Home » Stories

About us

Hotel Geulzicht

– 2022

1. The hotel

After many struggles, I bought this hotel in 2019. At the time of purchase, it has already been closed for three years. After two years of toil, the first step towards completion has finally been completed. What was once effectively a ruin has been restored to a workable state with the help of many, but I digress. I have heard from hikers passing by that this hotel was originally owned by a skilled manager who provided a truly wonderful place to stay. They said that they have beautiful memories of their stays in this hotel.

A long time has passed since those years of glory. The hotel was not in good shape. Luckily for me, it was not in a state of disrepair. When I first visited the district with my family, I immediately fell in love with the quaint atmosphere of this village and the river nearby flowing happily onward. I saw that this hotel was up for sale and went for a visit. Even though it was only a shell of its former state, I could only imagine how good it would feel to stay here if it was restored. That is why I bought this hotel and took on the challenge of bringing back the hotel described by the hikers I met: a place where you would want to stay.

The point of these small stories is to describe and document interesting people, objects, events, places, etc. that had some connection with the hotel, as to not lose them to the vast, murky rivers of time. Of course, another reason is to provide some background to the pieces of decoration in this hotel and the surrounding areas. Maybe you will find the furnishing just that slight bit more vibrant or lively, or the surroundings just that touch more colourful or captivating. Even if the difference is that small, it would have been worth all my while. Either way, I hope you have some time to spare to listen to an old man’s rants. Now where to start? Maybe the statue of Manneken Pis…

– 2022

2. The once lost statue of Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis is, well, a little strange.
It is the icon of Brussels, the capital of Belgium. It is a statue of a smiling little boy peeing. Light-hearted and carefree, to me it depicts the free spirit of a child. Maybe that is why it became the icon of that lovely, bustling city. Many copies of the statue have been made over the years, and one of them was found by me while tending to the garden two years ago.

At the time, I did not know where to start renovating the hotel, so I decided to just clean the garden of stray leaves and twigs. While doing that, I found the lower half of Manneken Pis covered in dirt, stranded in the grass. The entire head was missing from the neck up. Although the absence of some parts of the statue is beautiful in its own right, I still felt a tinge of sorrow for that cute boy every time I looked at where the head should be. I searched the entire garden for his head, but to no avail.

For the time being, I decided to put it in the corner of a room somewhere and figured I might find the head someday. Soon, I forgot about the statue amidst everyday business. One year later, I came back from Utrecht with a branch of rose flowers to plant here. When I started digging a hole to plant my branch in, I felt something solid under my spade. It looked like a big rock covered in dirt. I did not think much of it and just planted the branch there. It was when I started watering my newly planted branch, however, that the water washed the mud off, revealing the face of Manneken Pis, thoughtfully staring at me. Surprised, I hastily took it back to clean it, and sure enough, it fit perfectly on the body of the statue I found one year ago.

Just like that, after some more thorough cleaning and polishing, Manneken Pis was resurrected! Small bits are still missing, and the crack is visible, but those are details that only add to the aesthetic. On the first floor just left of the stairs, you can see him welcoming you on top a wooden drawer rack between two amusing cow statues. Do say hello when you get the chance!

– 2022

3. About the lack of a TV

If you open a window at night, the sound of the river flowing around the hotel fills the silent air with a chipper sound. If you close your eyes and focus on the sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the old willow tree and listen to the water flowing by, you would immediately feel at peace. It makes memories from my childhood slide through my mind, when all was cheerful, cosy, and calm. I have not seen many hotels in the Netherlands feature the wonderful serenity that a flowing river provides, so to me at least, preserving that feature is of utmost importance.

And now, about the TV. This is the countryside after all. We have no access to the fibre optic internet cable network that allows for data transfer speeds fast enough to support so many televisions. Despite the challenges, I still got in contact with an internet provider who installed the infrastructure for us. What eventually changed my mind, was that the cacophony of the TVs would ruin the peaceful atmosphere the river so kindly gave. It would be a shame for such serene silence to be interrupted by some humourless, dry programme playing too loudly in some nearby room, don’t you think? Maybe read a book with the window open to let in fresh air and that wonderful sound. It is better for your mind. I hope you understand our decision and the lack of a TV is not too big an inconvenience for you. But if you happen to be a guest who enjoys a nice evening watching TV, I am sorry! I hope the faster internet speeds make up for it!

– 2022

4. The flood and the three logs

The flowing water of the Geul is beautiful, but too much of anything good can be a disaster.

