We waited in anticipation … wondering who would appear from behind the large wooden gate. Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves eye to eye – well not quite, because the person who opened the gate stood less than 1.55 m tall – with a smiling lady, clad in a large flannel shirt, worn jeans and rubber boots. She wore her long and curly grey hair in a ponytail in the nape of her heck. Behind her silver-rimmed spectacles her eyes were sparkling with interest and a touch of mischief.
“Are you here to visit the castle?” she enquired. We said we were, adding that we were aware of the fact that our visit didn’t coincide with the regular opening hours. “That’s not a problem, “she said. “We are here, working in the garden. So you are very welcome.” We stepped inside to find ourselves under an archway with a cobblestoned floor. We learned that the entrance fee was 5 euro per person, which is ‘peanuts’ compared to the fees the larger and more famous castles charge.
While we were talking we heard a rustling noise coming from the bushes … “Meet the owner of the castle,” the lady said, directing her gaze to somebody standing behind us. We turned around to see a rather peculiar man, dressed in jeans and a grey flannel shirt. His black, greying hair was long and curly. His somewhat rough features were softened by his smile. “Welcome” he beamed.
We quickly learned that the castle was not only just that, but also ‘une maison d’artistes’, the owner being the son of the painter Nicolas Untersteller, former director of l’Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, who acquired the grounds on which the castle ruins stood in 1957. We were kindly invited to visit the painter’s studio. The proprietor proudly showed us some of his parents’ work, because his mother had been an artist too. His father also designed the stain glass windows of the Church of St. Thérèse-de-l’Enfant-Jésus in Metz. We were shown some impressive photos of this remarkable piece of art.
The studio was a very strange and intriguing place. So was the adjenct room, which had a large bay window which looked out straight into what looked to be a forest. The lady explained that the arch in which it was placed had been the original entrance to the château’s grounds.
We had come here to see a medieval château and suddenly found ourselves in some kind artistic late 19th, early 20th century ‘vie de bohème’ atmosphere. Both the proprietor and his companion were passionate talkers when it came to art. Moreover, they didn’t object to us taking photos of the studio and the paintings.
I think the photos speak for themselves.
And there was more to come …