Castles in the Netherlands 18 – Kasteel Valkenburg

Kasteel Valkenburg  from Cauberg / Image from Wikipedia

The Dutch Wikipedia article about Valkenburg calls this castle the only “hoogteburch” in the Netherlands, i.e., the only real castle on a sort of height or hill, the sort found so often elsewhere in Europe, but not in this land of plains.

The town itself is found near Maastricht in the far south of the Netherlands, in the province of Limburg, which is like a wedge between N-E Belgium and Germany, almost precisely between Genk and Aachen (or just as near Liège if you like). The main road from Maastricht takes a motorist in an almost straight line (over the famous Cauberg) to the town, which can also be approached from there by train.

As I first cycled from Valkenburg to Oude-Valkenburg to visit the castles there, I came back in the valley of the Geul and first saw Berkelpoort, a part of the old town walls:P1140085To the left of these gates, we can already see some of the castle itself, towering above the town,P1140084from where stone steps lead up the hill among nice marl rocks, which partly gave the material to the walls of the castle from the 11th to the 17th century. It is a beautiful path but not really worth climbing as the castle cannot be accessed through the little gate up there, only after climbing downstairs and turning right again, missing most of the town.P1140091P1140090Better walk through the busy Grotestraat from Berkelpoort (above),P1140095make some plans about what else to see later and then head towards Grendelpoort,P1140096from where, keeping left, it’s real easy to reach the entrance to the castle. There are enough steps to climb here, but there’s also a huge new lift to take up those needing it.

Above, one arrives on a nice plateau with a restaurant and lots of room for sitting outside, and this terrace also provides great views of the town, first over Grendelpoort of course:P1140098 From here the visitor has a wonderful view of the outside of the inner castle:P1140100It is only here that we have to pay an entrance fee to the inner castle as everything is free up to this point. Then a long walk takes us around in two directions, both leading to further steps inside.P1140101P1140102.JPGThere’s a very good view, complete with Belkerpoort, over the inner city towards the north from these walls:P1140103.JPGThen we can visit what has remained of the former palace buildings after the French blew it up in the Dutch War in 1762: the chapel, the knights’ hall and some more.P1140107P1140112.JPGP1140108.JPGP1140109.JPGIn a corner of the knights’ hall, we can wonder why there are two such a huge piles of raw column basalt in the corner. But we can understand soon …P1140113.JPGFirst we may circle the area to have further views, for example towards the quarries and the Wilhelminatoren, which can be reached by cablecar as well as on foot.P1140116.JPGP1140114.JPGThen on towards the southern side of the palace remains:P1140117.JPGP1140120.JPGAnd it’s here that we can understand the huge columns of basalt:P1140122.JPGthat is, they were used for strengthening the inside of that walls as the outer surfaces of marl may not be strong enough to withstand attacks. They were now used for reconstructing some of the old walls of course.

From here we can look around the area towards the Casino on top of the Cauberg:

then we can head back into the palace to look around once again

before heading back to town. Enjoy your stay in Valkenburg!P1140123.JPGIf you are cycling, you can climb Cauberg instead of staying – but be prepared for a real steep climb. Afterwards, however, it’s real fast downhill to Maastricht, almost directly to the station to catch your train.P1140124.JPG

by P.S.

 

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Castles in the Netherlands 17 – Kasteel Schaloen and Genhoes

P1140045This little castle (seen here only above the roof of its outhouse from the main road) stands just outside the little village of Oud Valkenburg near Valkenburg, a nice little town in Brabant, a short drive from Maastricht, in the Netherlands. While it can’t be visited inside, the building is beautiful enough for us to give it a look on a day out when the weather is good. It can easily be reached by bike as well, and it’s a good walk from Valkenburg as well near/across some nice forest. The creek the Kleine Geul also provides a nice background along the way.P1140074Along the back road and following path, there are a few other places to be used or visited: tennis courts, a football field, another old building complex houses and old people’s home, then, above on the hill, there is also a nice old house called De Kluis. I didn’t have enough time to walk up there, so I went on around the castle.P1140051P1140052Of course it is more impressive from the south, the direction of the entrance across from the moat. The buildings to the left contain the holiday homes.P1140055P1140056P1140057A little walk across the gatehouse, which is not a nice brasserie, takes us to the castle to the right and the old outhouses to the left, where one can stay the night.P1140059P1140061P1140062Unfortunately, one can’t join the people lunching on the entrance terrace of the castle, nor visit, but sitting down for a bear or meal outside the brasserie in this neighbourhood still is a nice programme.P1140064

I have also made a little video around there, you can see it here or below.

Those a bit more nosey could also look at another old castle from the corner of the path around the former: Kasteel Genhoes.P1140053The old name means “The House”. Unfortunately, this can only be seen from the outside too and can’t be walked around, even though it has a moat around too, but the area is completely private. It can be approached to the left of the path connecting the Schaloen to the main road and then taking the first to the left again.P1140067P1140071P1140070No entry! But we can peek. Somebody has some nice big space there.P1140069

by P.S.

