Wijk bij Duurstede,  May 15, 2019

After a long hiatus, and the weather being perfect, it was time to continue with my goal of hiking around the top 10 listed Castles in the Netherlands.  Kasteel Duurstede is #6 on this list.

The 50 mile drive to Wijk bij Duurstede took about an hour, and after parking the car I strapped on my backpack and was on my way.  Immeditaly from the parking lot you can see the city's well known windmill.  The famous painting "Windmill of Wijk bij Duurstede"  by  Dutch painter Jacob van Ruisdael (ca. 1670) can be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  (The windmill in the painting is a different one that has long ago been destroyed).

A short walk took me to Duurstede Castle.  The castle originated in the 13th century. Around 1270, Zweder I van Zuylen van Abcoude built a freestanding keep on a raised and moated site near the lost city Dorestad. Until the beginning of the 15th century Duurstede Castle was in possession by the Van Zuylen van Abcoude family, until they were forced to sell it to the bishops of Utrecht in 1449. Bishop David of Burgundy, who reigned from 1459 to 1496, completely rebuilt the castle. The old donjon was enclosed by new buildings. The still intact burgundian tower was also built around this time. His successors Frederick IV of Baden and Philip of Burgundy also used the castle as their residence, and Philip of Burgundy embellished the castle with renaissance features. Philip of Burgundy settled at Duurstede Castle when he became bishop of Utrecht in 1517. He was accompanied by his court painter Mabuse (Jan Gossaert), who helped to decorate the new palace of his master. At Philip's death, in 1524, Mabuse designed and erected his tomb in the church of Wijk bij Duurstede. After Philip's death, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor confiscated all territorial possessions of the bishopric of Utrecht, including Duurstede Castle.  In 1580, as a result of the Dutch Revolt, the castle fell into the hands of the States of Utrecht. The states, however, invested their money into building modern fortification around Wijk bij Duurstede, and as a result the castle fell into neglect. Further damage was done when French troops devastated Wijk by Duurstede in 1672, after which the townspeople used stone from the castle to rebuild their homes. In 1852 the town council became owner of the castle and turned the surrounding fortifications into a park. Until 1925 the castle could only be reached by a little ferry.  The old donjon built by Zweder van Abcoude in the 13th century has withstood the passage of time reasonably well, and is an excellent example of medieval towers. The walls are 2.5 metres thick; the original entrance was at the second level and could only be reached with a wooden ladder that could be removed or destroyed in times of need. One of the corner towers of the old castle was expanded in the 15th century into its current form. While the rest of the castle had a more residential purpose, the Burgundian tower obviously had a military purpose. It is more than 40 metres high, and has very thick walls.

After taking some nice pictures, the route took me through some rather uninspiring neighbourhoods to the outskirts of the town and on the way to the hamlet of Cothen, with it's Kasteel Rijnenstein.  The castle was originally built around 1250 and has been taken down and rebuilt numerous times over the centuries.

From Cother, the route took me North towards Langbroek.  On the way I noticed a bird nest sitting on a very large pole, with a Stork and one or more babies!!  I was able to get a little closer, by walking onto a farm and taking a few more pictures.   Quite exciting for sure!!

Back on the road, I walked in the the very small village or Langbroek, which had a café.  Since I was at about the halfway point of my hike, I decided to get some coffee and apple pie.

Onward I went to my next goal, Sandenburg Castle,  which was built around the 14th Century. For a long time it was just a single watchtower, but in the 19th Century was expanded dramatically and the walls were plastered in white.  The Sandenburg family has owned the property for over 200 years, and are still living in it.  I was able to walk around the property for some nice pictures.

From there, I walked on a country road, until I checked my GPS, which told me I should have made a right turn a few hundred yards back.  After backtracking a little, I noticed a tiny pathway which took me through a forested area back to the town of Wijk bij Duurstede, and my car.

The 11 mile/17km walk was highly enjoyable, especially with the weather being perfect,  A great day to get me feet going again!


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