Ina Sonntag: Kartzow Castle – From an elegant manor to a stylish hotel

The region surrounding Germany’s capital boasts numerous castles and former manors. Many of them have been meticulously restored and now, as hotels, offer a stylish atmosphere for their guests. This is also true for Kartzow Castle: the former manor was first converted into a schnapps distillery, later a paediatric clinic and finally became a wedding hotel.

 

Numerous cars and lorries race through Döberitzer Heide along the A10 every day. Those who are passing Berlin on their way from Potsdam to Wustermark and rush towards their goal without making any stops will miss a true treasure typical of the March of Brandenburg. A castle lovingly restored as a hotel – an experience that is not to be missed.

The village of Kartzow is located at the edge of Döberitzer Heide, only 12 kilometres northwest of Potsdam. The history of this parish village dates back to the year 1357 and is closely linked with the “Ritter­­sitz Cartzow”, first mentioned in 1608. The manor grew and flourished until well into the 18th century. When Carl Wolf Stielow became owner of the manor in 1838, he had it converted into a “castle decorated with numerous figures”, heralding the manor’s economic bloom. However, almost the entire village and large parts of the manor were destroyed in a major fire in 1873. In 1898, the Berlin-based spirits manufacturer Arthur Gilka purchased the manor. Havelland was a traditional fruit growing region and after the Berlin distiller acquired the manor, potatoes and turnips were also cultivated. The Gilka family had already operated a prospering distillery in the south of Berlin since 1836. Its lightly sweetened “Gilka-Kümmel” was a highly popular product in Berlin at the time – and is now distributed by Underberg.

Gilka paid the respectable amount of 1.5 million Reichsmark between 1912 and 1914 to rebuild the damaged manor. The refurbishment work was based on plans by Berlin architect Eugen Schmohl, who would later also build the Borsigturm, Berlin’s first high-rise building. The result was Kartzow Castle – a representative three-winged building in baroque style with 66 rooms.

After World War II, the Red Army gave the order to demolish the manor, which could only be prevented by the fact that numerous displaced people lived in the building.
Finally, the manor was converted into a children’s hospital of the Volkssolidarität in 1949 and later, in the 1970s, became a nephrourological paediatric clinic. The latter quickly became known thanks to the professional expertise of the medical staff.

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As in numerous other cases, German reunification was followed by an initial acquisition and resale, which ultimately resulted in the vacancy of the building. The sale of the outbuildings and the two gatehouses had made Kartzow Castle unattractive from an economical perspective compared to other castles.

The castle was restored to its old glory by the Sonntag family, which acquired it in 2006. Five interested parties had to compete to convince the state of Brandenburg and the historic preservation agency with their remediation plan and development concept. Today’s concept came out on top, even though it was hard to imagine that it would be possible to restore the heavily damaged castle and rebuild it as an attractive wedding hotel radiating tastefulness and a stylish atmosphere.

It surely takes a great deal of optimism to realise such a project, but the result proved us right.
After renovating the upper floor, we were able to start the hotel business. Only shortly after, we were awarded a four-star standard hotel classification. An attractive wellness area was built in the next construction phase – without any disruptions to the ongoing hotel business.

Nowadays, our hotel enjoys an outstanding international reputation. Since the first wedding event was held in the summer of 2007, Kartzow Castle has become the go-to wedding castle in the state and beyond. Its proximity to Potsdam makes it particularly attractive for our guests. This is also why many international wedding couples come to Kartzow Castle to celebrate their wedding. All in all, we welcome about 4,000 guest per year from all over Germany, England, France, Poland, Russia and even India. And the city of Potsdam has also discovered the castle’s appeal –Kartzow Castle has been serving as an outpost of the city’s registry office for many years now.

Its excellent location, contemporary and regional cuisine and our in-house patisserie – there a many reasons why even celebrities have discovered the outstanding location. Günther Jauch, Jörg Schönbohm, Potsdam’s mayor Jann Jakobs and many more have already paid a visit – even the Federal President Joachim Gauck was a guest at the castle.
According to geologists, the village of Kartzow is built on a so-called “primordial ocean” – a stratum of sandstone with pore spaces containing water with a salt and chloride content which is ten times higher than that of the Atlantic Ocean. We are planning to tap the salt springs for our hotel and thus increase the attractiveness of our spa area.

Kartzow Castle is one of the region’s highlights. Our greatest asset, however, is our hand-picked staff. They bring our hotel to life. Behind the scenes of weddings and events, they ensure that everything turns out perfect and that our guests can look back on wonderful memories.

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The author is managing director of Schloss Kartzow GmbH & Co. KG.