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.

Giethoorn and Kampen for a short holiday

An ideal area for a couple of days’ holiday, for us beginning on May 1st, in the northern corner of the province Overijssel.

Giethoorn is a lovely little village built almost on water as the whole neighbourhood lies low among lakes and networks of channels among them. The overall impression is somewhat damaged by the fact that somehow the place has become known as the Dutch Venice so most of the inhabitants turned to serve the tourism industry. This is what awaits the visitor just off the car park.P1120687To the right you can imagine the row of restaurants and stalls of the lots of guides offering to hire out legions of small boats and barges for larger groups of tourists. But one has to cut the crowds out of the pictures (if at all possible) to see what the village should actually look like as habitation.P1120690In fact there are so many tourists that it is quite impossible to avoid them any further. Miraculously, the place has become rather well-known among the Chinese so the density of Chinese people almost matches that in popular large Chinese restaurants anywhere around the Netherlands. Notices about hiring the boats and restaurant menus are in Dutch and Chinese, not in English though the odd Italian restaurant also appears as befits a mini-Venice. But quite unlike in Venice, almost all houses have thatch roofs.P1120703P1120702P1120697P1120696The Brazilian giant rhubarb is also prevalent in the village, I’d like to see it fully grown later – it must be a spectacle.P1120706P1120712P1120718P1120738Then, when hiring boats, some people really become dangerous – beware if you are with kids.P1120743P1120746The boats for hire are battery-operated slow boats and can be taken for one or two or three hours or even more, for which tourists get a description of the route possible for that length of time. It is by hiring for at least two hours that people can get out into the nearby lake and explore nature on a sunny day.P1120756P1120764P1120763P1120768P1120773P1120774At one point there is a look-out tower. The view from there is a nice eye-opener about the area.P1120776Those intent on avoiding the crowds can opt for the area called Dwarsgracht just across the road from Giethoorn. We chose a different area with kids though.

The nearby Kempen is a completely different cup of tea. On the way there the traveller gets in among some wonderful fields of tulips.P1120779The town lies at the mouth of the river IJssel, near where it flows into the IJsselmeer. Surprisingly, it is a former Hansa town with beautiful architecture, complete with a number of bigger sailing ships moored on the quay.P1120780P1120781P1120786P1120792(Broederport)P1120795P1120797P1120798P1120799P1120800P1120804P1120806P1120807P1120809P1120810P1120812P1120816P1120819P1120822P1120823P1120824P1120825P1120826P1120828(Memorial to the Schrokkers, fishermen who were re-housed to Kampen when the island Schokland in the Zuidersee was evacuated)P1120831(No bikes here!)P1120829(the smallest house – in the Netherlands? here in Kampen for sure)P1120833

by Z.J.S. and 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 …


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 …


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.


Good luck and enjoy.

By P.S.

Castles in the Netherlands 11 – Kasteel Ammersoyen, North of ‘s Hertogenbosch

Next up in this series comes a relatively small castle North of ‘s Hertogenbosch, still in the province of Gelderland. An easily approachable castle and one of the oldest in the country from the 13th century, it has a nice content inside to see for the €8.5 entrance fee. We can opt for a walkie-talkie for a guide, otherwise, you’re given a nice folder of text with photos describing the main points of information, but the explanations on the walls are also excellent for us to get to know the history and the people behind it. Outside the summer season, it opens at 13.00, so don’t need to hurry, and, as it’s not big, it can comfortably be seen within an hour.

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The walls are extremely thick, even with the stair inside them, one can imagine the difficulty of breaking through them. The toilet in the wall can still be used, they say.

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In this room having the tapestry on the wall, one is surprised by the voices at a time when almost nobody is around. You look around and see nobody speaking. Ghosts? You look around with awe. Then you move around and find where it comes from.

The next room on the tour describes most of the history, from the beginnings through the great fire of 1590 and the time of the nunnery until the abandonment and taking over and renovations by the Friends of Gelderland Province.

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by P.S.

Castles in the Netherlands 10 – Kasteel Cannenburgh

Lying about 10 km N of Apeldoorn in Gelderland, this caste is not one of the larger ones and the ‘museumjaarkart’ is not accepted, the nicely-furbished interior makes it worth the cost of entry (€9.50).

The building is almost completely surrounded by lakes and a huge park where loitering around is completely free, unlike, e.g. in Rosendael. As usual, I started outside by circling the building from behind.

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To the left of the entrance bridge, a bronze sculpture of Field Marschall Marten van Rossem sits brooding over the time that has passed since he started building the castle in 1538.


The entrance itself is a bit unusual as we first have to go down into the basement of the castle, where the tour of the castle starts. Yes, the first darkness is the water, the floor of the basement is below that level.


At the cash-desk earlier, we get a small gadget that tells us about all interesting features of the rooms and the furniture, included in the price. Besides, there’s even a video presentation which animates a painting of Marten van Rossem himself.

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On the top floor under the roof, we can wonder about the exquisite wooden structure and here is one of the most interesting presentations for children, an animation bringing together unlikely people from two classical paintings of earlier centuries:


by P.S.

Walk around Leiden

Leiden is one of the most famous cities in the Netherlands, partly due to its university, which is by far the oldest in the country (University of Leiden),


partly due to its outstanding position in the country around the beginning of the development of modern Netherlands, partly as the birth city of the most notable Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn


The city, originally built at the meeting of the Old Rhein and the New Rhein near the see, is today not among the largest ones in the country, but, with its numerous canals and the original river branches, it inevitably reminds one of Amsterdam on a smaller scale and a very pleasant atmosphere:

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No wonder one can see, besides hordes of cyclers in the streets, a lot of rowing parties on the waters of the city.


Hortus Botanicus, established in 1590, is the oldest botanical garden still in existence in the Netherlands.



The largest church in town, Hooglandse Kerk, formely called Sint Pancraskerk, almost became a cathedral in the 16th century. The size would make it understandable.


but we can’t really see the full size from anywhere. However, it is interesting inside due to two objects: an ancient clock worked through huge ropes working on enormous cogwheels by weights on the wall


and the “English Organ”, one built in England but taken to pieces and still being built in this church


Back to the “streets” …

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As in Amsterdam, restaurants and cafes are sometimes crammed full of people even during the day


just as “rondvarten” are popular


Interestingly enough, the neighbourhood of the railways station is highly reminiscent of the same area in the HagueP1110174

Apart from this, however I look at it, it is an interesting and beautiful city with an old atmosphere worth visiting just outside of Amsterdam.

by P.S.




Castles in the Netherlands 9 – Kasteel Doornenburg

In this part of my blog, I’d like to follow my series of posts on Dutch castles and palaces that can be found on my first photo-blog available from the blogroll on the left, where all the other eight parts can be found.

This castle can be found in the village of Doornenburg S-E of Arnhem, built in the early Middle Ages at the bifurcation of the Rhein and the Waal. It is a bit difficult to reach, no public transport, most of the road leading there is narrow along the dikes, but not problematic, and of course it is no problem by bike.

It’s not a very big place although it looks fine from the dike and from further in the village.

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We can walk round it from further or from close up.

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These last photos make one believe that the tower can be visited. A word of warning, however: one can only visit inside as part of guided tours, which only start at 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00, so timing is important if one doesn’t want to wait nearly two hours for the next one. For consolation, there’s a large space in the yard for eating and drinking, which most visitors seem to be content with.

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Eet smakelijk, as they say, to you too!

by P.S.