Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher

Schloss Tratzberg

Count Goess-Enzenberg owns a unique medieval castle with original XVI century furniture and a recently restored Renaissance courtyard.
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The Goess-Enzenberg family in Tratzberg (left to right: Vittoria, Philine, Katrin and Ulrich). Photo credits: @LUXPRESS
Artiom Ganin had a chance to talk with Mr. Ulrich Goess-Enzenberg, the owner of Tratzberg castle in Austria's Tyrol. The Count has a very impressive family tree with Empress Maria-Theresia and Emperor Maximilian among his ancestors. The castle has been owned by the Enzenberg family since the early XIX century and is a great mix of late Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. We've talked about the restoration of the Renaissance courtyard and the roofing – the total area of which is some 5000m2. It is almost the size of a football pitch! Mr. Goess-Enzenberg also shared with me a story of a XV century cabinet, which once was owned by the Teutonic order and which is kept in the castle along with the original furniture of the XVI century! Interestingly the castle is not all about the past, it keeps up with the times. Visitors can take a VR-tour of the castle and charge their electro cars right next to its entrance.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher


Castles_and_Palaces (CnP): Dear Mr. Goess-Enzenberg could you tell me about your background?

Ulrich Goëss-Enzenberg (U.G.E.): I am the 3rd child of Count Zeno Goess and Countess Antoinette Goess, née Countess Enzenberg. I grew up at my parents' Gradisch Castle in Carinthia and visited Tratzberg only during summer because back then it was owned by Georg Graf Enzenberg, my mother's brother. I spent 9 years at a boarding school in Salzburg with additional handicraft training. Then I studied business administration in Vienna and Innsbruck. Until the age of 35, I worked for various tourism and marketing companies, I traveled a lot and lived a life as a bachelor. And then I inherited Tratzberg from my mother's brother and his wife Elisabeth, Princess Esterhazy.
CnP: You got quite a castle, didn't you!? Tratzberg is one of the best preserved castles in Austria. It was once ransacked by the Bavarian troops. I wonder how come the castle fared through the turbulent European history almost unharmed?

U.G.E.: This is a very good question. You know it looks like the Enzenberg family were very good diplomats. Thanks to their diplomacy a lot was preserved here, especially during WWI and WWII. For example, my grandfather's sister was here in Tratzberg during the war and catered the quartered troops and officers, which she in return asked to protect the castle. Moreover, it is certainly a lucky coincidence – during the war a bomb hit the attic and it did not catch fire. Tratzberg seems to be under the protection of its patron saint, St. Catherine of Alexandria, after all!
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: It explains a lot! Running and maintaining a relatively small private house normally requires a lot of effort. But maintaining such a huge property is much more difficult. How do you cope?

U.G.E.: We get help from many hardworking employees and constantly busy craftsmen. Of course, we also raise funds with the help of tourists who visit us. Local farmers also rent our land. The COVID-19 pandemic cost us 3 years of income, it was not an easy time.
Photo credits: @W9 Studios
U.G.E.: During the lockdown we had to spend money on repairs and cover other expenses - so we had to pay from our private pockets. You definitely have to love such a property very much and feel a strong connection to it to not see the many expenses as too much of a burden.
CnP: When did you conduct restoration works for the last time? What was the focus?

U.G.E.: In 2020-2021 we restored the painting of the Renaissance courtyard, re-roofed 3 areas and straightened most of the historically preserved windows. Imagine this - in the last 30 years we have re-roofed the whole roof area, which is about 5000m² with wooden shingles!
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CnP: It's almost the area of a football pitch! Have you ever found anything peculiar or extraordinary during the works – as if a greeting from the past?

U.G.E.: During the painting of the courtyard, we discovered a date of 1600, which indicates the completion of works under Georg Graf Fugger. Also the roofers found old wooden shingles with inscriptions of the craftsmen from the 1960s. Now we know that the life span of the roof is about 60 years. Otherwise, the house is already very well documented by my grandfather, who wrote a scientific book about it.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: How many people does the castle employ and what do they do?

