The origins of the Ortenau Castle can be traced back to the 11th-12th century. The castle was built by the House of Zähringen to protect the Kinzig Valley. Careful inspection by archaeologists has yielded results which claim that the castle dates back to the Middle Ages. Today, there is a youth hostel in the castle. In the village, one can find a narrow signposted road leading to the castle.
The castle was constructed by Zähringer in the 11-12th century, during the Swabian domination. The castle experienced its first extension in the 15th century when defensive towers with guns were added to it. The first destruction came in 1678 during Franco-Dutch war was experienced. Louis XIV let Marshal François de Créquy destroy the castle. While reconstruction followed in the coming years, the castle was destroyed once again in 1697 after which the bailiff moved its headquarters permanently to Offenburg. The present castle was then built from 1838 to 1843 by Baron Gabriel Leonhard von Berckholtz (1781-1863) of Livonia. It has been constructed in the English style of the medieval ruins by Friedrich Eisenlohr. The construction management was transferred by him to his student Georg Jakob Schneider.
Heinrich and Eva Orttenburger renovated the castle. They were committed to opening it to the public and spent a lot of money, showing significant financial commitment along with unbound enthusiasm to make it happen. On 14 July 2007, Eva Orttenburger passed away at the castle itself. A little while before his 91st birthday, Heinrich Orttenburger passed away on 16 April 2011. His funeral was held in the chapel of the Ortenburg Castle. With his death, the possession of the Orttenburger family that lasted for over 40 years, ended.
The fairytale castle has a lot going for it with one of the best things pulling people towards it being the chance of experiencing exceptional wines from the best sites in Germany. Some of the wines from the vineyards around the castle are sought after by people from across the world and have won numerous awards and accolades. If a wine-lover visits Germany, the best time to go is definitely the wine festival – Gutsfest which is mostly held in the month of July.
For architecture lovers, the castle is an absolute delight. After being destroyed, the castle was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style. It was also armed with a lookout tower. The wood-panelled dining hall, the staircase that sweeps up to the dorms give a splendid view of the Kinzig Valley and palatial interiors; all add to the list of reasons which make visiting this tower a must visit place. A powerful torbau is a central attraction with a pointed arch built above a wide-sweeping arched frieze – capturing the essence of Romanticism. An inner courtyard is splayed with Renaissance-style frescos which one can find in the arcades in the southern part of the castle. The ceilings of the arcades have beautiful paintings drawn across them. The Romantic-style of the 19th century shows explicitly in the village surrounding the castle. There are beautiful timber-framed houses on the streets which are waiting to be walked through.
If mythology and ghost stories interest you, there is something to tickle your taste buds too. Guided ghost hunts are also held at the castle which also includes testing esoteric and modern approaches or techniques of ghost hunting.
For the spiritual souls, the place is perfect with the option of going on the Via Nova or the New Way Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage crosses through tranquil and peaceful landscapes that open the avenues of discovering hope within ourselves. The landscapes on the route are stunning, to say the least. These spots of spirituality endowed with historical significance are breathtaking, leaving the traveler entranced.
While the castle has been used as a Student Hostel since 1942, more reconstruction happened in the coming years to conserve the buildings. The Painter Tower (Maleturm) was first restored in the years 1984-1985 and restoration of the Schimmelturm and Jakobsturm followed in the years 1986-1988.
The Malerturm once was the studio of the paintress Alexandra von Berckholtz, the daughter of Gabriel L. Berckholtz, who built the castle. Originally, the tower was built as a powder tower (arsenal) in the 15th century. Today, it is used for wedding ceremonies.
During the re-construction of the castle from 1838 to 1843, another tower was added to the existing two stories of the zwinger construction. The tower was named after son of the builder of the castle and served to defend the castle against enemies that had forced their way into the neck ditch. The inside of Jakobsturm was renovated between 1986 and 1987.
The Schimmelturm is the highest tower of the castle. Between 1986 and 1988, the inside of the tower was renovated. Furthermore, a new staircase tower was built as the original one had been blown up in 1678. As early as around 1840, the height of the tower was increased with an extension in Gothic Style. Today, there is a staircase in the tower. The current doors don’t originate from the time of construction of the castle, either. In the tower, there used to be a dungeon, where prisoners were let down by means of a winch. The walls had a thickness of 4 meters. The dungeon was used between 1679 and 1697, the years after the destruction of the castle, until the imperial bailiwick prison was built in 1770. The prison was in the old town hall of Hohberg-Diersburg.
Today, the tower serves as a lookout tower.
The Kapellenturm is a former battery tower that was constructed in the 15th century and was partially destroyed in 1678. Between 1838 and 1843, it was renovated and later served as the castle’s chapel.