Outside the village of Haarzuilens in the province of Utrecht, in the middle of an enormous park stands the most famous castle of the Netherlands, De Haar Castle. In 1890 Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt inherited the ruins of the castle, which was originaly build in the thirteenth century. Although living in France he decided to rebuild the house. He was married to Hélène de Rothschild, the daughter of a very wealthy Paris banker, and she decided to pay the restoration as a wedding-gift.
They commissioned P.J.H. Cuijpers, the famous
undertake the gigantic project. They thought it would take about two
to finish, it became twenty. The castle was rebuild in Neo-Gothic style
in a very personal version.
Originaly the house was build next to the village, but the baron wanted a huge garden and therefore the village had to move. They pulled down the whole village except for the church, which became the chapel of the castle, and rebuild it two kilometre further on. The baron also wanted a park with huge, grown-up trees, so they moved 4000 big trees from the Hillback of Utrecht to the park. Some of the houses in Utrecht had to be demolished otherwise the trees couldn't pass. No problem, money didn't matter. Nowadays they have a problem, because the new house is much too heavy for the old foundations and they can't keep it any longer. The castle is sagging and the restoration is going to cost 50 million guilders, that's a lot of money. But now the property is bought by the Union of Monuments of Nature and perhaps they can manage the restoration.
In the fifteenth century a knight called Coenraed was living at the castle. He was a very selfish man who didn't believe in God or anything and he didn't care for anyone. One day he came back riding on his horse in full armery when he heard a voice asking for food and a place for the night to stay. The knight shook his head and rode on. The beggar shouted at him: "I'm also a human being!" The knight went mad and wanted to hit the man, turning he gave his horse the spurs, but it misstepped and they ended up in the moat. The knight drowned because of his heavy armery. His ghost is still seen around the castle.
But ghost or no ghost, visiting the castle is worth while.
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