A girl with golden shoulder cut hair is smiling cheerfully for the camera wearing purple jacket; Exploring Ahead Hotel A Vegan Oasis in Germany's Landscape Kim Stellbrinck Ep 128

Exploring Ahead Hotel: A Vegan Oasis in Germany’s Landscape | Kim Stellbrinck | Ep 128

Introducing Kim

Get set to dive into an intriguing episode as we introduce our distinguished guest, Kim Stellbrinck. Kim, the Co-Founder of Ahead Hotel, Germany’s largest vegan hotel, has a captivating journey to share. Starting as a Hotel Trainee in 2003, she’s navigated the global hospitality landscape, from Dubai to Phoenix.

Her path led her to delve into holistic well-being, pursuing a Holistic Nutrition degree in Vancouver, Canada, in 2018-2019. Returning to her roots, she managed a hotel before co-founding Ahead Hotel in 2021.

Nestled in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve River Landscape Elbe Brandenburg, Ahead Hotel stands as a sanctuary of vegan luxury. Its centerpiece, the plant-based restaurant “Place to V,” offers exquisite flavors. Guests can unwind on the terrace, find serenity in the tea house, or dive into outdoor adventures.

Kim’s vision for Ahead Hotel revolves around pioneering sustainable hospitality, blending nature, humanity, and compassion. Join us for an episode that uncovers the enthralling narrative behind Germany’s premier vegan hotel, a driving force for positive transformation in travel and hospitality.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Kim’s background and motivation to create this hotel
  • Details about the vegan hotel
  • Vegan offerings and ethos are available here
  • Things to do around the area
  • Kim’s favorite places to visit and to eat at in Berlin and Hamburg
  • Ahead Hotel’s location and best time to visit

Learn more about what we talk about

  • Kim’s journey from Hotel Trainee to global hospitality.
  • Pursuit of holistic well-being through studying Holistic Nutrition.
  • Co-founding Ahead Hotel in Germany in 2021.
  • Unique features of Ahead Hotel in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
  • Kim’s vision for sustainable hospitality and ecological mindfulness.
  • Ahead Hotel is a beacon of positive change in travel.

Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode

Connect with Kim


Brighde: Hello, Kim. Thank you so much for joining me on The World Vegan Travel Podcast.

Kim: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Brighde: I am so excited to have you joining me because we have been featuring quite a few people with vegan businesses, and vegan hotels, and so many of them are from Germany and we have another one today. This is so exciting, the growth of the vegan Hotel in Germany, and we are going to talk all about your hotel. Where it is what it’s like and what people will experience when they go there. But before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are?

Kim: Yeah. My name is Kim, as you said. I live in East Germany, actually close to Berlin, and I am the co-founder of Germany’s largest vegan hotel. It’s two of us, Jonas and me. We are the founders and we also run the hotel daily.

Brighde: So until you got this hotel, what were you doing? Were you in the hospitality industry before that?

Kim: Yes, I’ve been doing it all my adult life, I should say not all my life. After school, I did a management training program in Germany for three years. I worked at a Marriott hotel in Hamburg. In Germany, we have a dual system. So you go to school and work at the hotel, at the same time. So it’s three years of constantly working and learning. So in the end, you’ve seen all departments of the hotel. You worked in all the departments, and you learned the theory in school. So you’re well prepared for your life. After that, I transferred with Marriott to Phoenix in the US, where I did a two-year food of beverage training program.

Then I went to the Cayman Islands and later to Dubai where I worked at Burj Al Arab, the famous hotel that looks like a sail, it’s very famous. It was only 10 years there when I joined, so it was very exciting. Then I went to Abu Dhabi, Qatar. I went back to Germany. Then I moved to Vancouver to study, holistic nutrition, which was one year, where I didn’t work in a hotel in all my life. Then I went back to Germany where I met my co-founder and now business partner Jonas and we decided to start a vegan hotel together.

Brighde: So are you vegan?

