Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fleurig 2009 and the most beautiful castle in Holland, Kasteel De Haar

This summer has been quite busy for us, well, most especially for me. I have a lot of catching up to do for this blog. Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to post all the places I have been to. So I’m backlogged a bit but couldn’t help posting tonight what I did today!

Blondine and I went to Kasteel De Haar in Haarzuilens, Utrecht, which in my opinion is the most beautiful and fairy tale-like castle in the Netherlands. There was also an event there called Fleurig 2009, a fair dedicated to outdoor living and gardening. Booth stands bidding gorgeous flowers and plants, landscape design services, garden furniture and even culinaire were there for visitors to enjoy.

(Full screen to view fotos or make sure both fotos are beside each other)

Castle De Haar in Neo Gothic design built ca. 1200 and restored just 100 years ago by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. The castle is currently under renovation until 2011.

The castle taken from the Rose Garden and next foto is the castle by the main entrance. Website of the castle: Kasteel De Haar and click here for an Aerial view of the castle

This is the courtyard garden in front of the main entrance of the castle which is littered with stands for the Fleurig fair. Next foto is the only foto I have of the castle inside - a statue and the ceiling of a small foyer by the main entrance. If you think this vaulted ceiling (they are made of small bricks, the first time I saw such construction) is grand, just imagine the rest of the rooms.

The weather was terrible though; cold and windy. It rained the whole day! ARGH, the sun only shone after 4PM when we were about to leave? Nevertheless, that didn’t discourage us a bit. We briefly checked the exhibitors then we had a tea break, something that we are looking forward to. With this awful weather, a warm cup of tea is what we need!

Now, our main agenda for the day was the castle. It is currently undergoing a much needed face lift so there isn’t much to see during the tour. It is forbidden to take fotos and videos inside the castle but I sneaked a foto of the ceiling in the entrance lobby.

Outside, the castle is not quite suitable for outdoor photography as there are many undesirable objects scattered around being used for the ongoing work. I had to improvise a little bit with my shots and managed to take a couple of postcard-like shots of the castle from the gardens.

Here are more fotos of the castle... the far right foto with the towers and the coat of arms is the castle's main gate.

Here’s a bit of history...

This stunning neo gothic castle was built during the 1200’s by the prominent van de Haar family. In the 1400’s the castle became the property of the van Zuylen family through marriage however during the medieval centuries, because of war the castle fell into neglect and destruction. Sometime in the 1800’s, the castle was passed on to a distant relative of the van Zuylen family but due to its poor state which means investing a lot of money into it to bring the castle back to its former glory, the castle remained derelict. There is not enough money to spend on it.

In 1890, Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt inherited the castle from his father. Still, the fact remains that the castle would need major funding to undergo its needed restoration. Luck arrived in the form of marriage; he married a Rothschild. Money is not anymore an issue!

During the reconstruction of the castle, van Zuylen hired the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, the man behind the beautiful Amsterdam Centraal Station and the Rijksmuseum. When you enter the castle you can clearly see Cuypers fingerprints, the high royal ceiling of the inner courtyard which looks like the twin ceiling of the lobby of the Amsterdam Centraal Station (which currently is under renovation and is taking ages!) being the most obvious of his style that stood out of them all.

It’s a pity that fotos were not allowed inside the castle because the interior is just amazingly beautiful. I have seen quite a many castles in my lifetime and this one is indeed one of the most luxurious and grand I have ever seen so far. There is attention to detail, in the main drawing room the walls were covered with dark grey velvet with embossed designs. The ceiling in this room is a wonder too because it renders a slanted look however it is simply a play on the eye. In reality, the ceilings are leveled. The tour guide muttered something about having to do with the 5-corners thus the effect of the ceiling appearing slanted.

Another detail worth noting in many rooms are the daggers hanging on the sides of the ceilings. These are called ‘spookvangers’ (ghost catchers). You know, back in those days, even prominent families in the society believe in ghosts, lol. It’s said that these daggers hanging from the ceiling will catch the robes of the ghosts when they fly about in the evening and at the break of dawn when the captured ghosts are exposed to daylight, they wither away and die. Now that is a real fairy-tale story!

The serene nature surroundings of the castle... a wooden little bridge and you can even enjoy a little boat ride too.

This part of the castle estate (by the main entrance gate) is where the horses were once bred and housed.

Nowadays, the castle is a museum and is open for the public and organized events. Since 2000 the whole estate is owned by the De Haar Foundation however the art and valuable pieces inside the castle are still under the ownership of the van Zuylen van Nijevelt family. These are currently being loaned to the De Haar Foundation as part of a contract.

The castle is open throughout the year except the whole month of September when the family of the current Baron Thierry van Zuylen van Nijevelt comes over to stay in the castle for a month. The van Zuylen van Nijevelt family has perpetual rights to stay in the castle for a month every year and it is the tradition to do so every September. Tour guide told us that the family would flew in their kitchen and housekeeping crew from France for the whole duration of their stay.

Blondine and I however were wondering if the housekeeping staff flies in new mattresses for the four poster bed in the Heren Kamer (Male’s room which is the Baron’s room, and also for the other bedrooms) because the current mattresses sure look a 100 years old.

More fotos of the Fleurig fair... lots of gorgeous flowers and plants for sale!

More fotos of the fair... Weather Station, a funny one if you can read Dutch. I would change Orkaan there with 'Diefstal'! Middle foto - built to order wooden statues, and lastly, Portuguese culinary delights on sale. The owner was Portuguese because he spoke Dutch with a very thick accent.

Mouth watering Italian fares, they are going for €6 each, not bad for such culinary delight. I think this baker specializing in Italian breads can be found in the Boerenmarkt of Amsterdam - got his postcard because I might go there to buy some more. There were many stands selling garden curious and accessories.

More fotos can be found here: Kasteel De Haar, Haarzuilens, Utrecht - The Netherlands

After the castle tour, we hit the fair stands again and bought some irresistible gastronomic goodies: Dutch cheese with herbs and tomato (YUMMY!), Catalan Salchicon dried sausage and savory Italian quiche-looking breads (I don’t know their Italian names though) and I bought the one with tomatoes, capers and anchovies on it.

I was also eyeing 2 big wooden candle wind lamps but someone else was quicker, there was only 1 left of the design I liked. I passed because it’s nicer to have them in pairs. Then we saw beautiful and soft cashmere throws in paisley designs with woolen fibers sticking out (quite unique) displayed on another stand. We tried them on and voila, they looked perfect so bought them instead. It’s a woman thing I know!

So now that we are happy with our purchases, the castle tour and how our day went, we drove to nearby pretty Haarzuilens village for a glass of wine and some cheese. It’s time to kick off our heels and relax.

Visit Period: July 2009
Destination: Haarzuilens (Vleuten - Utrecht), The Netherlands

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