Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kasteel Groeneveld: a hidden gem for walkers, hikers, bikers, et al

We had a rain check on our Friesland trip and since I was not in the mood to go all the way to Hattem for the Dikke Tine festival, I consulted my Dutch travel booklets; 2 of which I personally bought, 1 given to me by the Dutch sister. It’s been a while since we walked in the forest or in the plain fields, so I searched for a nice place nearby where a good combination of tea, a nature park and walking routes are abundant.

So half an hour later we arrived in Eemnes, a very pleasant village with horses grazing on the wide open fields and traditional horse carriages galloping the narrow cobbled streets lined with trees. We searched for the Tea House that was recommended on my travel booklet but helaas we couldn’t find it. I vaguely remember now but it did say that the place is not easy to find with a GPS as it is adequately hidden from the road, and with a grumbling Dutchman beside me, this surely is not a great combination. OK, as time was running out and we so desperately want our bums to get moving, we gave up looking for the Tea House, but I promised to go there another time.

With my Nokia Navigator GPS, we searched for alternative “attractions” in the area and one of the suggestions that came up was Kasteel Groeneveld which is just 3 kilometers away. Great, pronto, we will go there!

Kasteel Groeneveld was built in 1710 as a summer house. Amsterdammers who became rich by trading in Asia (Golden Age, colonial period, VOC, spices et al) bought land in Utrecht and in 't Gooi area to build their summer houses, away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam.

The Ministy of Environment, Food and Agriculture now owns the whole estate. The castle is open to the public for a fee, exhibitions and many other types of events are held here too, there is a museum and a Grand Cafe in the basement.

Dutchman and I didn't know that Landgoed Groeneveld is part of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug until we saw this sign. I look very autum-ish here because its not really warm outside anymore. Goodbye summer!

I’ll have to say that I am so glad we went because Kasteel Groeneveld is a hiker’s paradise. Wow, the place is so tranquil and beautiful!

The nature and garden surroundings in the estate are well designed and very well maintained in French and English landscape styles. This is definitely one of the best estates in the country with walking and biking routes that I’ve been to so far. The visit was really worth it.

Most estates in the Netherlands are open to the public because a lot of them are castles that were sold to the government or to some type of not-for-profit organization while others are still manned by their landowners who have opened the estate partly to the public so they pay lower taxes. A good example of this is the mansions dotting along the Vecht River in Utrecht all the way to North Holland.

The castle grounds offer really nice walking paths.... under the trees with lakes on the sides and wide open spaces through the green fields.

Now this is a very countryside foto! There are actually cows at my back and you will see them if you check them at my Multipy foto album. The straight line of trees flanking on both sides of a walking path is so typically Dutch in design.

I asked Dutchman what's the purpose of those lone trees in the middle. He said its for the animals to sit under for shade when its too hot to bear. He added that there is always a purpose to most things. It can't be that someone just planted those trees because it would look nice. Alright, that's the utilitarian Dutch speaking in him.

If you ever come here, follow the Wijnenberg walking route and you'll come across this breathtaking view of the lake from the hill (there is a hill here!) and on top there are benches to sit and relax while listening to the breeze and the birds tweeting. When you exit at the back you will see a glorious expanse of land, so beautiful you'd want to stare at it for hours. The sun was setting and was against our direction so I couldn't really take a foto of the field (it's a glaring sheath of white on my camera) but did so on the corner that leads back to the castle.

More fotos can be found here: Kasteel Groeneveld - Utrecht, The Netherlands

The castle was built in 1710 by Marcus Mamochet as a summer house, away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. Through the years, the castle estate has had many private landlords until 1940 when the government took control. Currently, the Ministry of Environment, Food and Agriculture (LNV – Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit) owns the whole estate.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit the castle. It closes at 5PM, same as the Grand Café in the basement where visitors can have a cup of tea. We however took some fotos of the castle outside but it was late in the afternoon and the light coming against our direction is causing my camera to shy away.

Kasteel Groeneveld is located in Baarn, Utrecht near the A1 highway. Website is www dot kasteelgroeneveld dot nl.


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