Muiderslot

Ulrike Grafberger, dinsdag 5 maart 2013

On the programme today is a trip to Muiderslot, a moated castle to the south-east of Amsterdam. And as befits a genuine moated castle, there’s a sizeable moat, a draw-bridge and high walls.

As you enter the castle grounds, not only does the old masonry remind you of the Middle Ages, but so does all the scenery around you: here peasant women in heavy linen garmentsare seated, preparing food; there you can see knights patrolling the grounds, armed with lances, swords and shields. What do they call it now: living history.

A stately moated castle

Crossing over the draw-bridge, you reach the inner bailey, surrounded by walls 1.5 metres thick and four round watchtowers. This stately fortress was also needed, because Muiderslot was part of an important defence system. Count Floris had Muiderslot built there in 1285 where the River Vecht opens out into the Zuiderzee at what is now the Ijsselmeer. To earn some money to build the fortress, he laid a strong chain across the river. So anyone wanting to go by ship to Amsterdam on the River Vecht first had to pay the good Count a toll to get him to remove the chain and allow the ship to pass through.
Floris V was not only clever, but also kind-hearted. He created his own order of knights, and helped many simple people achieve a knighthood, earning him the nickname "Der keerlen god”, the “god of the poor”. After his death, Muiderslot fell into some disrepair, was rebuilt and was for a long time the home and meeting place of various Dutch writers such as Jacob Cats, Joost van den Vondel and Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft. The latter – also known as the “Dutch Shakespeare” – gathered a lot of scholars around him in Muiderslot and, alongside Floris, was the most illustrious inhabitant of the castle. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Muiderslot served as a barracks, and today is one of Holland’s most popular destinations for excursions.

And what is there to see in Muiderslot?

We joined a guided tour, but you can also explore the castle on your own as detailed information is provided on panels as you walk round. For example, there’s a knight’s route leading into the west tower and into the bower. Here you can slip into a mediaeval costume and play at being knights or damsels. So don’t forget your camera! Further on is the weapons room where swords, halberds and armour are on display. The motto typical of Dutch museums also applies here: discover and try out new things! So: up onto a wooden horse and compete against Dad in the tournament. The winner is given a knighthood in the hunting chamber. If you take the tower route, you’ll discover the other three towers and find out something about the history of Muiderslot.

Damsels and young knights are welcome

While Muiderslot is already quite an experience for adults, it’s a real adventure for children.
What did knights eat, how did they sleep and how did they go into battle?
Discover all this in Muiderslot! And better still: you can do a lot yourself – dress up, play, try things out. And if you’re lucky, you’ll meet the witch in her tent. You can tell her about your problems, large and small, for example the trouble you’re having with your best mate. The witch packs the problem into a little bag, adds a few herbs, closes the bag and gives it back to you. It’s a sure bet that the trouble will be quickly forgotten!

Birds of prey and medicinal herbs

If you’re visiting Muiderslot in the summer, you’ll see the castle garden in all its splendour. As was common in the 17th century, the garden is divided into a kitchen garden and a flower garden. Vegetables from the past and herbs for medicinal purposes and for dyeing clothes lie alongside tomatoes, pumpkins and cabbages. The covered walk provides shade among the trees, surrounded by fragrant flowers. The falconer is also at work in Muiderslot during the summer months. Flying displays with the birds of prey are organised on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. For us this means: we need to come back again in the summer, to stuff any further troubles we have into the problem bag, and watch the falcons in flight.

By the way: if you’re hungry and thirsty, you’ll find refreshments in the castle tavern or on the terrace in the inner bailey.

Muiderslot, 1 Herengracht, Muiden, to the south-east of Amsterdam