Kim: Yes, of course. Jonas and I are both vegan and we met, in the hotel. We became friends because we were the only two vegans out of a hundred employees. So the day I joined, he was already there. He checked me out on Facebook before and he came straight to me and said, So, what do you eat? I said, I’m vegan. He’s like, yeah, I’m vegan too. Actually. He knew it already, but that’s how we became friends and decided to start the hotel.

Brighde: Fantastic. So I always love to hear people’s origin stories about how these things come to pass. So how did you go from being a vegan Marriot employee to managing this? It’s not a large hotel, not like the Burj Khalifa for example, but it is still a rather large hotel considering that it’s all vegan. So how did all of that come to pass? 

Kim: I just always loved the hospitality and then when I did my training, I realized that I love food and beverage. I loved working in the kitchen. I loved serving food, speaking to people about food and beverages, of course, as well, as wines. It is hard to serve non-vegan food when you’re vegan and to explain menu dishes to people. I worked at a steakhouse and I had to explain the items to guests, and I’ve never tried them. Whenever we did tastings, I asked my colleagues, how does that taste? What is this? What does that mean? They explained everything to me, but it felt weird. When we worked at the hotel together, like Jonas and I, it just became more and more difficult for me.

When he said, I’ve always had the dream to run a hotel and now that I’m vegan, I want to run a vegan hotel. We found out we just complimented each other because I did all the food and beverage part and he did all the rooms department in the front office part. So we said we just put our experience together and we started looking for a place. So we looked for a year and we found this place where we are now.

Brighde: So tell us about the hotel. Where is it located?

Kim: It’s in Brandenburg. The state in Germany that is, Northeast of Germany, right between Hamburg and Berlin. Those are the cities that probably everybody knows. So we are in the countryside. The hotel as you said, it’s not very big. It has 39 rooms, but it is the largest fully vegan one in Germany. It’s located in a five-hectare garden. The garden is certified organic. It’s a landmark, so it’s protected. And the hotel is in an old castle, which stands in this garden. We have one restaurant, the restaurant serves lunch, dinner and cakes. We have a huge, winter garden with floor-to-ceiling windows, where we serve breakfast. We can have family gatherings there, meetings, weddings. We had a lot of weddings, actually vegan weddings. We also offer cooking classes. A lot of our guests ask for cooking classes, so we are starting that now. We have a sauna, we have a gym we have yoga and meditation all free of charge for our guests.

We offer bicycles for rent. We offer canoes and standup paddleboards. You can go swimming here, at a lake nearby. You can do a bicycle tour. You can just go walking. Dogs are welcome at the hotel so you can bring your dog and enjoy nature with it. 

Brighde: So tell me a little bit about the cuisine that people can experience at this hotel. ’cause if you are in the countryside, I’m sure there are not a lot of options around. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sure people that stay at your hotel would love to eat there too. Tell us a little about what the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are like.

Kim: So there are some restaurants around, but there are no vegan restaurants. Some have vegan options and some have more vegan options now because our guests go there and they keep asking. So little cafes who said they will never do vegan cakes, actually doing vegan cakes now because our guests ask all the time.

Our breakfast is a buffet. We have a tofu scramble, we have pancakes, buffets, beans, all kinds of things, actually, then we have sausages, we have cold cuts, we have cheese. So because we don’t only have vegans staying with us, we also have other guests. So something for everyone. Of course, fruit and vegetable is a huge part of the breakfast, also healthy options. That’s the highlight for most of our guests, vegans and non-vegans. A lot of them, say at checkout, that was the highlight. 

Brighde: Yeah. When you’re a vegan and there’s a really good breakfast buffet and you can eat all of it, it is something quite exciting, I find too. And what about lunches and dinners?

Kim: Lunch and dinner are served at our restaurant. We have a nice terrace, a huge terrace where you can overlook the garden. That’s a la carte. You can choose whatever you like. We change the menu every four to six weeks to keep it seasonal. A lot of places say we are regional, we are seasonal, but we are.

 That’s why we changed the menu every four to six weeks. There are usually around six to seven starter options, six to seven main courses, and three desserts. Most of it is from the area here, from local farmers and then we have an organic supplier as well, and something from the garden too. We have apples, pears, fresh berries, walnuts from the garden, and herbs as well. Yeah. That’s about it. 


