He built this castle alone in his garden for 34 years

Lord Gregorious, a 76-year-old Dutchman, entertains in his self-built five-story Romanesque castle at the bottom of his garden, complete with knights, damsels in distress and a recycled metal dragon. The towers of the building, called 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, inspired by China,Roman Empire and ancient Egypt.

“One morning in 1990, I said to my wife, ‘I’m ready.’ I have the full picture. I know what the building looks like, from top to bottom., says this 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 an ornate art nouveau iron balustrade discovered in Libya decorate the vaulted great room. Engraved signs on a wooden bar from the restaurant car of the Orient Express invite gentlemen not to urinate on the floor. The library contains hundreds of books on art and history, a dueling gun and a traditional Indonesian dagger sitting on the desk.

Gerry Halman has run a costume shop in nearby Zwolle for 35 years and has populated his castle with numerous characters, including knights in shining armour, damsels in distress and a statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. At the top of the 26 meter high building is a dragon made from hundreds of pieces of recycled metal, a nod to Chinese culture. Next to the dragon, a cobra also in metal reminds the pharaohs from ancient Egypt.

“I’m not crazy”

What motivates someone with no experience in architecture or construction to take on such a project? “What are people doing cycling in France for three weeks or going to the gym?”Gerry Halman answered good-naturedly, which he felt “obliged” to build the castle. “I’ve always been a fan of the fantasy world since I was a kid, not the real world”, he explains. But he immediately faced reality when he presented his project to the local authorities to obtain a building permit.

“The mayor said, ‘That’s crazy. It is not a builder. He has no experience in architecture and wants to build a castle., the pensioner remembers. He insisted and ended up obtaining the authorization on the condition that the height of the castle is not more than 28 meters. Most of the materials used are recycled or have been discovered in antique markets while traveling. It was all self-funded, but Gerry Halman had no idea how much the bill went up: “Never ask the price of something, otherwise you would never dare to do it”comment

Never finished

Like the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​a “never ending”, says its owner. His motto: “We can always improve beauty”. His three sons continued his life’s work after his death. His granddaughter, Sara van den Kamp, 16, remembers wandering the castle grounds as a child and celebrating Christmas with the family in the great hall. “It’s very nice. Few can say that his grandfather owns a place like this that he built himself, it’s really unique.”she says.

Mr. Halman’s wife of 50 years “love” the project but “stay away”he said. “I do my thing, it’s for me. We have the perfect marriage”, he rejoices. 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 awesome”she exclaims. “It’s impressive that he did this by himself. Very nice interior. Lots of arches and beautiful bricks. a lot of imagination”, she declares. Gerry Halman says many people come away from a visit thinking he is 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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