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At 76, Gerry Halman hand-built an impressive Roman-style castle in his garden in the Netherlands, the fruit of 34 years of passionate labor.

In the small village of Blesdijke in the north of the Netherlands, the towers of an extraordinary castle named Olt Stoutenburght proudly stand out in the flat landscape. Its owner, Gerry Halman, nicknamed “Lord Gregorious,” now welcomes visitors and tourists who come to admire his colossal work.

This 76-year-old retiree, a former costume shop owner, has devoted 34 years of his life to meticulously building this five-story edifice inspired by various cultures. Drawing inspiration from ancient Chinese, Roman and Egyptian architecture, he traveled the world to find the materials and decorative elements.

“One morning in 1990, I said to my wife: ‘I’m ready. I have a complete picture. I know what the building looks like, from top to bottom’,” Mr. Halman recalls. Since then, building and furnishing his castle has become his raison d’être.

The grand vaulted hall features a metal chandelier from Istanbul and Art Nouveau railings from Libya. The library is filled with hundreds of books on art and history. Knights in shining armor, noble ladies, and even a statue of Aphrodite populate this extraordinary place.

The highlight is at the top of the castle: a majestic dragon made from hundreds of pieces of recycled metal, a nod to Chinese culture. Beside it, a metal cobra evokes the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.

Getting a building permit was no small feat. “The mayor said, ‘He’s crazy. He’s not a builder. He has no experience in architecture and he wants to build a castle’,” Halman recounts. But his perseverance eventually paid off.

Recycling and antique markets were his main sources of supply. As for the total cost, the lord of the manor doesn’t know. “Never ask the price of something, otherwise you would never dare do it,” he philosophizes.

Like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Olt Stoutenburght is “never finished,” because for its builder, “one can always enhance beauty.” His three children have the mission to continue his work. His 16-year-old granddaughter Sara has fond memories of her childhood in this unique setting.

While Gerry Halman’s wife “likes” the project, she prefers to stay in the background. “I do my thing, it’s for me. We have the perfect marriage,” says the man who likes to quote Salvador Dali, “The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.”

Visitors are charmed. “It’s impressive that he did this all by himself. Very beautiful interior. Lots of arches and nice bricks. A lot of imagination,” enthuses Monique Meijer, a 55-year-old nurse.

Gerry Halman has turned his dream into reality. His castle embodies the realization of a vision, the triumph of a consuming passion. A sweet madness that commands admiration.

With AFP