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Ostentatious Bach

How about this for a bach (a summer holiday home)?

We took a trip today with Hannah and the children to Kasteel de Haar. Built by the Belgian Baron van Zuylen at the end of the 19th Century around the ruins of a 14th Century castle that had been among van Zuylen estates since1440, it is both remarkably stunning and arrogantly ostentatious. The Baron’s family had lost much of its wealth by the time he was of age, but when he married the Parisian Hélène de Rothschild, he acquired more than sufficient wealth to complete this project.

This truly large castle, surrounded by a mote and complete with draw bridges, was deliberately built in a variety of styles and lavishly decorated to highlight … well to highlight how wealthy they were. It was fitted with such novelties as hot and cold running water, flushing inside toilets, steam central heating, and electric lighting. They only used it for a few weeks each summer, inviting guests to ogle their wealth during the month of September. For the rest of the year it was empty. It truly was their summer bach.

The castle was surrounded by farms when restoration started, but the Baron and Baroness wanted a park to look out at and to promenade in, and he couldn’t wait for it: so he bought out the surrounding farms, had 7,000 mature trees transplanted, and built a number of lakes including a couple of serpentines.

This 17th Century tapestry caught my eye: very much in the style of Pieter Bruegel’s 16th century paintings. Who knows it’s value when purchased, but a similar one on a smaller wall in the same room didn’t fit the wall so it was simply cut down to size. Profligate vandalism!


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