A Ballad on Schloss Hainfeld

Hainfeld interior; By Jeannine Govaers

Hainfeld interior; By Jeannine Govaers

Just after we opened Gisèles exhibition, Jeanine Govaers, Simon Bosch and Youssef Bchiri travel to Vienna, representing Castrum Peregrini at the Ballad Portal meeting at Volkshochschule Hietzing, 16/17 October 2009.

Jeanine Govaers is fotografe en sinds lang bevriend met Gisèle met wie ze verschillende reizen naar Hainfeld heeft gemaakt die zij fotografisch gedocumenteerd heeft. Jeannine heeft in het verleden menig foto-opdracht voor Castrum Peregrini uitgevoerd. Mooi dat ze de traditie van de Hainfeld-reizen voort kan zetten.

Simon Bosch is fotograaf. Hij heeft als afstudeerproject Castrum Peregrini over een langere periode met de lens begeleid. Zelfstandig en in opdracht volgt hij Castrum Peregrini nog steeds. Op Hainfeld zal hij een stap diep in het verleden van Gisele zetten. Wij zijn benieuwd!

Youssef Bchiri, studeert Communicatie in Amsterdam. Hij werkt als student bij Castrum Peregrini.

They will bring with them a poem by Gisèle, founder of Castrum Peregrini, and two photographs, which will be exhibited there with the text. This ‘ballad’ is highly autobiographical, referring to Hainfeld Castle, the family seat of Gisèle’s Mother, which was until recently inhabited by Gisèleaunt Cleo von Hammer Purgstall, thus in family hands. Throughout her life Gisèle has maintained a strong emotional relationship with this ferrytale castle in which the legendary Baron von Hammer Purgstall has lived and worked. The castle was cut off from the outside world and only now, after centuries, the new owner Annabella Dietz is gradually opening up this unique heritage to the broader public. Castrum Peregrini and Schloss Hainfeld maintain an informal and amicable relationship.

Our delegation will – after the workshop in Vienna-  travel to Hainfeld to meet Annabella and report on the state of the art. Follow their experiences here on this blog!



Gisèle in 2008 by Simon Bosch








When I was Ten

– by Gisèle d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht –


A Note

Life started at The Hague, not far from the sea.  In 1915 my father and mother, my three brothers and I went to the United States. We sailed on S.S. New Amsterdam. Father’s work as a geologist took us to what was then the rather wild west. I Remember once living near the Ponca Indians, who wore wonderful feathers! When I was ten tells the rest of the story. Maybe I should add that although I like to write, I am really a painter and Amsterdam is my home.


When I was Ten

When I was ten
My brothers were almost men
Busy acquiring degrees.
Father and mother took me
Back overseas, to visit our homelands.
My grandfathers were dead.
The house on the Herengracht 280
Had been sold… Amsterdam was cold…
Everyone was skating.
Grandmother, transparent as a Van Dyck,
Seemed wrapt in ruffles of recollection.

From Holland we hastened to Austria –
Too late alas. Mother’s mother died
A few hours before we arrived.
Between folded fingers she still held
An old bracelet.
I thought she was asleep – her cheeks were so pink,
Her lips even smiling- when I was told
To take it.

Today writing this an benignly blest
With the illusion of being young,
It is curious to stop and think
That I am as old as my grandmother then
When I was ten. 

‘In lower Styria’, father said, ‘the Orient begins’.
We settled there with uncle Heinz, mother’s brother,
A lover of music, of puns, of tradition.

Hainfeld is a square castle in the middle of a valley,
Four square towers at the corners
And a higher one for the chapel,
Topped by a green copper onion.
Outside it is severe. One bridge only
Crosses the moat. It draws no longer
But leads to the entrance crowned by an Arabic inscription-
Mother’s great grandfather put it there.
The heavy gate of iron-plate
Has a small door, safety latched, for foot-folk.
I knew the trick to open it
When I was ten.

...arcades the colour of apricots. Foto by Jeannine Govaers.

...arcades the colour of apricots. Foto by Jeannine Govaers.

Inside, Hainfeld has two storeys of open arcades
The colour of apricots.
They frame a large square garden
Around a loose-lipped fountain’
To listen to.
Only winter could tie its tongue,
Freeze it to perpendicular silence
Like an obelisk-
Freeze the basin, freeze the moat, cover us.
In dead-still whiteness. Then

We circulated in snow-shoes, even upstairs,
Where everyone lived.
Below were the kitchens, the bakery, the laundries,
The two store-rooms for wood and for a game,
The cellars for wine and for schnapps
And the black one for smoking hams…
The rooms of the Verwalter and his family,
And the rooms of all the other servants.
In one tower was the old law-court.
I have heard that witches were judged there.