On July 14th, 2021, the Geul river burst its banks due to severe rainfall, flooding the lower regions of the village. Since our hotel building is situated right next to the river, the flood ravaged our basement, causing a massive setback. Because the river normally would not even rise close to surface level, no one expected such a big flood despite the rainfall.

The flood happened while I was on the second floor. I could hear the rain clattering against the windows, but I too was never too worried. Only after it was too late did I decide to look out the window, just in case. What I saw completely dumbfounded me. Instead of wet grass, I was greeted with muddy water covering the entire backyard. I could no longer tell where the backyard ended, and the river started. I hurried downstairs to check the situation. Luckily, the water has not risen to ground level yet. However, the basement was completely filled with water. Even if I could get in, there was nothing I could do.

The rain kept coming, and with it, the water levels kept rising. At some point, the roads outside were covered in water. Only after three long, dreadful days did the water start receding. It revealed the aftermath of the flood, and an ugly sight to behold it was. Scattered tables and chairs, broken fences, even the occasional roof tile. But despite the circumstances, we must persevere. Thus, people left their fears behind, and we all adopted a helpful, supportive attitude to rebuild our homes.

It was around this time when I found one of the three big logs brought here by the flood. At first the log had an unassuming look to it. Normally one would simply discard it as unwelcome foliage. It was covered in mud, weeds, broken pieces of pottery, and the like. However, the beauty of age was apparent. I brought it back inside for a thorough wash. After that, the log stunned me. Its wrinkles and rot marks gave it an appeal comparable to that of a castle ruin. Even though it does not seem like anything remarkable at first sight, its allure comes from how it keeps your attention and allows you to appreciate it more than just giving it a first sight. Of course, it made an immaculate decoration piece for the café. I tried hanging it up to hang lamps on it, but it was too heavy for that. I put it on the top shelf of the bar instead, using the advice I got from my neighbour Jo. Where did it come from? I thought I heard that this flood originated in Germany. Anyhow, the log traversed long distances to end up in my garden. Was this destiny? Perhaps just a coincidence.

My idea of making a natural-looking hanging lamp was fulfilled by the second log. This one was found spring of 2022 in the garden while I was cleaning out the trash from last year’s flood, together with the third log. After half a year of rain and wind washing them, they looked slightly cleaner than the first log when I found it. After a washing, I knew that the second log was perfect for my idea. Sure enough, it can fit in just right, even without screws or glue! If you observe closely, you will find it resting between the top edges of the wooden walls, above you as you walk through the opening from the front part of the café to the main area.

The third log was a bit more mundane than its two precursors. I had difficulties finding the right spot to put it. When the construction and the furnishing of the café was almost finished, I found a place at last. On the shelf on the wall, it fits in just well enough to adorn it. It might not be as eye-catching, but it certainly adds detail and reinforces the theme of the interior, or at least I do say so myself. Who knows, it might just be a bit shy compared to the first two logs! Who said plants cannot feel anyways?

– 2022

5. Butterflies

The butterflies were already here when I bought the hotel, so I do not know for how long they have been here. One of the three is on the wall at the lift on the ground floor, the other two are on the staircase wall between the first and second floor. Black, glimmering, and majestic. Now that I think about it, I am probably an outsider to them. I hope that just like the cute village of Schin op Geul, they welcome us.

I used to only work here on some days when I came to Limburg with my family. During the lockdown caused by the pandemic in early May of 2020, my children were excused from school. This allowed me and my family to temporarily live here and make progress on the renovation of this hotel. When school started, it was time for my wife to return with my children to Utrecht. I decided to stay here and continue working on my own. I reassured them that I could do it. There was just one little problem. I was not particularly fond of cramped, dark places. I tried my best to finish the day’s labours and shower before nightfall. Yet, I had trouble sleeping. To alleviate some of this fear, I moved downstairs into the café area to sleep, which was still a complete mess back then. It was in the café that one of the butterflies hung, looking down on me. It reassured me, like an imaginary companion would do.

Sometimes I would walk past the butterflies and give them a tap or knock, and they would respond with a pristine metal sound. Other times I would temporarily forget about them, and they would still watch over me like old friends, waiting. We exchange no words, but they can somehow reassure me nonetheless.

Early spring this year I was designing the logo for the hotel, but I couldn’t find a suitable symbol for it. Just then, I miraculously thought of those butterflies in a flash of inspiration.  That is why our symbol is now a butterfly. It goes without saying that I adore the design of the butterflies. It bore the creative spirit of the artist who sculpted them. I could imagine them carefully inspecting my work and nodding in approval. Maybe they were waiting here all this time. Recently, I spoke to my painter friend Mr. Alfons Smit about the butterflies. He told me that he knew the artist who created them well. I hope to meet them one day and give them my most sincere thanks.

