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Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Mysterious Mansion

Taken in 1971
When Kees and I got engaged, over 40 years ago, we spent a few days in South Limburg, our favorite part of The Netherlands. One day we were hiking along a narrow path lined with brambles. 
Through the greenery we spotted a huge, very unique house. 
We peeked through the blackberries and saw a red tile roof over a wide veranda with many arched openings. On the veranda, in wooden reclining chairs, were men reading. 

Later we learned that this house was called Emmaus and that it belonged to the Catholic church, specifically to the cloister of Wittem. The priests came here for a day off, to rest, to read and the contemplate. One of the priests, an Italian architect, had designed the building. And many priests worked on the construction in the early 1900’s. The building really only consisted of one large room surrounded by an enormous wrap-around porch and a second story that was open on all sides serving as another porch. 

Over the years, we often came back to this exact spot and we never failed to take a peek at “our” ghost house as we called it. It seemed bleak and deserted for many years and we often dreamed about what it might have been like if we had not emigrated to Canada and what if we had bought it and renovated it and ran a B & B here….? 

During our previous visit to the area, perhaps a year ago, we noticed there was construction going on. The house was being renovated! 

This time around, I googled for the house name: ‘Emmaus’ and discovered that the building was now privately owned, renovated and used as a small, exclusive meeting place for business leaders. I contacted the manager to see if, by chance, there was a restaurant so that we could finally see this building inside. There wasn’t. 
However, because she liked the idea that we had been drooling through the hedges for so many years, she kindly invited us for coffee. And that is why, after more than 40 years, we got to see the house that has become so special to us. It is gorgeously renovated to modern day standards but preserving the old features: a grey stone floor, the arched windows, the enormous wrap-around porches. The old wall paintings that once flanked the altar are preserved under a thin layer of new walls. The ceilings are still towering and candles everywhere present a still serene feel to the house. It was so nice to be able to walk around without feeling like a spy! And we still wonder what might have happened to us and to that old house that we fell in love with so many years ago…. 

'Hold fast to dreams,
    for if dreams die,
         Life is a broken-winged bird
                 That cannot fly.'   - Langston Hughes 

The house as it is now.

1 comment:

  1. ... that wide verandah/wrap-around porch is such a classic feature of colonial tropical architecture - elegant and functional