Utrecht’s Domtoren is the tallest bell tower in the Netherlands, standing just over 112 meters (367+ feet). I remember seeing a website a few years ago that talked about if the Domtoren fell and showed the radius of the potential destruction. I’m sure the website is still around, but I don’t really feel like searching for it.
However, last month, a plaque was put into the sidewalk on Zadelstraat, marking the spot where the tip of the Domtoren would land (assuming it fell straight and in one piece, of course). That marker is what you see in the photo above.
If you stand in the spot, you can just make out the base of the Domtoren in the distance, mainly the arch. There’s also a canal in between the tower and the marker. That’s about all you see if you just look forward at eye level. It’s not until you crane your neck back that you can see the whole Domtoren.
The granite tile was made and donated by an anonymous art duo known as GVR. Their idea was that when people stand on the spot, they realize just how big an icon the tower is for the city.
I mentioned recently that they’re in the process of rejoining the ring canal that circles the old city center of Utrecht. Most of the canal has remained, but a section on the western side of town was turned into a highway. However, that road was closed in 2010 and the process of turning it back into a canal (and connecting it with the canal that remains) then began. It’s part of an ongoing project to rebuild that part of town, making it more attractive, inviting, and useful.
This is the view from the Hoog Catharijne mall, looking down on what will eventually be a canal once again. This photo is from a few months back, probably around early July. It doesn’t look like it is ready for water, and to be honest, I’m not sure if that section is yet, but they’re getting closer to filling in the water in one section of the rebuilt canal. I haven’t found any specific dates, but someone did pass along a handy link to a live webcam you can watch where the water will be added relatively soon. If you enjoy a good webcam it’s worth checking out.
I’m slightly disoriented, but I think this is the northern bit that will be filled in first. If the camera were to keep panning to the right, I think it would eventually be facing the spot where I took my photo. Essentially, the webcam view is of the construction in the far distance of my photo. I think. Maybe. Perhaps.
We’re reaching peak autumnal coloring right about now, it seems. On my morning walks with Charlie these past couple of days, with the sun shining and the sky a lovely blue, all the yellows, oranges, and reds of the changing leaves have been pretty spectacular. There’s a lot of yellow around town, and as in this first photo, it really glows when the sunlight hits the leaves.
That sunlight also creates some beautiful spotlights as the rays burst through the trees, as it did this morning in a little spot by the Sonnenborgh.
The trees also create wonderful pops of color against the austere brick architecture. This building, in particular, seems made for this time of year, though perhaps better suited to the darkness and fog. I always think it looks like something out of a classic horror film. Love it!
As we approached the Domplein, the Domtoren was glowing brightly, almost bleached by the sun, but this red tree at the Trans was particularly spectacular, with the mix of colors and the bright red against the blue sky.
And finally, in the Domplein, Jan van Nassau has a stunning backdrop of changing leaves and unchanging Gothic architecture. Utrecht was looking pretty fantastic this morning.
This is a map of Utrecht dating back to the 1600s and much of the city is still recognizable. Certainly the general outline of the city is recognizable, although it should be noted that the section at the top of the map is the eastern side of town and the left bit is the northern side of town. Basically, it needs to be rotated one turn to the right.
The city center of Utrecht is relatively small and it is still easy to find the borders of the ancient city, since there’s a canal that nearly completely rings the city. In fact, they’re in the process of reconstructing the missing part of the canal on the western side of town, which was turned into a highway back around the 1960s. The road is gone and the canal is coming back. I think it is ready for the water, as of recent news, though I don’t know if they’ve actually filled it in yet.
However, in addition to the canal that ringed the city, there also used to be walls surrounding the city for protection. Massive three-meter-thick walls surrounded the city and there were only three main gates (east, west, and south) that let people in or out. The walls were initially wooden but eventually built of stone. I think the walls initially began in the early 1100s, although I’m not sure if that was the wood or stone wall.
While out for a walk with Charlie one morning, as we walked along the northern edge of the city, I happened to spot this marker for the stadsmuur (city wall) from the 13th century.
The walls stayed up into the 1800s, and while it’s interesting to imagine what it would look like if they were still up, ultimately, the view is much nicer now. Still, you can get a hint of some of the fortifications, particularly along the eastern side of town. When we don’t head north, we typically head south, walking along the eastern edge of the city, following the path along the canal. In one section, you can see a fragment of the old city walls. Don’t let the picture fool you. This is actually much higher than it looks, because there is earth built up in front of it and there’s a hill path that leads you up to the top. Behind the wall is a two-storey house and the roof is essentially level (or slightly lower) than the top of the wall.
If you keep heading south along the eastern edge, you come to one of the bastions, which is home to the Sonnenborgh Museum now. Standing next to it gives you a real sense of the perspective and just how high and imposing the walls must have seemed. If you look at the old map, this is the triangular bit on the top right, which is actually the south east corner.
This statue of St. Willibrord stands at Janskerkhof. Willibrord was a missionary from Northumbria who came to the Netherlands in the late 600s to convert the pagan North Germanic tribes of Frisia. He also took a few trips to Rome to meet with the pope and in 695, he was consecrated as the bishop of the Frisians. He returned to Frisia and kept preaching and building churches, including a monastery here in Utrecht. He also became known as the first Bishop of Utrecht.
Meh. Kind of boring post, I know. But my other work is keeping me busy, as is Charlie, and today’s weather is lousy and uninspiring. The colors also looked nicer before I uploaded the photo to WordPress. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Finally, there was no fog on our walk this morning. Just lots of sunshine and beautiful colors. We took a stroll along the Maliebaan. The Maliebaan is a historic and scenic street that has walking paths along both sides of the street, and even some pieces of sculpture along one side. This is also where the first bicycle path was created in the Netherlands in 1885. There’s a sign post that commemorates what would be the first of many cycling paths in this country.
But for a girl and her dog, it’s just a great place to take a walk on a crisp autumn morning.