Legend has it that one night, long ago, the devil flew across the skies over the Low Countries. On his back he had a satchel, and in the satchel he had stowed numerous castles. Where did he get them, and what did he plan to do with them? The tale doesn't say. Now what good old Beelzebub didn't know was that there was a tear in his bag, and that every now and then, a castle would fall from the sky and tumble on to the land below. Until he flew over the land of Brabant. By then the tear had gotten so large, most of the remaining castles in his satchel fell out and landed in the soft Brabant soil. Which is why to this day, Brabant is the region in the Netherlands that boasts the most castles.
The last bit at least is true. Even though many have disappeared over time, the region I live in is still home to a fair few castles, manors and fortresses. And oh, I do so love them. There is something magical and mysterious about a castle. As a little girl I devoured many a tale of enchanted castles with secret passageways and hidden rooms. Still do in fact. And I have always loved exploring yet another one of these beauties.
They're obviously not all very grand or impressive. Most of them are actually on the small side, in castle terms that is. To me that adds to their charm though. You can still picture them as a home that way. And it adds to the 'hidden secret' factor. A small castle in a secluded spot in a forest - perfection.
Since a couple of weeks, my trip to work takes considerably longer. I'm forced to take the scenic route at the moment. After my initial hissy fit, I had to admit that the scenic route is, in fact, just that. It leads me past some really charming spots - that I had all but forgotten.
Every day, just after sunrise, my trip takes me past Kasteel Heeswijk - Heeswijk Castle. It looks mighty pretty in the first light of day, often with wisps of mist still about it. So pretty in fact, that I decided to stop there briefly this morning. Just for a stroll around the grounds.
It was lovely. Very quiet, very serene. Not another soul about. Apart from the black swans in the moat that is. Yes, you heard me. Black. Swans. More than a hint of fairy tale there. Even though the tale that came to mind most during my walk was that of the Snow Queen. Calling it a chilly morning would have been a serious understatement.
The original castle was built in the 12th century. But over time, bits were added, destroyed, rebuilt etc. The result is charming. And it has played its role in history. It was besieged many times because of its strategic position close to the majestic city of 's-Hertogenbosch (my home town, yes). And none other than Louis XIV, the (in)famous Sun King stayed here for a while - during an attempt to conquer the Netherlands. Which failed.
Of course the question you're dying to ask me - and if you're not I'm going to tell you anyway - is whether there is a ghost story attached to this castle. Well. Have a guess.
Many centuries ago, Sir Robert of Heeswijk left his castle in the dead of night, evil on his mind. He planned to lie in wait for his daughter's lover, whom he wanted to slay. It would not have been his first foul deed. Not a very likeable character this Robert was. Alas for him, the marshes around the castle proved more treacherous than his heart. He was trapped, and he drowned. It is said that his ghost has haunted the castle grounds ever since. People have heard his cries, as well as seen a blue apparition. Which is why he came to be known as The Blue Knight of Castle Heeswijk.
Did I see a blue ghost on my stroll? No. The only blue things I saw were my hands. Did I already mention it was COLD??
I took the pictures with my iPhone and then gave them an arty-farty filter.
I'm quite pleased with the result too actually.
The book I took a pic of is 'Spoken en Kastelen in Nederland' (Ghosts & Castles in the Netherlands) by Anton van Oirschot, 1974.