U.G.E.: We have 8 annual employees, secretariat and administration, tourism operation, a janitor, cleaning and forestry. In addition, there are some part-time employees for the tourism operation, but they are employed only seasonally - the castle is open for tourists from Easter to early November every year.
Emperor Maximilian's bedroom
CnP: How do you interact with locals – having such a beautiful tourist attraction should be a win-win situation for you and them, shouldn't it?

U.G.E.: By opening the castle and offering tours, we also enable locals to enjoy the beautiful castle and experience it with their families, guests and visitors. The castle grounds with its beautiful meadows and forest are open to the public who enjoy walking here. We always offer special tours, our guides show you around the rooms, which are otherwise not accessible to the public.
Photo credits: @Tanja Valerien
CnP: Your castle is a great example of a late Gothic and Renaissance palace and it looks absolutely perfect from the outside, it has such an impressive roof and spired towers. I know that the castle still boasts the authentic furnishing. How was it possible to preserve it?

U.G.E.: Most of the furnishings date from the time of the builders and were listed almost completely in an inventory by Jakob III Fugger in 1589. The parlors and chambers are furnished as if the owners of the time had just left them. The frescoes in the Habsburg Hall are also original from 1508 and depict the family tree of Emperor Maximilian I. The well-recorded and preserved furnishings of the castle are a great rarity.
Habsburger Hall, a spacious ballroom with Emperor Maximilian's family tree painted on the walls
CnP: You and your family live at Tratzberg now, which parts of the castle do you love most of all and why?

U.G.E.: I love the historical rooms of brothers Veit-Jakob and Simon Tänzl, who built the castle in the XVI century. They are on the 2nd floor. My wife admires the garden, which she enjoys as much as possible throughout the year (until the winter months come). And of course we all love our private area, I feel undisturbed there.
Emperor Maximilian's bedroom. Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher


CnP: Do you have a family museum and what is the most precious item there?

U.G.E.: We do not have it but we do exhibit very personal family mementos in the castle, such as the christening robe that Empress Maria-Theresia sewed from her husband's coronation robe for her godchild, Count Franz Enzenberg. Our children were also baptized in this christening robe. We also have 68 personal letters from the empress to her friend, who was Countess Enzenberg. We show them in the castle, as well as private guest books.
CnP: I know that you keep a South Tyrolean cupboard made for the castle of Reifenstein, which used to belong to the Teutonic order. What's the story?

U.G.E.: This cabinet was found completely broken in the attic of the Deutschhaus in Sterzing (which has always had close ties with the Teutonic order) by Count Franz Enzenberg. He then had it restored by a parish sacristan, who was obviously also a skilled carpenter. Around 1860, this cabinet came to Tratzberg and is today certainly one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture in the house.
CnP: Could you tell me a little known fact from the history of the castle, which one would not find in history books?

U.G.E.: About 300 years ago, a massive mudslide descended on the castle and is said to have shifted the entire roof truss of the north wing. It is also said that there used to be an underground passage leading from the castle, all the way under the Inn River, to the other side of the valley. However, we have not yet found any evidence of this.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: A castle like yours is normally associated with various legends. Would you tell me a legend about Tratzberg?

U.G.E.: I like the legend of the Fugger dog. The dog was so intelligent that he was sent to the village to do shopping. But one day the dog was attacked by other dogs, which then ate away his stock, and the Fugger dog… joined in! Since then, people used to say: "he does it like the Fugger dog".
Photo credits: @Torsten Muelhbacher
CnP: What a clever dog! What about your castle ghosts? Are there still restless souls of tortured"witches" or former lords wandering the dungeons of the castle?

U.G.E.: My grandfather joked that "where there's an Enzenberg, there's no ghost!" He was wrong about that, because on the one hand many Enzenbergs were very literary, even philosophical, and on the other hand our daughter, who was four years old at the time, repeatedly saw a ghost that also frightened her. She always said, "the dead woman should go away." But at some point she discovered a painting in the house and was sure to have recognized "the woman" in it.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muelhbacher
U.G.E.: However, it was a very feminine looking bachelor, a Count Tannenberg, who died at the age of 17. My mother-in-law also claims to have seen a ghost on her first night in Tratzberg, but described it differently. Likewise, there was a nanny who swore she saw a man at a window and at first she thought we had a guest. My wife and I, however, have never encountered a single ghost.
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CnP: So, your grandfather was right, wasn't he!? What's the story with a lazy knight who preferred to have a nap instead of going to a mass?

