The Netherlands has 1000 still existing castles and country estates. One third of this is privately owned, two thirds being funded by private individuals, and the rest supplemented by the government.
Castle Ophemert, also known as’ t Hoge Huis and located in the town of Gelderland with the same name, is quite modest for a castle. Built in 1265 by order of Rudolf de Cock, it has been inhabited the longest since 1552 by the Van Haisjes family; until 1844. Portraits of the gentlemen can be found in the echoing corridors. Until 2008, the Scottish Mackay family slept in the ten-bedroom building.
Hostess Alexandra van Dedem, together with her husband Arthur baron van Dedem, has had it on a long lease since 2009 and runs it with love and passion as a B&B. No slick and fully equipped rooms, for example, the toilet is shared in some cases, but the authentic atmosphere of a stately castle. That is also what the hostess wants: to let the castle speak for itself as much as possible.
The couple is familiar with large country houses; husband Arthur’s noble family owns a number of them and wanted ‘something where they could live and work’. “This is not a castle where there was fighting. You can feel it ”, says Alexandra, who herself lives with her family in the coach house opposite. “There is a nice energy.”
There has always been a certain pride in dealing with such buildings within the family. “It used to be an honor to own a castle, it indicated that you were of rich descent. Now it also entails worry and trouble: maintenance is not cheap. ”
The large weathered mirrors in the hallway where you see yourself walking down the stone staircase – you don’t walk here, you walk here – are a good example of this. Just like the large shutters that have to be closed by hand in front of the equally large wooden-framed windows. The windows offer a view of the small castle moat, but above all of the wide garden with its different trees and thus colors, a feast for the eyes when you wake up – you don’t wake up here, you wake up here.
The rooms are decorated according to theme, of which the fuchsia room is her favorite: small, but with friendly fuchsia wallpaper and as much as possible in an original atmosphere. I sleep in the Chinese room, where only the prints on the wall and the wooden pharmacy cupboard refer to the theme. The two large chaise longues invite you to sink into it – you don’t sit here, you sit here.
Thinking about what it must have been like in the past: such a family at long wooden tables with beer mugs, large pieces of meat, music and party. No, there is no shortage of fantasy. For this princess a bottle of good wine recommended by the hostess and a vegetarian lasagna, it doesn’t get any closer to fantasy, but just as nice.
The next morning I am awakened by a singing bird and the rising sun colors the red and different shades of green of the trees. Breakfast is served in the dining room with its sunken windows, where antlers of 1960s African game hang on the walls. Castle dogs Puck and Aavfje enthusiastically run through the adjacent Alice in Wonderland-esque purple blossom garden. The white doves fly back and forth and in the distance an army of frogs is croaking. “Search the water and kiss a frog,” said a colleague when I joked that I was looking for the prince on the white horse at a castle. Enough potential princes, in the water. This princess concludes that she likes the castle life just fine. Even without a prince.
(this story previously appeared in VRIJ Magazine)
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