Thursday, December 29, 2005

Amsterdam - Castle Day

Damn! Sorry that my redneck heritage is showing, but damn! That was a sight for sore eyes. We toured Kasteel de Haar near Utrecht. I thought I had seen rich, but there was so much wealth poured into the castle that it gave a whole new definition to “filthy rich”.

De Haar Castle was built in the 14th century. In 1482 the castle was stormed, set ablaze and seized. It was rebuilt in the early part of the 1500s, was destroyed again in 1672 and, thereafter, it gradually fell into disrepair. In 1890, Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt inherited the ruined remains. He had married the extremely wealthy Helene de Rothschild and in 1887 he decided to rebuild the castle. Two hundred craftsmen spent twenty years doing the reconstruction. The castle stood in the mist of a village of sixteen farms. The church was preserved but the village was demolished to create a park around the castle. A new village was built one kilometer to the east.

Photography was prohibited inside the castle and we toured only seven rooms – scullery, old kitchen, dining room, main hall, hairdressing salon, ballroom, knights hall and library. Photos of the exterior of the castle do not hint at the elaborate, extravagant and expensive interior and furnishings. The tour was conducted in Dutch. Because we could not understand the language, we had more time to explore the rooms and look at intricate details than those who understood Dutch and focused on the guide.

In the main hall is a sandstone statue of the Virgin and Child which originally came from a French convent and was probably made around 1350. The statue displays an exposed breast and the infant grasping it and suckling. A young girl who could not speak English was amused by the statue. She tugged on Abby’s sleeve, put one hand over her mouth, point toward the statue and giggled. She needed a friend with whom to laugh.

To get a feeling for the size of the castle, look at the photo gallery. If you’re ever in Europe, tour a castle.

We rented a car for the rest of our time. We discussed driving to Switzerland or Paris (313 miles, about 4-5 hours) but will probably stay close to Amsterdam and take day trips. Abby and Shaun live in Amstelveen which is a suburb of Amsterdam and the driving isn’t too bad. There is no way in hades that I’m going to attempt driving in Amsterdam.

We have a Pugeot. It snowed and the windshield needed washing. I couldn’t get the fluid to spray so, assuming it was out of fluid, I stopped at a station to purchase washer fluid. I couldn’t find the hood release. Luckily, an employee came out, reached under the dash and pulled the lever which was not labeled and was not visible. As you probably guessed, the reservoir was full. He washed both front and rear windows, offered to take the fluid and return the money. I asked if it was customary for employees to pump gas and he said that most stations were self-service. He indicated this station offered “help” and that is why most people stopped there. I asked if he owned the station and he replied, “No, I work here with some pleasure”. I’ve met another fine person. Before we left I shook hands with him and repeated my thanks. I hope I brightened his day as much as he brightened mine. By the way, as we left I tried pulling the lever in a different direction and the washer worked. The same lever controlled all features and speeds on front and rear wipers and washers.

Last night we had supper at home with Shaun and Abby, Another student, Anlene (pronounced on-le-nee), from South Africa joined us. She entertained us with her accent, her charm and her description of South Africa. As we discussed apartheid, she said many wonderful stories are being told of the changes in South Africa. She told of two young pre-school boys – one black and one white – who became best friends. One day both parents arrived at the school at the same time. When the young white boy saw the black father he turned in excitement to his friend and said “Your father is black!”. He had never noticed that his friend was black.

Another excellent day ends with hopes for more adventure tomorrow. I don’t think we’ll be disappointed.


Blogger Dale said...

Travel vacation. The best education to be had. Anywhere! Fabulous journal, Paul.

12/29/2005 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Bonita said...

I'm enjoying your trip to Amsterdam, but today the photos have not appeared when I pressed on them with my cursor. I'll try again later.

12/29/2005 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gaye said...

I can feel your excitement; it's contagious...

12/29/2005 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Harmony said...

Every morning I'm getting up early to look at the pictures and hear about the trip. Can't wait to see you in June to see the whole lot of them!

12/30/2005 04:45:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

Alright, I'm starting to hate you now! You have having WAY to much fun! However, it's infecting us way back across the pond here so keep on truckin, Padre!

12/30/2005 06:04:00 PM  

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