On the history of the “Oberortlhof“
Oberortl lies at the foot of Juval Castle, on the edge of a hillside of Schnalstal. The names of the farms Unterortl and Oberortl refer to where they are situated as “Ortl” used to mean the beginning or end of a valley. The first documented mention of the Oberortl farm dates from the year 1331.
The history of the farm is inseperable from that of Juval Castle. In 1278 the castle was owned by Hugo von Montalban. It is assumed that he constructed the castle. We only find out about the characteristics and the appearance of the castle in 1540 from Hans Sinkmoser’s initial statements when he purchased the castle. He redesigned the castle on a grand scale making it blossom under his ownership. This unfortunately did not last long, as in 1581 Sinkmoser’s sons were forced to give it back to the Prince Regant. He in turn let it out to Graf Hendl von Goldrain.
There is little mention of the castle over the course of the following 17th and 18th centuries. It appears once again in records of its sale to Graf Johann Hendl an den Bauern Blaas in 1813.
The Blaas family however let it fall into disrepair and built two farm houses next to it. To do this they used a large quantity of building material from the castle which had become uninhabitable and abandoned. When the Blaas family sold the castle in 1913 to W. R. Rowland it gained a new lease of life.
W. R. Rowland began to repair the castle, which was well on its way to becoming a ruin, during which time he lived with his family at Oberortlhof which he had bought not long before. Shortly after the castle was made once more inhabitable the Rowlands finally moved in. The head gardener lived at Oberortl in the Gärtnerhäuschen, or gardener’s little house. He grew the first Caville apple orchard in the larger neighbouring garden in the southern part of the grounds.
The farm for its part was connected to the upper area of the castle by a feeder cable railway. All sorts of farms products were transported up to the castle in this way and were prepared up there. This meant they did not have to be carried up the steep and stony Lottersteig path.
The Rowland family were practically self supporting thanks to the large farming enterprise at Oberortlhof. The farm owned on average 8-10 milking cows, 35-40 pigs and sheep, 600-700 hens, as well as all sorts of fruit and vegetables.
The lord of the castle also bought additional Speck, smoked sausages, bread and potatoes from the surrounding farms.
In 1923 a goods cable lift was built between Staben and Juval. At the valley station the lord of the castle loaded his products into a delivery cart, took them to Meran and delivered them to various hotels.
The highest quality Calville apples were at the time packed into small wooden boxes and sent abroad, often to Indonesia. This sending of goods to foreign countries attracted many visitors in return. Thanks to his knowledge of languages and his diverse relationships Rowland was able to build up connections with the entire civilised world. Well known people from all over the world and of all skin colours were guests here in its heyday and connoisseurs from all over the world visited the castle.
During the two second world wars Italian prisoners of war, an SS troop unit and a clothing warehouse for the armed forces were all housed in the castle.
Up until 1947 the children of the Juval farms had to go to school in Staben. An elderly citizen can still recall today the exertion and the experience of this long hard journey to school. They even returned home at lunch time, only to set off straight away at a run after having eaten.
From 1947 to 1967 a mountain school comprised of one class was housed at Oberortlhof. An existing room was set up as a makeshift classroom. All the children aged 6-14 years from the Juval farms met here for their lessons. The learning success was highly dependent on the pedagogical skills of the teacher. It was a great challenge for each teacher to successfully convey the learning objectives to all classes.
In 1953 Rowland’s widow sold her property in Juval to the engineer Dr Koltzner from Meran. As the castle once again fell into disrepair the Oberortl farm was abandoned.
In 1983 the hour of salvation arrived for the castle and Oberortlhof. They were given a new lease of life after Reinhold Messner purchased the castle and farmlands.
The new owner: Reinhold Messner
Reinhold Messner, born in South Tyrol in 1944, climbed his first three thousand metre high mountain, accompanied by his father, when he was just 5 years old. After studying engineering he worked as a middle school teacher for a short time before he committed himself completely to mountain climbing. A life which consisted of pushing the boundaries followed. Since 1969 he has undertaken more than a hundred journeys up mountains and across the deserts of this planet. He has written four dozen books. He succeeded on many first climbs, climbed all 14 eight thousand metre high mountains as well as the seven summits, crossed the Antarctic as well as the Gobi and Takla Makan deserts and traversed the length of Greenland. In contrast to modern adventurers breaking the records did not mean much to Reinhold Messner, for him it was more about being set out in almost completely untouched landscapes and having as little equipment as possible. He followed Ablert Frederick Mummery’s so called “by fair means” at Nanga Parbat, Fridtjof Nansen’s “call of the north“ in the Artic’s pack ice and crossed the Antarctic across the South Pole following Ernest Henry Shackleton’s idea. The age of communication was in conflict with the fact he undertook his journeys on foot and he did without oxygen masks and satellite telephones – an anachronism perhaps but one which allowed true exploration of the inexhaustable experiences that the wilderness had to offer. When he is not travelling Reinhold Messner lives with his family in Meran and in Juval Castle where he runs the mountain farmyards, writes and develops museum concepts. He is highly sought after world wide by mountaineers, people in the tourist industry and business leaders as a TV commentator as well as to give speeches. Following his mandate as an EU delegate Reinhold Messner can now devote himself to his Messner Mountain Museum project as well as to his foundation (MMF) which supports mountain peoples world wide.