Castles in the Netherlands – part 16: Kasteel Duurstede and Huis Doorn

Last weekend I managed to make my next trip and went to see these two places near Utrecht, beginning with Duurstede. The nearest train station is at Culemborg, which is on a side-track for slow trains from Utrecht to Tiel, or another one from Arnhem, but that was fine as I like cycling to my final destinations. On the way, you have to cross a small river, the Lek, or take the long cycling route directly from Utrecht. Of course it’s simpler by car.

Wijk bij Duurstede, as the place is called, is a small town with two little churches very close to each other that we see coming from the road near the river, the Nederrijn (not directly from Utrecht) …P1130001and a very nice, working windmill, which can be visited insideP1130028 and some of the very nicest boat houses I’ve ever seenP1130029The town looks otherwise very pretty too P1130005but the main attraction is surely the castle, which is, oddly enough, rarely accessible to the public. It is usually rented out for events and, in between, it is closed. It is one rare ruin, as most castles are in good conditions and are occupied, or almost disappeared. But this one has one tower intact, another partially intact and walls almost completely ruined but with enough to give one an idea.P1130010P1130012P1130013However, I was lucky enough to arrive on a day when there was no big event but a nice little concert in the garden, and so the towers were open. It’s completely free to look inside and you can have a feeling of how small feast are catered for. P1130015 From above, the view is really nice over the restaurant and the moatP1130020the other tower, where I didn’t enter for the small exhibitionP1130021 and over the townP1130022Here is a song from the concert under the tent, with people enjoying the atmosphere, some snacks and drinks.

P1130027After such a pleasant place I rode further to Huis Doorn, which was the last dwelling place of the German Kaiser in the Netherlands after WWI. The entrance is next to the road, can’t be mistakenP1130031and the park around the house is really huge, complete with an Orangery and various romantic routes. The house, however, is a real let-down, not only because of its puritanic structure, which soon reveals that, other than the front side, it is nothing special at all.P1130037P1130040The real disappointment is that, for the orbital price of €12, one could only see a few rooms furnished as in the few years of the Kaiser’s stay, relics of the emperor and practically nothing else. I decided not to enter but have a drink in the restaurant. Still, a nice day.P1130044If somebody cycles this far, the nearest railway station is at Driebergen/Zeist, which means that the route can be pedalled through backwards starting there.

by P.S.

Castles in the Netherlands 15 -Kasteel Amerongen

P1110807Amerongen is situated in the heart of the Netherlands, on the border of the Province of Utrecht with Gelderland. It is easy to approach by car, but without a car, one has to take the train to Utrecht, or Veenendaal-De Klomp, and cycle from one of them. I chose De Klomp, so I cycled across Veenendaal, then kilometers of beautiful autumnal forests of Het Amerongse Bos, one of the oldest forests in Utrecht, which goes back to 1770. P1110800P1110796The Kasteel is actually no castle at all in the classical sense. Though it was build about 700 years ago, the French burned it to the ground in 1673 after the owners failed to pay the required fire tax. As a result of the rebuilding by the owners not much later, the present palace is a Dutch classicist ‘Huys’, as they often also call it.P1110856It lies on a large area of 10 ha, most of which is a beautiful park of huge trees, the rest has a charming garden (if one likes the French style) and waterways where people can rent canoes to discover it from surface level.P1110858P1110854P1110805P1110806P1110812As a building, it fails to impress but the most enthusiastic visitor. However, thanks to its history and well-preserved inside, it is worth the fee of €10, which is in fact the highest out of all castles I’ve visited so far.P1110815P1110816P1110855P1110817Not only were the owners high-class noblemen, but they made sure the interior is left as it was in 1977, when they gave over the estate to a foundation to open it to the public. It is thus quite likely that some of the furniture was used by the German Kaizer, Wilhelm II, when he abdicated the German throne, asked for asylum and lived here for 1.5 years from November 1918, before he moved over to nearby Huis Doorn. The interior is one of the most original a simple visitor to such places can ever find. Fortunately, one does not have to wait for guided tours either.P1110818P1110820P1110825P1110819P1110821P1110822P1110823P1110826P1110827P1110828P1110829P1110830P1110831P1110837P1110839P1110846P1110847The huge central hall upstairs is suitable for concerts by local amateur choruses, which was also taking place at the time of my visit.P1110849P1110850P1110841P1110853P1110852Opposite the ‘house’, the pub-restaurant is a nice place to enjoy time before or after seeing the building or the surroundings.P1110851From this point, the old church tower is also impressive just outside the complex.P1110857P1110803Kasteel Amerongen is definitely a place worth visiting for its mix of history, interior and nature surrounding it.P1110859

by P.S.

Castles in the Netherlands 14 – Kasteel Heeswijk, in Brabant

A very romantic little castle indeed, with a simultaneous presence of various styles added over the centuries. While the first parts originally stood there in the 11th century, there’s nothing to show for that, various styles from the Renaissance are detectable.I t spelt roles in Dutch history at various points. After several leaders of the Dutch republic and kingdom, the ‘Sun King’ resided there, and a French general also used it as his centre in Napoleonic times.