Brighde: Wow, that sounds so delicious and how are the desserts? That’s always something that I’m always really excited about.

Kim: Some are just like a normal dessert, but made vegan like Tiramisu and Cheesecake, Chocolate Mousse, and Panna cotta. 

Brighde: You sound like you are describing the typical European hotel with the cold cuts and the cheese. It sounds so typical but so, so lovely. The rooms, could you describe what they are like?

Kim: The rooms, We have nine inside the actual castle where the restaurant is in the front office, and we have 30 rooms in a building right next to it. In the caster building, the rooms are more posh. They’re overlooking the garden, and in the side building, they are a bit more down to earth, but still really nice. So we have a lot of double rooms. We have some single rooms. We have a suite. 

Brighde: Are children welcome at the Hotel?

Kim: Yes, of course.

Brighde: I love it. Okay. I’m not sure what the German star rating system is, but how would you describe the amount of comfort in the hotel? Like is it two-star, four-star, or five-star?

Kim: We have a four-star certification. The hotel is, like a four-star hotel, but we are in the countryside. We are not about butlers or having people carry your luggage. It’s more about the atmosphere. It’s very familiar but you still have your comfort. As I said, we have a gym, we have a sauna, we offer massages and yoga. We have a restaurant where you can eat seven days a week or times of the day. Yeah, it’s a four-star hotel.

Brighde: Wonderful. So for many of the people listening to this, they are from North America and they would certainly go to maybe Berlin when they were traveling around Europe, maybe Hamburg as well and we can talk about what’s interesting about those places in a little while. But if they did want to come to your hotel, how do they get there?

Kim: They can get there either by bicycle. We have a river, it’s called Elbe. It flows from Hamburg to Prague and the Czech Republic. Theoretically, you can cycle from Hamburg there and just stop at our place. But it’s 391 kilometers, so 192 miles, I think, which is quite a lot. So, realistically you would take the train.

If you’re on vacation, you most probably don’t have a car. Car’s of course, an option. But otherwise, just by train. It’s one hour from Hamburg and one hour from Berlin.

Brighde: Is the hotel located in the countryside or is it in a small village?

Kim: Yes. In a small village, a very small village. 

Brighde: I see. Great. Are there any other sort of attractions around this little village that people might like to check out?

Kim: Yeah, the river, as I mentioned very popular bicycle tours. We also rent bicycles. They’re made of bamboo, so they’re sustainable bicycles. People like to do that. They like to go just walking and enjoy being out of the city. Most of our guests come from big cities and they enjoy the peace. The lake is nearby where you can swim, these kind of things. Otherwise, I would just recommend going to Berlin or Hamburg.

Brighde: Really, so you feel like you can use it as a base to explore those cities too.

Kim: Definitely

Brighde: Ah, that’s so interesting. Okay, let’s talk about Berlin as the destination. I think most people listening to this podcast would know that Berlin is a very vegan-friendly destination. From what I know, there are so many restaurants and places. But before we talk about maybe your favorites, ’cause I always love to get recommendations from our guests about their personal favorites. Why would people want to go to Berlin?

Kim: First of all, it’s the capital. The capital of a country is always interesting. The government sits there. You can visit all the government buildings and then Germany has a really rich history. Germany was divided for some time. Also, Berlin was divided. There was a wall right through Berlin. So just seeing that history, there are a lot of museums, a lot of history going on. So, I would visit Berlin for the history. You can spend days just exploring that. For the food, of course. Every weekend should go to Berlin for the food. Also, the people, there’s a lot of different cultures. Most people speak English, there are some places where they only speak English now, but it’s very multi-national. Of course, the techno electronic clubs. Berlin is famous for the party scene. Even Elon Musk loves to go to our techno clubs. It’s very famous for going there his Tesla factory is, close to Berlin actually in our state here. So yeah, he loves Berlin.

Brighde: Oh really? That’s so funny. And what are your favorite restaurant recommendations, in Berlin?

