Spooky castle gets new owner

2012-09-22 15:29

Hout Bay landmark now a secretive Russian’s prize

It looms above Hout Bay, its turrets dark against the verdant mountainside.

This is the mysterious Lichtenstein Castle, and it has a new owner.

The castle, which was completed by German owner/builder Reyneir Fritz in 1998 after 12 years of construction, has just been sold to a secretive Russian businessman for R23 million.

It is the tallest structure on the Karbonkelberg in Hout Bay and overlooks the Hout Bay harbour towards Chapman’s Peak.

Sotheby’s estate agent Nina Smith refused to divulge who the new “very high profile” owner is, saying only that he is a Russian businessman who does not live in South Africa.

“It’s a holiday residence,” she said, before correcting herself and saying: “No, it’s just a private residence.”

Estate manager Diane Davidoff also clammed up when questions were asked about the new owner.

But deeds office records show a purchase for R23 million made on May 29 2012 by Svetlana Besfamilnaya, who appears to be the businessman’s wife.

“I’ll have to tell them someone’s been digging around and her husband will be very angry,” said Davidoff.

The castle has 12 en suite bedrooms, a library, a banquet hall, a swimming pool, a helipad and a natural waterfall on its 8.6 hectares.

It is a replica of the Gothic Schloss Lichtenstein Castle in southern Germany. Its builder, Fritz, died in the castle shortly after the family moved in, and it’s here that the home’s mysterious aura began to form.

The exact details of his death differ, but a Hout Bay resident who knew the family said Fritz fell down the stairs.

Rumours of the castle being haunted by his ghost have persisted.

Davidoff, who has lived in the castle for the last seven years, fervently denied there was any mystery about Fritz’s death.

“He died of a heart attack after the castle was finished. I knew his widow, and if anyone would know what happened, she would.”

Soon after Fritz’s death, his widow sold the property and it was used for many years as a guesthouse and wedding venue.

“It was extremely popular,” said Davidoff. She laughed at the mention of a ghost and said: “I have no comment on that.”

Davidoff has been instructed by the new owners to continue taking bookings for film shoots, and for  weddings in the conference centre, which is separate to the house.

“Those horrific stories aren’t true, people love to make them up but they aren’t true. The castle is exquisite. I have lived here for seven years and it is spectacular.

“I am standing now looking out of the window (while on the phone) and I feel blessed to be here.”

Like other mock-Romantic European castles in Africa built by homesick immigrants far from their homeland, Castle Lichtenstein is a rather peculiar sight against the slopes of the Karbonkelberg.

Hout Bay Ratepayers Association chair Len Swimmer said the castle “should never have been built where it is – in the natural environment there on the mountainside. It is above the urban edge and they would never have got permission for it now. But it was easier to get back then.”

But he said it was fortunate the castle blended into the mountain and had become an icon rather than an eyesore.

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