My room- as all the other bedrooms- had a Himmelbett
(a four posted, canopied and curtained)
Too close like a room in a room.
It was fun to play peek-a-boo with a Persian shah
Who stared from the far-end wall.
But my real friend was Pippin-
A pea-green tree-frog,
Housed in a crystal palace.
I built him ladders and terraces and succulent arbours,
And served him irresistible insects.

Early morning, aproned women tiptoed in
Carrying steaming jugs and big flat tin
Tub for my bath-
Performed on the floor.
Odder still: was the place next door
Where I had to dive under a row of bats
To a hole in a board with a lid.
How I was longed for our U.S. bathroom
When I was ten.

Meals were announced by a gong. From all quarters
We proceeded to the Speisezimmer,
My parents and the two generations of uncles and aunts.
Uncle Ottokar wore twisted moustaches
Aunt Fini a mysterious wig,
Aunt Helene brandished a tortoise lorgnette.
What everyone had in common was something to smoke.
Some smoked log pipes and some thin cigars,
Some rolled cigarettes in curious contraptions
And some also snuffed and took rum in their tea.

The noon-day meal was misery!
Almost very other day, the sourest possible sauerkraut
Was server with decorum by white-gloved men
In Styrian dress: green lapels and silver buttons.
The War, the First World War.
Had brought scarcity. The Sauerkraut
O could not swallow, but stowed it away
In a swollen cheek.
The ordeal over, uncle Stumpferl, der Oberstleutnant.
Let his napkin slip to the floor
For me to retrieve and spit unseen.

Uncle Stumpferl taught me many things:
How to walk through a forest,
How not to disturb the game, how to ski
And carry a pack of hay to the snow-in deer,
How to hold a gun, and even
How to paint
To me, he was the most admirable of men
When I was ten.

In those days at Hainfeld
We had some weak electricity
And, of course, always candles.
Monumental stoves of porcelain tile
(fed from outside with logs)
Heated the rooms. We never saw the fire.
On cold nights in the Schreibzimmer,

It was pleasant to sit on the bench
Built around the stove and warm one’s back 

It was in the Schreibzimmer above the entrance-gate
That uncle Heinz received the multiple relatives.
After dinner Franzl, the butler,
Ceremoniously served the Turkish coffee.
Sometimes uncle Heinz played for us
On one of the two grand-pianos –
Hemight improvise, or let us hear
Fragments of his delightful operettas.

Facing the windows Johann Ernst Purgstall hung
(In long-curled splendour)
Between two family trees painted on linen scrolls.
The backgrounds behind the coats of arms
Depict Styria’s pride: the Riegersburg.
It is a castle perched on a top of a very high rock
With seven walls to fortify it.
There Johann Ernst has found his bride.

Gisèle and her Hammer Purgstall publications at Castrum Peregrini; by Simon Bosch

Gisèle and her Hammer Purgstall publications at Castrum Peregrini; by Simon Bosch

Opposite and alone.
In a white and an a black gown,
Was the portrait of the last countes Purgstall:
Johanna Anne Cranstoun outlived her husband and only son,
Gave name and shield and Hainfeld
To the orientalist, Joseph von Hammer.
As a girl in Scotland. Lady Anne
Encouraged the young Walter Scott. He in turn
Made her the heroine of The Lady of the Lake.

The painting I prized most
Was one of a Titian-like Suzanna
Spied on by the elders… and another:
A portrait of a pretty young witch
Who was publicly burnt
For growing roses in winter…
At a table with cabalistic inlay
I was an ardent kibitzer.
Old aunts in spirals of smoke
Solemnly knuckled their cards
At bezique or complicated patience.
Old uncles (sitting upright or bent in twos)
Pretended to play chess-and chuckled.
For trick-track there were special game-tables
In the Grosse Salon. Taroc
Reserved for Sunday afternoons,
Had a salon of its own.

When I was ten
Guest game to call in carriages-
I had to kiss their hands.
Uncle Hasi Vetter came in a racing car
With bright brass horns you could hear a mile away.
Hunters came in season, with their dogs, for the shoots
Lasting days on end.
Gypsies came trailing bears on chains
That danced for me to fiddled tunes.

And old men came trailing their beards-almost.
Men, that live wandering and do not own a bed.
At Christmas time the whole village came
To church and later to the Christmas tree.
Mother and her sister Paula
Distributed useful gifts
Such as cloth for clothes and study shoes.
When everyone held a package
And the candles were burning low-
Uncle Heinz had them all blown out,
And the tree capsized, so that we children
Could plunder the sweets.

My most favourite retreats
Where the chapel-tower (near the bells)
And the library. I spent hours and hours
Copying Walter Scott’s ballads
(from his hand-written manuscripts)
Which I illustrated sitting at a giant table.
The table looked like a chest.
The chairs were part of it.
Their backs had slits with which to pull them out-
One could also hide inside.
Ponderous piles of portfolios and riboned albums
And ornate little volumes of Persian and Arabic poetry
Invited investigation…O that particular odour
Of musty paper…the joy of turning
Big spheres with signs of the zodiac…
Of rolling on wobbly stairs alongside
The upper row of books…
Books bound in faded blue, with labels I could not read
When I was Ten.