Kim: I like, Lucky Leek. The owner is a woman and she’s good. She makes her cheese. She has a nice terrace to sit on. Then there’s Kopps. Kopps was one of the first vegan fine-dining restaurants in Germany. The owner is passionate about veganism. That’s a great place to go. They have a nice bar with really, really creative cocktails as well. Then Frea has really good food too and it’s Germany’s first zero-based restaurant. They have their recycling machine in the restaurant. You can see it even. That’s cool.

Brighde: Oh wow, that is amazing. Okay, and what about Hamburg? How far is it to get to Hamburg from your hotel? From ahead hotel?

Kim: One and a half hours by train and by car two.

Brighde: Yeah, so I’ve been to Berlin, but I’ve not been to Hamburg. What’s so interesting about that place?

Kim: Oh, we missed something. Hamburg is all about water. It has a river there. It has the Alster Lake and the city center. The Alster Lake is great. It has all these old buildings around. You can go shopping there. In winter, the lake freezes and you’re surrounded by all these beautiful buildings and you can go ice skating, which is cool.

At the river, you can just walk and soak up the atmosphere. Then there is the Philharmonic Hall. It’s new, it was built in 2017 and it cost 10 times the budget they originally planned. So Germans make fun of it all the time, but it’s beautiful and you can go up to the platform to see the city from above for free. It’s actually for free, which is great. Mm-hmm. 

Brighde: That’s so lovely. What are your favorite restaurants in Hamburg and there are any other really interesting places to check out?

Kim: The clouds. Clouds has a nice view over Hamburg and the Empire Riverside Hotel has a great bar as well where you could go to. Hamburg is not as vegan-friendly as Berlin. There are a lot of restaurants with vegan options but like real proper vegan restaurants not that many.

Brighde: I see. Hmm. Interesting. So what’s special about your hotel?

Kim: First we are Germany’s largest vegan hotel. We are sustainable and we are climate positive. Climate-neutral, it’s a thing now, but climate-positive is quite difficult to achieve. We have a company here, actually in Europe which does the certification. It’s the Project Gold Standard Certificate that you can get, and we got it.

They measure the CO2 footprint in all areas of the hotel. So of course, how you get your energy for electricity, for heating, but also how your employees get to work, where you get the produce from, how much CO2 that admits, which I find interesting. So they consider everything.

Then we plant trees to be climate neutral, but we plant more trees, not only somewhere overseas, but here in the area to become climate positive. But right now we are working on it because rather than compensating, we think the most important issue is to reduce the CO2 emissions in the first place.

So the compensating should only be the bandage when you try everything else. So we are now investing in sourcing energy from renewable places like solar energy, at the moment we are into that.

Brighde: Oh wow. So you’re going to maybe put some solar panels on the roof? 


oh, how was the process to get that certification?

Kim: My business partner, Jonas does that actually, they ask you all kinds of questions in advance. You have to fill out, I think it was 30 pages of paperwork, where they ask you, how does your employee one come to work? Two, and we have 30 employees, so we had to write that down by bicycle, by walk, by bus, by car, how many kilometers, how often?

After they went through all the paperwork they came to see the place and to check if that’s true. They spoke to people to make sure that everything we said was true and then they ranked you accordingly. We got ranked as climate-positive, which is great. 

Brighde: Wow. And how much does the food that you serve in the hotel contribute to that? I’m curious to know whether that was significant.

Kim: Yes,

Brighde: It was.

Kim: Yes. We are a very old building. It’s an old castle. It’s centuries old. So, energy is a problem. Heat doesn’t stay as long as a new building. So, we were not lucky, but it was a good thing that we have vegan food. ’cause if you consider that 37 percent of all global emissions come from the food sector and 58 of those come from animal-based foods, you win a lot by serving vegan food. Actually, on our menu, we show the CO2 footprint of all our menu dishes and we compare it to 200-gram steak with side dishes, which emit roughly 2 kg of CO2, and our dishes, emit between 230 grams to 489 grams. So that’s a lot less. And guests always look at it and even vegans who know it, they’re surprised. It’s amazing. So if you show people what impact just one meal can have. It’s shocking.

Brighde: That is interesting. So who are your clientele generally? Are they Germans or Europeans? And are they mostly vegan that come to your hotel?

