Monday, October 19, 2009

Castle Groeneveld

Last Sunday I visited with hubby and kids "Landgoed Groeneveld" - Estate Greenfield. It was described on the net as a romantic estate in English style. Here goes the translation into English from the text on the board above (and from the folder distributed at the reception):

"Castle Groeneveld is an imposing country house from the XVIII century. It was built around 1710 under the command of huguenotte Marcus de Mamuchet van Houdringe, from the French nobility. Later on, the mansion served for a long time as a summer house for well stablished Amsterdammers. In the castle, expositions and activities are organised in the fields of culture and landscaping. During the end of the XVIII and beginning of the XIX centuries its landscape was completely modified. From its original French charactheristics it acquired a more English style. (...)"

With a total of 120 hectare, Groeneveld is located in the Vuursche, a 1200 hectare area among Hiversum, Baarn, Soest and Bilthoven. Coming from the parking area (the parking is free) you reach the castle on foot. There is a huge orchard some meters away with free entrance. At this time of the year lots of flowers and herbs were dead. I guess best time of the year to visit it is indeed spring - or summer. The orchard was marvellou, anyway.

A closer view.

The original castle front door. But visitors reach the interior by a side door.

Detail from the castle entrance. Notice how clean and well preserved it is.

Here you can enjoy a view from the back of the castle with a terrace and huge lawn where kids could run around and play. And there were LOTS of kids around, really.

All the toys for the kids had information about the local wild animals - wolves, deers, skunks and birds.
Now we go inside the castle. The ticket entrance was a 4 euro fee per adult and 2 euros for a child from 6 to 12 years old. I think the prices were reasonable. The reception is situated near the entrance to the Grand Cafe and restrooms. The Grand Cafe is stunning with big aquariums and old furniture. There were flower arrangements in purple and orange colours everywhere: reception halls, corridors and near the stairs. I will be posting the flower displays latter on this week. They deserve a post apart !

Some of the salons located on the upper floor.

The salons, china, clocks and furniture collection are indeed pretty, but not impressive. I say that because I was comparing all the time to what I have already seen in the Rijksmuseum.

What is this ? A table with a lid ?

Aaaah, I see...
Owners of the castle along the centuries, coats of arms.

This was the stunning stairs that conducted us to the highest floor of the building.

This hanging arrangement gave the tone to what we were supposed to experience. While the first floor was more about culture and interiors, the following floor was more interactive and focused on bringing some awareness to pre teeners and children about nutrition, food industry, genetic manipulation and environment.

Children could play with these huge cubes and see a slide show about what used to be (animal) farming a century ago and what is now. You do not associate any longer the pices of meat you see in the display windows of shops and supermarkets and creatures which they once were. Living in the cities, you do not see animals grown for human consumption at all. You do not know how they are treated or slaughtered.
Thats a very interesting part: an interactive table where you can see (and read with subtitles in Dutch and English) short films about fish farming, green houses, nutrition and more. I discovered that salmon kept in artifical tanks get lots of antibiotics, bleargh ! And if one eventually escapes the tanks and mate a wild salmon then they will generate a type of sterile salmon.

These cabinets contained lots of information about the dangers of genetic manipulation.

Back to the interactive table: there were also lots of information from books of Michael Pollan and some of his most famous advices: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants".

"Food is only food if your grandmother would recognise it (as such). Instead of food we consume "edible foodlike substances" - and not products from the nature but from the food industry". (Michael Pollan, American bestseller author)

This was an area for very young kids. They could play and watch some films about the domestication of animals along the centuries in order to make they more suitable for human consumption. This is called in Dutch "verkipping".

In Holland there are 16 million people, almost 4 million cows, 12 million pigs and...

more than 96 million chickens !! This takes us to the attic.

De verkipping: once in the past there were the wild ox, the wild chicken and a type of wild boar. Due to domestication they all developed "softer" characterists more proper to human consumption. Now in the domains of Groeneveld farmers are trying to develop "wilder" cattle (terugfokken).

Lets go into the chicken machine, shall we ?
How does it feel being a chicken ? Do they have fun ? Would you like to become something else than a human ? Then what ?
Who shall win the competition ? Who can get more milk: the machine or the farmer ?
Photo below: Levi van Veluw.
There were also some salons were you could see videos about human action in the Dutch landscape in general. And the opportunity to think philosophically about nature. Interesting because while in Brazil "nature" is considered a wild place, where nobody wishes to live nor you would go for a couple of leisure hours, a place associated to myths, awe and fear... in Holland (and maybe Europe in general?) nature means a well organized place with fences and paths, sculptures and bridges connecting the parts, a domesticated and friendly area with visiting hours, trash bins everywhere and location maps. No unpleasant surprises, no attacks from animals or bandids, a place where people can enjoy their snacks (no fruits, please) and wear beautiful clothes. A place where they recover their energies for the week to come.

If you wish to know more about Castle Greenfield just check the site indicated on the photo below.


Mônica Angeleas said...


Invader_Stu said...

Looks impressive

Lizzy said...

Well, that looks right up my alley! I might have to check it out :-) Thanks for the great post!

thamarai said...

cool pics..I almost felt like visiting the castle...hmm, the table with a lid looked interesting...;)