News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday June 19th 2019

Landmark castle sold to evasive Russian businessman for 23m

The landmark Lichtenstein Castle in Hout Bay was recently sold to a Russian businessman for R23m. Photo: Katie de Klee/WCN

The landmark Lichtenstein Castle in Hout Bay was recently sold to a Russian businessman for R23m. Photo: Katie de Klee/WCN


Cape Town landmark and architectural folly, Lichtenstein Castle, has been bought for R23m by “high profile” Russian businessman who appears to have registered it in his wife’s name.

The castle, which in its relatively short existence has already gathered an aura of mystery, was completed by German owner/builder Reyneir Fritz in 1998 after 12 years of construction.

It is the highest built structure on Karbonkelberg in Hout Bay and overlooks the Hout Bay harbour toward Chapman’s Peak.

Sotheby’s estate agent Nina Smith refused to divulge the name of the new “very high profile” owner, saying only it was a Russian businessman who did not live in South Africa and wanted his privacy respected.

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

The estate manager, Diane Davidoff, also clammed up the moment questions were asked about the new owner.

The deeds office records show a purchase for R23million made on 29 May 2012 by Svetlana Besfamilnaya, who appears to be the Russian businessman’s wife.

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

However, superficial web searches on Besfamilnaya revealed little.

The Castle is only accessible by private road or helicopter, has 12 en-suite bedrooms, a library, banquet hall, and a swimming pool, a helipad, and a natural waterfall on its 8.6 hectares of land.

Construction began in 1986 when Fritz decided to replicate the Gothic Schloss Lichtenstein Castle in southern Germany. Fritz tragically died in the castle shortly after the family moved in. The exact details of his death differ but a Hout Bay resident acquainted with the family said Fritz fell down the stairs.

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

Davidoff, who has lived in the castle for the last seven years, fervently denies there was any mystery to 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: “I have no comment on that.”

Davidoff has been instructed to continue to take bookings for film shoots of the exterior and in the grounds, and for weddings in the conference center 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 (whilst on the phone) and I feel blessed to be here and privileged to be living in this beauty.”

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 mountain side”.

“It is above the urban edge and they would never have got permission for it now. But permission was easier to get back then.”

He said it was fortunate that it blended into the mountain and had become an icon rather than an eyesore. – Katie de Klee

Tags: Diane Davidoff, Hout Bay Ratepayers Association, Karbonkelberg, Len Swimmer, Lichtenstein Castle, Nina Smith, Reyneir Fritz, Sotheby's, Svetlana Besfamilnaya

Reader Feedback

4 Responses to “Landmark castle sold to evasive Russian businessman for 23m”

  1. Hester says:

    Would love to have my wedding there.

  2. Graham Hall says:

    To the new owner of the Castle Lichtenstein, I raise my glass to you and extend my sincerest heartiest wishes for your acquistion of the castle Lichtenstein in Hout Bay, which to me has to be the finest residence in this quant seaside town that anyone has ever witnessed. What an absolute gem of a purchase!

  3. Angelika says:

    Where do I find Diane Davidoff’s contact details in order to book the castle for a function?

  4. Maryke Dennison says:

    Can one book to have a meal at the castle Rutgers breakfast lunch or dinner

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