Kim: There are a lot of Germans, Swiss, and Austrian people, and then some Europeans. We had some Americans as well already. But mostly Europeans and then mostly the German-speaking countries. We have a lot of vegans. But we have also flexitarians, vegetarians, and pescatarians. We have everything. Which is great because we like to inspire people. We want to show people that being responsible and taking care of animals and the environment can be fun. It doesn’t have to be restrictive. That’s why we are trying to make the food in a way that appeals to everyone. So that everybody’s happy with it, and that people go home and say, you know what?

Being Vegan is not that difficult. Maybe I could do it once a day, once a week. A lot of women are vegans, so they bring their partners, they bring their parents just to show them. Yeah, so that works well for us. We have also weddings where only the couple is vegan, and at the end, the 50 other guests are convinced too, and they’re happy with it.

Brighde: That’s incredible. So as I speak to you right now, it is at the height of high season. So I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to be here because I know this time is crazy in Europe. But is this the best time of year to visit?

Kim: It is in my opinion because you can sit out on our terrace and overlook the garden while you eat. Everything is green and nature is just blooming. It’s beautiful. But then, spring is nice. We have storks who fly here from Africa and have their babies here with us. Yeah, just nice.

And I also like it when nature starts to bloom again. So spring is a nice time, and even autumn because the weather has changed. So now until November, we have still kind of summer weather, so you could be lucky. And then in October, it’s still really warm and nice. So that’s a nice time to visit as well.

Winter is okay, as we have the sauna, the gym massages, and yoga. So you can pass your time here. You can even go for a bicycle ride. German winters are not that hard anymore, especially in this area, but if I could choose, I would choose summer.

Brighde: I see. Are there any really interesting festivals around that people might like to time their visit for?

Kim: There is, for example, Airbeat, which is 45 minutes away. It’s just a music festival. We have some music festivals here in the area. Yeah. Which is surprising.

Brighde: Wow. That’s so cool. So how many years have you had the hotel now? How has it been operating as a vegan hotel?

Kim: Only two. We opened it in the middle of Corona, Covid.

Brighde: Wow. Oh my goodness.

That’s so brave of you. My goodness.

Kim: It was the summer when Germans were allowed to travel again, but nobody wanted to leave the country, so it was a really good summer for us.

Brighde: I see. What are your dreams for the hotel? Where would you like to be in like five years or 10 years’ time?

Kim: At the same place where we are now actually, because now after two years our employees are at a good level. We are very happy with them, they’re happy with us. That’s a good place. We have a lot of regular guests to come back, so of course we would like to have them come back also in five years we would like to have new guests of course. We are planning a second hotel as well.

Brighde: That is amazing. Well, I hope you come back on the podcast when that is about to open so that you can come and tell our listeners all about that too. Alright. So if people want to, find out more about the hotel, of course, see some pictures. Listeners, you can go on the show notes and see some pictures of the hotel as well.

But of course, going to the hotel website will be the best place to go. So tell us a little bit about how people can see pictures and learn even more about you keep in touch with all of your updates. Then what is the process for booking a stay?

Kim: The best would be to go directly to our website. The best prices are on the website. The prices are dynamic just like at an airline. So it depends on the season, depends how short in advance. We have a lot of pictures on the website. You can switch to English as well. We have a lot about what we do to keep the hotel sustainable.

You can see also our menus there in English. So it’s very interesting. You can book your yoga classes, and book your bicycles. Everything can be done on the website. So I would go there.

Brighde: Do you have some sort of half-board or full-board option as well?

Kim: No, we don’t. All our room prices include breakfast and other meals, you can just do as you like.

Brighde: I see. 

Kim: A lot of people don’t have lunch because breakfast is so good and so filling. So then they have dinner. Yeah.

Brighde: I love it. Thank you, Kim, so much for taking the time to be on the podcast. I cannot wait to visit your beautiful hotel. Listeners, really make sure you go and have a look at this rather unique hotel. I just can’t believe that something like this exists. I’m so pleased. Thank you again for taking the time to be on the podcast at such a busy time. We appreciate it.

Kim: Thanks for having me. I was really happy to speak to you.

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