Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kasteel de Haar

Since first setting foot on European soil, one of my major travel goals has been to tour a medieval castle. To that end, the main attraction for our trip to Utrecht (pronounced "oo-trect") was Kasteel de Haar (Castle de Haar). It is located just outside of Utrecht in the village of Haarzuilens.

Just getting to the castle was an adventure. We had to change buses outside of Utrecht, and when the driver told us we had arrived, we couldn't see the castle. So we took it on faith that the castle was actually nearby and started walking.

Into the Abyss?

Nearly every trip in the Netherlands involves passing by cows or sheep, and this one was no exception. But as usual, they weren't particularly interested in us.


We eventually arrived at the castle, which looked exactly like a textbook fairy tale castle - except for an enormous network of scaffolding being used in decade-long renovations. (This modern day eye sore is hidden in all of our pictures.)

Kasteel de Haar through the tree tops.

Tours of Kasteel de Haar are only Dutch-spoken, but we signed up anyway because they said the tour guide would give us a written English summary of what he would say. Well, lucky us... they ran out of English summaries, so we spent an hour watching the tour guide point wildly at the castle interior and the tour group respond excitedly, all the while having no idea what he was saying. Along the way, though, there were a number of English language "blurbs" that we could read. We slowly realized this wasn't exactly a "knight in shining armor" castle.

It turns out that while the original castle was built in the 14th century, it spent much of its life wasting away. It was largely in ruins at the end of the 19th century, when its owner married into wealth and decided to "remodel." A lot of the structure seen today was built at that time.

Although my quest to tour a real medieval castle (read: a castle without electricity, running water, and cable TV) is still incomplete, Kasteel de Haar was still a treat. Its interior was beautiful and the castle itself was very picturesque.

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