Vianden castle Hana Sofia
© Pancake! Photographie

Daydream Castles as inspiring places of power

5 minutes

Dreams of travel and castles

Story summary

  • The life of Dutch woman Mayke van Straalen is transformed after she visits a castle in Clemency which has been converted into a hotel.
  • Mayke quits her job as an undertaker, moves to Luxembourg and now runs the hotel.
  • Actress Hana Sofia Lopes finds inspiration and peace in Luxembourg's castles and their gardens.
  • The encounter between the two women creates an intense exchange about castles, life and the universe.

Castles can be places of power, or simply offer a place to daydream. Actress Hana Sofia Lopes and hotel manager Mayke Van Straalen explore the magic of Luxembourg’s castles.

Sometimes dreams and visions can move entire buildings. This was the case with a small castle in the village of Clemency, near the Belgian border in Luxem­bourg. Built by the lords of Clemency in the 14th century, in the 17th century its owner had a vision that the former ruins would shine again in new splendour.

And so the stones were removed and rebuilt just 30 metres away from the original site. Clemency’s little castle has stood in its “new location” since 1651. Since then it has been rebuilt again and again. In 2009, it was renovated and turned into a hotel by the archi­tect, businessman and visionary Pascal Zimmer, who is known in Luxembourg for his many lifestyle projects. Not long ago, this attrac­tive, dark grey and white building had a life-changing impact on a traveller.

Castle of Clemency
© Pancake! Photographie

Mayke van Straalen (r) and Hana Sofia Lopes meet at Schlosshotel Clemency. They live very different lives. But meeting people is central to both of their jobs.

Castle connections

Mayke Van Straalen’s fate is now inextricably linked to the castle. Beaming, she leads her visitor through the corridors and up and down the narrow stairs, showing her the new room with the large table for cosy, sociable evenings and the homey terrace in the converted former shed. She walks with her through the Sherlock Holmes suite and Peggy’s “Belle Epoque”, a room designed entirely by the artist Peggy Dihé. Each room tells its own story. There are valuable collector’s items everywhere, from crockery to works of art.

Mayke, who comes from the Netherlands, recalls: “I was travelling through here in 2021, on my way back from a three-week trip through Italy. Some­thing told me: ‘You have to spend the night here! Something special is going to happen!’”

Mayke immediately fell in love with the hotel. She told the own­er Pascal Zimmer. He realised: this woman belongs here! And a few weeks later, Mayke quit her job as an undertaker, a job which she had always been passionate about, left the Netherlands, and moved into the top floor of the hotel. She has been running it ever since. “It is simply marvel­lous! I have no regrets, I love the little castle, the encounters with people, Luxembourg and our other projects!” Together with Pascal Zimmer, she has opened a bed and breakfast in Beaufort, among other places, and will soon open new bed and breakfasts in Vianden and Wor­meldange.

Castle of Clemency
© Claude Piscitelli

Always a fresh start

Her visitor nods thoughtfully. The young woman with the long, dark hair is Hana Sofia Lopes, an actress from Luxembourg with Portuguese roots.

“Sometimes the universe has something special in store!” She says as she has coffee with Mayke at the bar, which is also the reception desk. The two women hit it off straight away, discussing life choices and encounters. They both agree that you have to push yourself, and every day brings new possibilities that can lead to something really big.

Starting from scratch can be an enriching experience. For example, when you leave your job and start something completely different like Mayke has done. Or, like Hana Sofia, when she has to familiarise herself with a completely new role that also changes you as a person and helps you grow.

Hana Sofia is known in the film scene for, among many other things, the film “Kanaval” and a role in the TV series “Capi­tani”. She has also performed in theatres across Luxembourg in a variety of productions, such as “Hedda Gabler” and “Medea”. Hana Sofia travels a lot in her profession. She has been to the Lis­bon and Toronto film festivals and award ceremonies, but she always comes back to Luxembourg. This is where she grew up and where she lives in her parents’ house in the centre of the country.

Ansembourg Castle is currently in a kind of slumber. It is not yet clear what will happen within its walls in the future. At the moment, only the romantically designed garden with its baroque features is open to visitors.

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“I love the nature in Luxembourg,” the young actress stresses. Taking long walks in places she has loved since childhood are just as impor­tant as recharging her batteries in spots she has only recently gotten to know. One such place is the garden of the “new” Ansembourg Castle in the Guttland region, an ideal place to let your imagination go wild.

Two cats greet Hana Sofia behind the wrought-iron gate. Large goldfish frolic in the water basin, which is flanked by topiary trees. Further down, a fountain flows. It is as if this garden is waiting for the new lady of the castle, who wanders between the columns, hedges and flowers. Statues look up at the sky, down at the ground or directly at the visitors.

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A new lady of the castle?

The actress likes to walk between the trees or through the labyrinth of hedges, slowly climb the stairs and look at the castle from the outside. When will life return to this place? What would it be like to shoot a film here? What would it be like to have a hotel or a café here? Perhaps, time will tell.

Hana Sofia Lopes has grown fond of yet another castle: the magnificent Vianden Castle, a crowd-pleaser and at the same time a place where quiet corners can also be found in the castle chapel, in the long corridors, at the characteristic windows with their breathtaking views, between the walls and under the archway.

Vianden Castle is considered among the most beautiful castles in the world. Visitors can also approach the formidable walls via hiking trails and the chairlift.

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Life and the universe

When Hana Sofia talks, she does so in many different languag­es. She is fluent in French, and with her family and in Portugal she speaks her mother tongue, Portuguese. That is typical of Luxembourg, and even more so for someone who leads a polyglot life. When she talks about Toronto, where she bought her vintage leather coat, she switch­es to English. Memories of the family’s dog in Luxembourg are shared in Luxembourgish and, when the German interviewer talks about something personal, she switches to German. Empa­thising, putting yourself in other people’s shoes, thinking about how and why, Hana Sofia does this naturally and with genuine interest, which is why it is so pleasant to walk with her.

Chatting and wandering be­tween old walls: perhaps Mayke will be back for Hana Sofia’s next visit to the castle. Because nothing fires up the imagination better than talking to other inspiring people. Chatting about yesterday and today, life, the universe and all the rest.

Castle of Clemency
© Pancake! Photographie


  • Vianden Castle, located in the north of Luxembourg, is open to visitors all year round. It is one of the most popular castles in the world for travellers, who also love to explore the surrounding areas on foot.
  • The romantic garden of Ansembourg Castle is a popular stopping off point in the Valley of the Seven Castles in the Guttland region. A trip to the other six castles is also worthwhile! The “Old castle” of Ansembourg houses a cosy bed and breakfast, which is run by the current Count of the castle.
  • The castle hotel of Clemency is just one of Luxembourg’s exceptional accommodations. In every region, there is something special to discover!
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© Visit Éislek
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Vianden Castle
Explore Vianden Castle, one of the most beautiful and impressive castles in Europe, which delights with its majestic setting, excellent state of preservation and history.
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© Visit Guttland - Wolfgang Staudt
Ansembourg Castle
Ansembourg Castle
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© Visit Luxembourg
French Gardens of Ansembourg Castle
French Gardens of Ansembourg Castle
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