Obsessed. That’s how I feel about castles. I was going to say something corny about it being ‘simpler times’ and all that. But let’s be honest here—it’s about a sizzling hot time-travel series set in the 18th century Scotland that I’m REALLY obsessed with…thank you Diana Gabaldon for learning to write.
So what does this all mean? It means we’ve been to a lot of castles! And rather than walking around aimlessly staring at empty brick rooms, we always get the audio guide and frankly most of them are usually very drab and boring…well until now.
Yep! Gravensteen Castle in Ghent has one of the funniest audio tours you will every hear—kept us giggling the whole time.
They actually call it the “Comedy Audio Tour” and whoever thought of it was a genius. Here’s an excerpt:
“Witchcraft, tournaments, adultery, and hefty religious unrest: the Castle of the Counts brings together all my hobbies.” Wouter Deprez, comedian
But lucky for you—I also have an audio snippet of the tour (keep reading)!
But first a little history
Gravensteen Castle has a rather complicated history. I’ll give you the bits I’ve learned. First, they call it the “Castle of The Counts” because starting with Phillip of Alsace in 1180, it was the seat of all the Counts of Flanders for over 175 years. It was an imposing stone castle made of very expensive limestone. It had 24 watchtowers and was designed to symbolize power.
Count Louis of Male was the last count to live at Gravensteen. In 1384, he made the decision to move the ‘seat’ to nearby Prinsenhof (Princes House).
After that, the castle was repurposed many times over into a prison, a court, a mint, and a cotton factory. In the early 1900s, the City of Ghent gradually restored it back to the present state which is an ‘interpretation’ of the original. Some say it is historically inaccurate, or at least parts of it are.
Unfortunately, Gravensteen Castle also has an ugly past. It was a place of horrendous torture. Prisoners were placed in underground dungeons in cold unlivable conditions, where harsh interrogation, flogging, and removal of limbs was legal.
Today it is a well-known tourist site right in the middle of a bustling city and full of pedestrians, trams, bikes, restaurants, and shops.
Why did Gravensteen Castle decide to change the audio guide?
This is purely speculation on my part, but if you look at the reviews for Gravensteen Castle before 2016 they were less than stellar which could have been the impetus to change it.
“About as interesting as a Travelodge” Tripadvisor 2015
“Great castle, poor audio guide” Tripadvisor 2015
So in 2016, the people in charge of tourism at Flanders decided that just walking around a castle staring at brick walls and listening to bland audio wasn’t going to cut it anymore (I’ll second that).
So their plan was to sink $4.8 million into renovations and elevate the experience with an interesting, funny, and dynamic audio tour narrated by a very popular Flemish comedian, Wouter Deprez. And it worked! Like I said—GENIUS!
“Unique and entertaining audio tour” Tripadvisor 2019
“Medievel Castle with entertaining audio guide”Tripadvisor 2019
“Not only was the self guided audio tour by far the most hilarious commentary I have ever heard, but the castle was immaculately preserved!” Tripadvisor 2019
Who is Wouter Deprez?
Wouter Deprez is a popular Flemish comedian and actor, who won the 2003 Humo’s Comedy Cup and is the voice behind Gravensteen Castle’s audio guide. I looked all over Youtube for an English speaking comedy video of him and couldn’t find one. But not to worry, the audio guide is in perfect English.
So who is Wouter? He’s a bit mysterious at least for the English speaking world. It looks like he is a college graduate and drama student, who won “The Smartest Person in the World” finals in 2005. It’s a long-standing celebrity game show in the Netherlands.
Listen and judge for yourself
As promised here’s a sneak peek of the audio tour. It must be my weird sense of humor or raising 2 boys (my sweet girl does not like to discuss toilets) but I found this part on the “castle latrine” to be the funniest part of the whole tour.
*(I recorded this little snippet from the audio player and my iPhone microphone.)
But don’t just take my word for it—have a listen and judge for yourself.
Was I right? Not your typical castle audio guide!
Hopefully, you can get to Ghent someday because it’s a beautiful city with so much to offer. For all our slow travel friends, it is the PERFECT slow travel town too.