Netherlands and North Germany 3 (Zaou and the Castle)

Monday - Wednesday March 24-26 (see the photos!)

There is a lot to tell. I visited my niece, Zaou, in her castle! Well, not just hers. It is a collective living situation in De Refter, a castle-like building built in several sections over a couple of centuries, not old by European standards. It was formerly a nunnery and girl's school. It's just outside of Nijmegen.

Zaou lives with a group of about 6 in individual rooms on the top floor (NOT the top of the castle) with shared kitchen and bath. (Click here for photos). The first photo is out the kitchen window. That tree is as tall as the castle!

I stayed in the guest room in the dungeon---I mean basement. It was very comfortable. I spent my work times in the kitchen, writing.

On top of the tower by Zaou's section is a stork's nest that was built to attract storks, but they don't approve, so no storks.

There is a swirling spiral staircase in one of the side towers. This is how the girls were required to move between the floors. Only the nuns could use the main stair. Please study the pictures of the main stair. I'll bet that Escher visited this building!

There is a beautiful art gallery in the large, cathedral-like chapel. There is also a library with a 9 foot grand piano where concerts are often held.

AND - there is a towering top tower with a beautiful wood spiral staircase and ladder to climb up. Breathtaking to be up there.

The collective manages a large vegetable garden and they have built a wood fired oven. In the cool swing seasons the bake pizzas and cookies there. There is a amall professional staff that manages the place and organizes the volunteer labor. Everyone who lives there is required to provide some hours of maintenance work each month. It works!

Zaou and I and her friends Geert and Paul played Speedminton on an old tennis court made of paver stones that is from the nunnery school days). We laid out some ribbons to mark the squares.

The game is badminton but instead of a net you have these two squares on the ground that are about 5 meters on a side and at opposite ends of the court, say 15 meters apart. The players (1 or in this case 2 each) stand in these squares to defend them. Team 1 (or player 1) gets a point if team 2 misses team 1's square with the shuttle cock or team 1 lands it in team 2's square. Scoring is like badminton or volleyball. Very fun game and faster with more running than badminton. I did pretty badly, though I did hit a few great reflex shots. Couldn't get the timing on the floating "bird". You have to hit the birds a lot harder than in badminton, and they are smaller and fly further. Apparently the game was invented in Germany. I like it.

We were accompanied in the setup by Tommy the Shoulder Riding Cat. He stayed on my shoulders during the layout of the court. Easily adjusting to my movements, though he does prefer it when you are wearing a back pack. Much more area for him to relax.

The 2nd night, Zaou and I walked into Nijmegen to have dinner and found a Thai restaurant after searching for Indonesian, which is about my favorite food in the world and isn't available much in the US. Since Indonesia was a Dutch colony, it is familiar here. Unfortunately all closed on Tuesday! But the Thai was great.

Leaving this morning for Lichtenvoorde. Zaou spends the next two days in Amsterdam where she is working on a TV project. She is an animator, and very experienced.

It was wonderful to be here and to spend some time visiting with Zaou. She is inspiring!

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