Friday, 7 October 2016

A Fairytale Castle

Last weekend was a long weekend in Germany, as Monday was a holiday (to celebrate the reunion of East and West Germany).

For me, it meant mainly one thing: I was able to spend more time with O.K.
I arrived on Friday early evening and stayed until Monday evening. We had a mix of sun and rain, grey and blue skies, and decided on our activities spontaneously.
On Monday afternoon, we drove the short distance to the castle we often see from afar during our walks - not that long ago, I showed you that view here.

Now it was time to have a proper look round.
Ascending from where we'd left the car:

Inside one of the towers - wouldn't this window make great deco for a Halloween party? :-)

Ortenberg castle has a long and varied history. 
There was already a castle at this site in the 11th and 12th century, but little of that time remains. It was mostly used as an administrative seat; taxes were collected here and court cases were brought to the place.
In the 15th century, the castle was enlarged and fortified so that now canons could be used from its towers and walls.
In 1678 and 1697, the castle was attacked and destroyed twice (French troops under King Louis XIV the first time; not sure about the second attack).
As a result, regional administration was moved to a different place, a newly built seat in the nearby city of Offenburg.
For one and a half centuries, the ruins served as a convenient quarry for everyone around who needed stones and masonry for their houses.

Then along came Baron von Berckholtz, who had a new castle built at the site from 1838 to 1843. At the time, English "Medieval" style was very much in fashion, and the architect aspired to create a fairytale castle like something straight out of "Ivanhoe" and the like.  

See for yourself whether he succeeded: 

 Great views from the highest tower:

The above view, zoomed in, shows the woods on the hill where O.K. and I often pass on walks or running, and from where we can see the castle:

Nowadays. the castle serves a dual purpose. The largest building is a youth hostel, and there are some extra rooms where groups can gather for seminars etc. 
In one of the towers, couples can get married - and I imagine this to be a popular place for weddings, with so many romantic corners:

After we'd climbed every tower we could climb (the youth hostel buildings are only accessible for guests, not for visiting tourists), we walked on through the vineyards and took a roundabout path back to where we had parked the car.

Next time I'll be on that wooded hill near O.K.'s village and look across the valley to Ortenberg castle, I'll know what it looks like close-up.


  1. Wow. Love the views, and I always think it is great when they find ways to make old buildings like these "useful" and accessible to people :)

    1. We were lucky with the views; although the sun was behind clouds by the time we arrived there, we still had a clear view all the way to France. Alsace is just across the border, and Strasbourg minster can be seen from O.K.'s village even on less clear days.

  2. Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed that. I should say that Baron von Berckholtz created something a little grander than Ivanhoe, if he'd existed, would have known! Certainly more windows! What a fabulous place - and oozing romance...

    1. Ivanhoe would have wondered what to do with all those living rooms and salons, I suppose, and no fighting equipment to be seen!
      The Baron's daughter was an artist and had her atelier in the tower that is used for weddings now.

  3. What a fun place to have a youth hostel. The YHA used to have lots of hostels in strange places, but not so many now. I think there are still some around the place though. St. Briavels Castle used to be one - it's on the welsh borders. Quite imposing. With prisoners' graffiti scratched on some of the stone walls, I seem to remember. It's years since I have been there, although not as long as all that -about 10 years actually.

    1. If you go again, Jenny, please post about it, St. Briavels Castle sounds intriguing!

  4. A fun place to visit, I think...Those people in the 1800s with money and imagination often built rather surprising "castles". This was looked down upon for a time, but I think they are being appreciated again. And how nice that this castle is so useful these days.

    1. They had a rather romantic idea about the past, and often wanted their own fantasy be turned into something tangible. Well, it meant work for a lot of people, which surely must have been a good thing, and now we have the results to marvel at.

  5. Quite a fascinating place. I was amazed at how many more details I saw when I (as usual) enlarged the photos. An odd thought also struck me. It's not even twice as old as the original part of my humble abode.

    1. Graham, I am glad you enlarge the photos, as they show indeed a lot more detail than what is visible at first glance. I do that on people's blogs, too, but not everyone uses pictures that can be enlarged.
      Hmmm... can't do the maths on your house, sorry!