We lived in Hainfeld for a year
And five years later came back to the States
Bringing all our belongings.
When I was twenty my parents returned to Holland/
Father was needed there…
Many years I visited Aunt Paula in Hantberg on a nearby hill
And of course Uncle Heinz and his young wife Cleo.
Like Joanna Anne Purgstall who outlived her husband
(A century and a half ago)
Cleo Hammer-Purgstall lives in Hainfeld alone.
Indeed that Hainfeld is livable at all, is thanks to her. 

What will become of Hainfeld?
It has ignored the come and go of generations,
Ridiculed evolution, not yet capitulated to archeology.
World War Two however, did not help it:
Ten hundred horses-soldiers- graves left scars.
The chapel-onion burst-but the massive walls resisted.
The valley, that vertile valley of the river Raab
Winding down toward th Hungarian plain,
That valley saw the barbarians time and again,
Before-and-after I was Ten.

Met een korreltje zout

cimg3407Dit is het zoutvat en de pepermolen op de keukentafel van Castrum Peregrini. Sinds ik op de Herengracht kom (dat was voor het eerst eind 1999) staan ze daar en ik ben ervan overtuigd dat generaties voor mij hetzelfde zullen zeggen. Ik ben dol op die twee. Niet dat ik ze vaak gebruik. Maar zout en peper zijn sterke symbolen, de twee voorwerpen dragen een verhaal en ze staan gewoonweg mooi op die tafel (natuurlijk is de tafel ook een lemma waard, dat komt later wel eens). Zout is het symbool van zuivering en reiniging. In de bijbel geldt het zout als symbool van de verbinding tussen God en zijn volk. Peper is al bekend uit oude Indiase geschriften in het Sanskriet, waar het “pipali” genoemd werd. Via Perzië kwam het pepergebruik bij de oude Grieken terecht. De Romeinen noemden peper “piper”, waar ons woord peper direct van afstamt. Peper werd door de Arabieren in Europa ingevoerd. Het monopolie voor de peperhandel lag tot het eind van de 15e eeuw bij de Italiaanse handelssteden Venetië, Genua, Pisa en Florence. De VOC is onder andere ontstaan vanuit de behoefte van de Nederlanders om zelf peper te halen uit de wingewesten.

Terug naar ons zoutvaatje en de pepermolen. Op de pepermolen staat: W.F. 8.7.1982 gegraveerd. W.F. staat voor Wolfgang Frommel en op acht juli is zijn verjaardag. Hij was geboren in 1902, dus in 1982 werd hij 80 jaar oud. Hij stierf vier jaar later in 1986. Zou hij één van die types geweest zijn die bij ieder maaltijd meteen zout en peper eroverheen strooien voor ze proeven? Het zou bij hem passen, hij hield van pittig begrijp ik. Volgens mijn weten is de pepermolen een cadeau van William Hilsley, genoemd Billy, een van Wolfgangs eerste en oudste vrienden, nog uit zijn tijd in Berlijn. Wij hebben onlangs een hele briefwisseling tussen die twee in de nalatenschap van Claus Victor Bock gevonden. Er werd jarenlang beweerd dat die briefwisseling in de oorlog verloren was gegaan. Dat ze nu toch plotseling opduikt is een van de velen paradoxen van dit huis. (Lees meer over Billy, in William Hilsley, Musik hinterm Stacheldraht, Tagebuch eines internierten Musikers, 1940-1945, Berlin 2000).

Maar dan is er ook nog het zoutvat. Ik zou willen wedden dat dat uit Schloss Hainfeld in Oostenrijk stamt, het familiekasteel van Gisèle’s moeder. Gisèle zegt dat ze twee van die vaatjes herinnert uit haar jeugd, maar niet meer precies hoe het ene hier is gekomen of hoe het andere is verdwenen. cimg3083Het zou ook van haar vaders familie kunnen stammen, maar, zoals ze zelf zegt: “het ziet er helemaal niet Nederlands uit…”. Het is van tin en misschien uit de 17de eeuw. Een kleine 5 cm hoog met een doorsnede van 3 cm. Je moet de deksel opnemen en tussen twee vingers wat zout pakken en op je eten strooien. De dingen met een korreltje zout nemen is iets wat ik op de Herengracht heb geleerd. Ik ken weinig plekken waar zo veel en zo hard wordt gelachen als aan deze keukentafel, rond dit zout- en pepersetje. Het gaat er pittig en uitdagend aan toe en dat is dan vooral een teken van genegenheid. Alleen thema’s en mensen die echt raken zijn onderwerp van vermaak. Iedereen zal dat herkennen. Misschien weet iemand nog het fijne van de twee omschreven voorwerpen, hoe het echt in elkaar zit. Ik ben benieuwd!