U.G.E.: Well, it was a knight who skipped mass on Sundays. The devil thought that he stood a good chance ofseizing the knight's soul, since he had no divine protection, and dragged him through the barred windows. The traces of blood are allegedly still visible on the outer wall.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muelhbacher
CnP: Sounds like a proper motivation not to be lazy bones! You offer a lot of activities to your guests – one of the most striking is the immersive VR tour of the castle! I've talked to many castle owners across Europe and you are the only one I know to offer such experience (although one German castle has a Tesla charger!) How did you come across this idea, which unites the past and the present?

U.G.E.: Twenty-eight years ago my wife Katrin had an idea to write the history of the house as a radio play, voiced by actors, to make the tour entertaining and also to bridge different languages. We now offer the castle tour in 9 languages, all spoken by native-speakers. She also wrote a fairy tale audio tour for children. These tours were very successful but they had been running for a long time.
U.G.E.: So it was high time we had implemented something new again and that's when we became aware of a museum in Bruges that offered a virtual reality tour of the medieval city. We liked it so much that we decided to show the construction of the house through VR as well. We worked with a castle researcher to create plans of what the old castle complex, which burned down in 1492, looked like and, based on this, visitors today can virtually watch the old castle go up in flames, find themselves on the construction site in the 1500s and experience how the new castle palace is being built.
U.G.E.: This is definitely a very exciting way to be there as history is being written. Guests even get to fly virtually over the castle in a hot air balloon! An absolutely unique experience! And mind you - we also have a charging station for electric cars on our visitors parking!
CnP: Which parts of the castle are open for your guests?

U.G.E.: The historical, furnished living rooms on the first floor of the south wing, the house church, the hunting hall, the armory and the Renaissance courtyard. In total there are 10 rooms open to public. We also organize special tours, which show you around the apartment of Emperor Maximilian and the rooms of the Tänzl brothers who built the castle.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: You don't offer accommodation – why? A lot of tourists would love to spend a night in the castle and have this unforgettable experience!

U.G.E.: We simply don't have enough adjoining rooms. We would have to build more bathrooms and that would only be possible with considerable interventions. In this case we could think about starting a hotel. But who knows - perhaps everything will change under the care of the next generations...
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: Let's talk about wine since wine tasting is a great time passing too – which wines do you produce and what's the source of pride for you?

U.G.E.: The wines are made by my brother at the Manincor winery on Lake Caldaro in South Tyrol and have been purely organic for many years and are even grown biodynamically. We are particularly proud to have such a good winery in the family. At wine tastings, which are offered here in our beautiful Renaissance courtyard, we treat our guests with our family wine of course.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: Do you organize medieval festivals or re-enactment knight jousting?

U.G.E.: No, unfortunately we don't. The terrain is not suitable for this. We lack the level space. But there are such venues in the immediate vicinity, for example at Kufstein Fortress.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: What is your strongest emotion linked with the castle?

U.G.E.: To see myself in the ancestral line striving to be allowed to preserve this jewel makes me both awestruck and proud. Also, my family and I are the first generation in over 500 years of history, to live in the castle all year round. That, too, is a special feeling.
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
CnP: Which Austrian (or European) castle do you find beautiful - apart from Tratzberg of course?

U.G.E.: Austria has so many beautiful castles. Take a look at Clam Castle or Hochosterwitz, Churburg in South Tyrol and Burg Eltz in Germany. It is very difficult to name only a few examples.
CnP: Finally, my traditional question to all castle owners – what would you tell those who are dreaming about buying a rundown medieval property to restore it?

U.G.E.: I would say: keep your hands off it!
Photo credits: @Torsten Muehlbacher
We very much hope that you loved the story shared by Count Ulrich Goess-Enzenberg, the owner of Schloss Tratzberg in Austria's Tyrol.

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Photo credits: Schloss Tratzberg, Torsten Muehlbacher, Tanja Valerien

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