Although it lies near Den Bosch, in the small village of Heeswijk-Dinther, it is difficult to approach, and impossible by train. Due to roadworks in the neighbourhood, I even found it difficult to get there by bike, but the entrance fee of €7.5, guided tour included, is worth the time and effort. A real gem of a place. Hope you can enjoy it too.

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Of course, the guidance in the tour has its disadvantages, but, unlike in a previous castle, the guide didn’t force all the windows close immediately so taking photos was less of a problem here, only a drag as the guide was talking for ages about one historical – mostly of tertiary interest – figure in the paintings after another. At least I was allowed to wonder in the meantime.

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In one room, interesting armour was exhibited, even complete with Excalibur …

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The “Chinese room” was unfortunately behind glass

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Nowhere before have I seen Chinaware on the ceiling …

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It was time to leave after more than an hour and a half. A great place.

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by P.S.

Castles in the Netherlands 13 – Slot Zuylen

This relatively small and nicely rebuilt palace is easy to reach near Utrecht and has a number of nice features to it.

P1110421P1110423Yes, that dark line is a snaking wall, with a lot of fruit trees on its inner side facing South, soon to be reached …

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On the positive side, the garden and park, which are also quite small, are very beautiful especially with the wide variety of flowers blossoming there even in mid-September.

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And here we are at the snake-wall.

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In the middle of the 18th century, this was the living place of the later Isabelle de Charrière, better known as Belle de Zuylen, until she became 31 and married the Swiss teacher of her brother. A person of very wide and deep interests and secret studies, she was a forerunner of emancipated women of much later and an author of many learned works written in French. She is one of the main attractions of the palace, which was somewhat rebuilt after her departure.

However, a visit inside is a bit cumbersome as it is only possible as part of a guided tour every hour. My guide was always in a hurry to close the boards inside the windows after her explanations, making taking good photos very difficult with so many in the group, but another guide may not be so hasty.

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Otherwise, period furniture and clothing mean mainly the 18th or 19th century here. Paintings on the walls are huge in size and numbers, but are only of members of earlier families owning the place except for an older triptych and a really huge tapestry in this room.

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This is where the budding ‘writeress’ wrote her letters to her forbidden and much older love, James Boswell, who, by the way, has the language institute of Utrecht University named after him (this is no ad for them, I hardly liked their Dutch language course when I attended).

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By the way, guiding is possible in English as I heard another one, but I guess that was a small, special group. My guide was quite lengthy and uninteresting for me in Dutch, which was a bit of a let-down for the entrance fee of €8.5. Still, some nice pieces and the garden outside make it a nice place to visit, if not necessarily inside.

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by P.S.

 

Castles in the Netherlands 12 – Batenburg and Hernen

Getting to Batenburg is a bit difficult from the direction of ‘s Hertogenbosch as you’d have to drive back towards Nijmegen across bridges and then back. If you come by bike, this is a very beautiful view of the village from across the Mouse.

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The white structure hardly seen a bit closer from the church tower is the ferry that takes you across the water – if you’re on foot or by bicycle …

From all directions, there are only small country roads you wouldn’t expect in this country of motorways/freeways. On top of this, unless you’ve seen this picture somewhere, you’d be in for a surprise.

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Yes, the castle must have been impressive a few hundred years ago, but not much more is left than the walls seen below. Here I can let you have a look at a few views in rainy weather.

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The upside is, you don’t have to pay a penny to see everything worth seeing.

Quite unlike in Hernen.

Hernen looks like a castle worth seeing. One of the oldest in the Netherlands, you’d really like to see what it was like so long ago.

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Unfortunately, the most interesting thing to see was a birthday party behind those open ground-floor doors, and of course, if you haven’t been invited, you’re not to see it, as I was made aware by a huge man by an inside door. I already became aware earlier that although the Dutch are very-very friendly almost everywhere, they are utterly territorial and what is theirs, or what they’ve paid for, is completely out-of-reach by others. So I was told that !this was a private affair, so …! I asked back, “So what?”, which lead to a rather hazy look and the person mumbled, so to make sure you don’t come in … I was half his size, no threat at all, yet he wanted to see me out of the building. Even then, I said yes, fine, but I’m not leaving the way you want me to. I’d paid for seeing the whole building after all, not a little.

The price for the whole building is €7.50. Considering that it is almost completely empty, I was left wondering what the curious visitor is paying for. Even the old walls are thin, make you understand why the castle of Batenburg is in ruins: thin walls of brick need only to be pushed a bit more strongly than by hand and they topple. See for yourself.

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They say the wooden structure of the towers is still original …

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but is this enough reason to fork out that entrance fee?

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Even with the nice view, comparing to other castles, my answer is a resounding NO. A light walk around the buildings is all it is worth. You can decide for yourself though.

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Good luck and enjoy.

By P.S.