but we managed to get some to the others. Once we also fed the ducks in the pond, but they were more aloof. Then we would head back to the Tao Hall and begin our day of Buddhist practice and study.

This was the routine for five glorious days at the lush, inviting Hof Oberlethe, a perfect place in Wardenburg, Germany, for group retreats like the one I attended.

Hof Oberlethe

Hof Oberlethe describes itself as “a place to settle yourself … a place for retreats, fasting, seminars, workshops, congresses, and all other events that deepen, heal, and exhilarate our life experience, for groups of 8 to 800.” Their network of historic and newer buildings—one of which is a converted and expanded farmhouse with thatched roof—offers a variety of combinations for meetings, workshops, and dining. They can sleep almost 200 people in guest rooms, dormitories and sleeping cubicles indoors and up to 600 people in tents and caravans in their apple meadow.

Our group consisted of 200 people from around the world, many of whom expressed delight regarding the serene surroundings and excellent food.

We enjoyed three vegetarian meals and an afternoon snack every day. The phrase groaning board could have originated here. Four large tables were laden with vegetarian casseroles, vegetables prepared numerous ways, fresh fruit, nuts, muesli, yogurt, an assortment of cheeses, homemade bread, puddings and cakes, and non-stop refills whenever required.

Our buffet meals were served in the main dining room, housed in the main building, which overlooked the pond, Zen lake and some of the gardens. Many people ate in the sprawling lounge with various tables and couches and a fireplace, others dined at the sheltered tables or on the swinging bench outside.

Our retreat ended with a butter lamp ceremony and the dedication of our entire five days of practice and study to the benefit of all sentient beings. After lining the perimeter of the Zen lake with our candles, a few of us took one last walk out to the meadow to say goodbye to the horses. Everyone left feeling elated by the profound experience of this retreat and expressed the hope of returning soon to do another.

Hof Oberlethe

If you are interested in hosting a group event at Oberlethe or attending one of the retreats, festivals or programs happening there, please visit

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