– 2022

6. Our name

At the entrance to the café, you could see the opposite wall made of old fruit baskets. In the middle of that wall, an unassuming stone tablet is attached to it, saying “Pension Geulzicht”. As to how old this tablet is exactly, I do not know either, but I can tell you the origin of it.

About a century ago, this hotel was built. Its original name was already Geulzicht. It bore that name for a while, until the owners of this hotel who came before me – a Buddhist organisation – changed the name to Hotel Kadampa. Kadampa is a school of Buddhism which uses the teachings of the Buddha exclusively, that is, without reverence towards any person or object, but merely towards wisdom and virtue, but I digress.

While cleaning out the garage, I found this stone tablet. It was grimy and faded, but the name was still visible. I conjured up some names myself for the hotel, but ultimately decided upon this one. It incorporated one of, if not the most important aspect of our hotel, namely the Geul river. Besides, both my friends and family, and I find this name appealing to listen to. Was I influenced by this tablet? Most likely.

The tablet and the old photos I found of the hotel are all on display in the café. I hope to live up to the prestige and success the hotel acquired under this name! I would not want to tarnish the name engraved on this stone tablet.

– 2022

7. Cows

Besides the butterflies, the thing that effectively kept me sane was the neighbour’s cows. Because I was the only one inhabiting the building during construction, an eerie silence always possessed it. The only sounds I could hear were the whirring of my tools, and my footsteps, heartbeat, and breathing.

Silence could truly drive one mad, but luckily the low, steady moos coming from the neighbour’s pasture from time to time always made me feel like the cows kept me company. Their sounds are so soothing, they could instil tranquillity in me at my most frustrated and exhausted moments. At those moments, I could almost imagine them greeting me, consoling me, or even complimenting me. Even though they are just animalistic moos, somehow, they offer me the slightest reprieve from my emotions.

Sometimes I would first look out the window and exchange a brief glance with the cows, then go about my usual business, as if we were exchanging a greeting. It gets quite lonely working away from my family, so any social interaction – even interactions barely social by the furthest stretch of the imagination – are always welcome.

The neighbour’s name is Ruud. He is a great guy. He has always helped me when I needed it. We became friends very early on even though I’m not very familiar with Dutch. Even though they do not look as remarkable as most cows I’ve seen in the Netherlands, they keep happily grazing day in, day out. It warms my heart knowing that they are living a good life.

– 2022

8. My neighbour Jo

Jo is a nice guy.

Out of all the neighbours I have ever had, including the ones back in China, Jo is the one I have had the most contact with. He is ethnically Polish, but his nationality is Dutch. He isn’t like most Dutch people, towering over me. No, he is about the same height as me, or translated into Dutch terms, about the height of a rabbit. He is 67 as of right now, just reaching the retirement age, short grey hair, and always grinning in the friendliest way.

Our average conversation goes something like: “Hi Yang!” “Hi Jo!”, much like what one would expect from neighbours. However, he helps me and guides more with work than anyone would expect from your average friend. Jo is a gifted architect. He even designed and built his own house! It is cosy and comfortable in here. I saw photos of his stone brick house in France, and it was unbelievable.

Jo is also a talented gardener. His specialty lies in little ponds and lakes. The one in his garden is masterfully adorned with lilies. Somehow, there are more lily flowers than lily pads. There are not too many as to clutter the view, but every single one seems to add their own little part to the overall look. He even made his own wooden platform beside the pond as a miniature lounging area. On a hot summer day after work, anyone would love to sit there and enjoy a drink while looking at the glittering reflection of the sun on the water surface and the lilies wafting ever so slightly with the light breeze.

Jo does not like a trimmed and ordered garden tended to by dozens of gardeners. No, he likes wild, more natural looking gardens that appeal to our primal, hunter-gatherer brains. He always manages to use natural foliage and materials with such mastery that the results amaze me time and time again. He trims the grass a bit and plants some flower seeds down, and it would become a sea of colour and beauty, all the way from spring until fall. Above those feats, he still has plans for a rainforest themed garden. I cannot see how that is possible given the cold climate here in the Netherlands, but I am sure if anyone, he could do it. I look forward to exploring that garden, and I hope he finishes it soon. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting it!

