“I’m not crazy”: he builds a real castle in his garden

“I’m not crazy”: he builds a real castle in his garden
“I’m not crazy”: he builds a real castle in his garden

Lord Gregorious, a 76-year-old Dutchman, entertains in his five-story Romanesque-style castle that he built himself at the bottom of his garden, complete with knights, damsels in distress and a recycled metal dragon.

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The towers of the building, named Olt Stoutenburght, overlook the flat landscape around the small village of Blesdijke in the north of the Netherlands.

The owner of the place, whose real name is Gerry Halman, took 34 years to build the building, carefully constructed with materials from dozens of countries, drawing inspiration from China, the Roman Empire and Egypt. Ancient.

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“One morning in 1990, I said to my wife: ‘I’m ready. I have the complete picture. I know what the building looks like, from top to bottom,'” Halman told AFP. mustachioed retiree wearing a fur hat.

Since then, building and furnishing the castle has become his “passion”. He travels all over the world to find materials and give shape to what he has imagined.

A metal chandelier from Istanbul and ornate art nouveau iron balustrades unearthed in Libya decorate the grand vaulted hall. Signs engraved on a wooden bar from the Orient Express dining car invite gentlemen not to urinate on the floor.

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The library contains hundreds of books on art and history, a dueling pistol and a traditional Indonesian dagger sit on the desk.

Gerry Halman ran a costume shop in nearby Zwolle for 35 years and populated his castle with numerous characters, including knights in shining armor, damsels in distress and a statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

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At the top of the 26-meter-high building sits a dragon made from hundreds of pieces of recycled metal, a nod to Chinese culture. Next to the dragon, a cobra also made of metal recalls the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

“I am not crazy”

What motivates someone with no experience in architecture or construction to take on such a project?

“What pushes people to cycle across France for three weeks or go to the gym?” replies Mr. Halman good-naturedly, who felt “obligated” to build the castle.

“I’ve always been a fan of the fantasy world since I was a child, not the real world,” he explains.

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But he quickly came up against reality when he presented his project to local authorities to obtain a building permit.

“The mayor said: ‘He’s crazy. He’s not a builder. He has no experience in architecture and he wants to build a castle,'” the retiree recalls.

He insisted and ended up obtaining authorization on the condition that the height of the castle did not exceed 28 meters.

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Most of the materials used are recycled or have been found at antique markets while traveling. It was all self-financed but Mr. Halman has no idea of ​​the total bill: “Never ask the price of something, otherwise you would never dare to do it,” he comments.

Like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, the Olt Stoutenburght is “never finished,” says its owner. Her motto: “We can always improve beauty”.

His three children will continue his life’s work upon his death. His granddaughter, Sara van den Kamp, 16, remembers frolicking in the castle grounds as a child and celebrating Christmas with family in the Great Hall.

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“It’s pretty cool. “Not many people can say that their grandfather owns a place like this that he built himself, it’s truly unique,” she told AFP.

Mr. Halman’s wife of 50 years “loves” the project but “stays away,” he says. “I do my thing, it’s for me. We have the perfect marriage,” he rejoices.

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Tourists come from all over to admire the castle. Monique Meijer, a 55-year-old nurse, gasped as she entered the lobby. “It’s just fantastic,” she exclaims.

“It’s impressive that he did this on his own. Very nice interior. Lots of arches and beautiful bricks. Lots of imagination,” she says.

Mr. Halman says many people come away from a visit thinking he’s crazy. He quotes a phrase from Salvador Dali, another Source of inspiration. “The only difference between me and a crazy person is that I’m not crazy.”

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