Johannes Count Khuen-Belasi und Maria Countess Khuen-Belasi about what it is like to be lords of the manor at their Englar Castle, proudly sitting on a hill above the town of Appiano and inviting adventurous guests on very personal discoveries.
Historic: How does one become lord or lady of the manor?
Johannes Count Khuen-Belasi und Maria Countess Khuen-Belasi
Host at the Castel Englar
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: (laughing) Quite suddenly! But of course, most of the time, it is by being born into it, which includes: into the responsibility. Being a castle lord is part of one’s family history, and it’s nice if you enjoy it, like we do.
Maria Khuen-Belasi: The joy comes from opening the castle for other people. Their joy is in turn the basis for our joy. It makes one see the beauty of the place again.
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: Also, large houses like this one are made for social life. They have always been very busy and only really work when there are many people here.
Your family history goes back many centuries. Would you mind telling us a little bit about it?
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: Sure, how much time do you have? (Laughs.)
The Englar Castle is the best-preserved Gothic castle in South Tyrol.
Maybe it’s easier if we focus on the castle. Why is Englar Castle standing right here and how come your family lives here?
Johannes Kuen-Belasi: The Khuen family was first mentioned around 1100. They were vassals serving the local sovereign, executing certain tasks on his behalf. You would probably call them civil servants today. To survive economically, they were given principalities, including houses they were allowed to rebuild into castles. So first, the castle was a mere residential building for someone in a certain capacity, a servants’ residence, if you will. It was also much smaller then: Originally there was only one tower here, 5x5 metres, very cold, no heating. Later, the Gothic part was added to the small tower; today it stands out due to its high roof. The part where we are sitting now, the hotel wing, was built in 1520. The castle then ended up in our family via the noble family of the Firmian and a few marriages. It is the best-preserved Gothic castle in South Tyrol today.
So, your family has been living here since 1600?
Johannes Kuen-Belasi: Exactly.
»Guests need to be a bit adventurous, a little inventive, and independent.«
What would you say is the special challenge in maintaining such a castle?
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: That you are never finished. (Laughs). Construction areas keep popping up over the decades in the main house, in the surrounding buildings, and in the church, which is also part of the house…
Maria Khuen-Belasi: ...That in turn gives you new ideas all the time. It’s a lot of work, but it also allows you to keep dreaming about all the things you and your descendants could do.
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: In fact, every generation has to find its own purpose for the house.
Maria Khuen-Belasi: It’s very important for every generation’s happiness to know that they are free to decide to do everything differently tomorrow.
What do guests value most about the castle?
Maria Khuen-Belasi: I think they value the living history and the fact that we only have a few rooms. After first seeing the big house, everybody is astonished to find that there are only eight rooms. It’s a kind of luxury.
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: Guests need to be a bit adventurous, a little inventive, and independent. There are many things to discover here that are not described anywhere. There’s the church, there’s a vast piece of land, the mill behind it, and a number of beautiful vista points in the vineyards. But everybody has to find the most beautiful spots for themselves.
Maria Khuen-Belasi: Entering here is a bit like travelling in time, to the Middle Ages. Seeing the chicken sand-bathing in the sun—it does a lot to make you relax.
What is it that you enjoy most about being hosts?
Maria Khuen-Belasi: That it makes you see the castle through different eyes, re-discover it.
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: Sharing with the guests is what I find so nice. The house is too big for one family, you need to open it to others. But we are not an actual hotel, that’s what makes for the special charm: Our family lives here, my mother lives here, the staff live here, animals live in the yard.
Maria Khuen-Belasi: The entire extended family comes here for Christmas. So obviously we arrange everything the way we like it ourselves.
Johannes Khuen-Belasi: And the guests feel that. They feel they have entered a private atmosphere. They feel that this isn’t just a hotel, but different and even a little bit more.