– 2022

9. Professor Beaver

Before coming to Schin op Geul, I have never seen a real beaver before. I only have the faintest memory of seeing one in a book or on TV. One day, Airat, a neighbour who temporarily lived here greeted me and pointed behind me, exclaiming: “Beaver!” I turned around and saw a startled, brown, furry creature plunge into the river, drawing an S-shape with its body. Beavers are obviously good swimmers, but they are equally – if not better – at gnawing trees away until they die.

I visited my neighbour Jo’s garden once, and saw a fence with barbed wire around some bark-less trees. That was the scene of the crime. Beavers chew away the bark of the tree bit by bit, going around in a circle. Eventually, the tree will wither away due to that and die. The local population seems to be thriving. I was not very content with them, seeing the danger to my trees lurking ahead.

After the flood, I was cleaning the debris up that it left. Around then I found a small hole, its diameter around that of a goose egg. It looked like the work of mice. When I poked the hole with a branch, some of the apparently hollow ground collapsed! After poking it some more, the hole became 30 to 40 centimetres in diameter. I peered in, and saw an elaborate tunnel system right under the dirt! I reached in to grab what looked like a stick. When I made contact with it, the “stick” screeched and darted into the river below. The “stick” revealed itself to be a beaver, staring at me with fear in its glimmering eyes, and with another fierce dive, swam away. The tunnel system was the beaver’s home. I had accidentally trespassed into their territory.

About a week later, I went to check on the beaver cave before throwing out the plastic waste. The hole I had made was patched up with sticks of different lengths, creating a stable, web-like structure which could even support my weight. Light, and sturdy. I was thoroughly impressed by the beavers’ intelligence. It seems the masters are not only among the people, but also in the wild.

Until then, I had never had a great idea regarding the roof of the café above the buffet table. The roof should not block the fire sensor, and should organically mingle with the style of the pillars, walls, furniture, etc. The beaver who patched up their cave just gave me an excellent solution. A great architect, a great teacher. I used the remainder of my wood to create a roofing of a similar style. If only I could invite the beaver in to show it its student’s work. Well, the beaver would probably be very confused. But you, dear reader, having two legs and understanding human intents more than the beaver ever could, could walk into the café and see the result of the inspiration Professor Beaver gave me.

– 2022

10. The lights, the pasture, and the little sky trains

Just outside of the hotel stands a tall lamp post. Looking beyond, a train calmly trots past, not in a hurry but always on time, travelling through the forest on top of the hills. The train almost seems like it popped right out of a fairy tale. While I was living in the hotel’s café, this was the scenery I saw the most. It was especially apparent at night.

During winter, the interior was cold. Being a old hotel, the building was not very well insulated. But with time, instead of keeping in the heat, the temperature tended toward the chill of the long nights. The heating system was inoperable for the entire winter of 2021 due to its destruction during the flood in July. To make conditions more bearable, I slept with two bedsheets and my jacket, but despite my efforts, it was still difficult to fall asleep. In these moments, the warm, gentle light from the train passing by and muffled sounds provide me a bit of reprieve from the cold. And then I would wonder who those passengers were. What were they doing? Reading a book perhaps? Maybe just letting their thoughts drift and staring out of the window? That always brought me into slumber.

Between the train tracks and the street lamp lies my neighbour Ruud’s pastures. He loves and cares about his cows so much that he set up extra fences to prevent his cows from slipping and injuring themselves while grazing on the slippery grass in winter. An apple tree grows in the middle of his pasture. Its flowers bloom during spring, allowing the wind to carry their delightful fragrance with it. The tree in full bloom looks mighty charming, even across the road through a window. The cows would sometimes stand in place and stare silently at the train on top of the hills passing by, as if they have something to say about the whole affair.

Seeing them conjures up memories of a book I once read to my children, about a bull who wanted to do nothing but sitting in the field and taking in the wonderful smell of flowers around him. However, due to factors beyond the cow’s whims, more commonly known as the inexplicable wishes and needs of us talking monkeys, he was brought against his will to the great stadium of Barcelona. There, he withstood the instigations from the bullfighters (or metadores in Spanish), and returned home safely, where he would forever enjoy his green pastures. Perhaps the writer of that book stayed a while in a similar environment to mine and got inspired by the nature around him. If only I had that kind of inspiration!

– 2022

11. The temporary end

With the opening, some stories happened, but there was no time to write, for example, The first guest in room 10; The Mayor, the hammer and two bones; Professor Leslie; The forgotten fourth wood ; The painter Alfons Smeets; perhaps you will be able to read it the next time you come, if I have written it and someone has translated it for me.

Do you have a story or idea to tell me? Then write it here or come downstairs and chat with me. Maybe, you will also enter my story.

Hope you have a great time here!