Castleholics Anonymous with Netty of Netty Royal

Sundays is for Castleholics Anonymous once again here at Confessions of a Castleholic. In today's edition, I spoke to Netty Leistra, probably one of the best known names in the world of royal watching and an avid castle visitor. Find her adventures at Netty Royal.

Palace Het Loo (All photos: Netty Leistra)
Can you still remember the first castle you ever visited? What fascinated you the most about it?
Good thing my mother was here the other week and confirmed what I already thought. She thinks I must have been 6 or 7 years old (so around 1980) and we went by bike (me on my own)! There is this small castle very close to Sneek, The Netherlands, where I grew up. It is called the Epemastate, still private property, but open to the public. It looks pretty commercial nowadays, but at the time it was a small and cosy family home that the family used once in a while. My mother thinks that we probably even had a guided tour by the lady of the castle, Baroness Clara van Harinxma thoe Slooten, the wife of Jonkheer Cees van Eysinga. He was chamberlain to the Queen in the Province of Friesland. Unfortunately they have both died in recent years. I guess if we had a tour by the baroness, I might have been very impressed already by her. She was really a grand lady. And to be honest, it was a real castle, and I was just a little girl. I have been there several times afterwards, but the last time surely is some years ago.

Entrance of Krujë Castle
How many castles and palaces have you visited since and which ones were your favourite?
Hundreds at least, haven't counted, but never enough and there are still so many castles and palaces I'd love to visit. After all these years I still enjoy Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, even if I have been there tens of times. Christiansborg in Copenhagen, Denmark, is quite grand with some huge halls. And not really a castle itself, but the greenhouses of Laeken Castle in Brussels really impressed me last year. Unfortunately they're only open three weeks a year.

You went to Albania last year for the wedding of Crown Prince Leka. What was the experience like?
Unbelievable! I think apart from maybe in Germany I have never been so close to the bridal couple and their guests, although for fans just trying to catch a glimpse there wouldn't have been that much to see. But luckily I was with the media. The guestlist was much more royal than we had ever thought beforehand and everybody was rather relaxed. The day before the wedding a friend and I actually had a short audience with Crown Prince Leka II at his residence in the heart of Tirana. A first for both of us! Pity we were not able to have a better look around, as we saw a few lovely family items when we entered. If you know where it is, the house is quite easy to find. I also did have a look at the outside of the Palace of the Brigades, also known as the Royal Palace, of course as the wedding itself took place there. I don't think they'd usually let you pass the gates very easily, but I might be wrong. 
Crown Prince Leka and Crown Princess Elia
The country itself is not very used to tourists and especially elder people don't speak English, but I thought it was really lovely (if you don't mind the crazy traffic and stray dogs). Apart from Tirana I did visit the Krujë Castle that houses the National Skanderbeg Museum. Skanderbeg, as you might know, is Albania's national hero, who rebelled against the Ottomans and between 1443 and 1468 ruled part of modern-day Albania. I'd love to go back one day and see more.

Your royal interest has taken you to many different places. Which are the ones left on your bucket list?
Too many! There is always more on the list than I think I can handle in a lifetime. Only to mention the royal and noble bucket list destinations: the Loire Castles, Neuschwanstein in the South of Germany, St. Petersburg, Portugal (Lisbon, Sintra), the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary (Gödöllö), Italy... And lots of places I have visited for the last time a long time ago in a pre-digital camera era, like Paris, Prague, Vienna. I have never been inside Buckingham Palace or the Royal Palace in Oslo either.

If you could create your perfect castle, what would it look like?
A bit of a combination of a medieval castle and an elegant palace if that does exist. It should at least have an impressive staircase both in front of the entrance as inside the hall, a huge ballroom and an enormous library with lots of books, some beautifully carved ceilings, chandeliers, towers, not too small windows, a wonderful view and of course a beautiful garden with statues and lots of flowers. Probably it should have a moat with a drawbridge and a nice gate as entrance too.

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