I lived in Utrecht consistently for longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I was 13. After that began the various moves, sometimes within the same city or state, and sometimes to a new city, state or country. So Utrecht really became a second home to me. Maybe even more like home than anywhere else these days, since I became so familiar with it over the years, both how to get around and also so much of the history I passed regularly.
I’m still learning about Bologna and I’m really enjoying it, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel homesick for Utrecht sometimes. It’s hard not to miss such a wonderful city.
Recently, this blog was nominated for a Dutch blogging competition. Everyone nominated will win some of the grand prize, but it comes down to percentages of the vote. I know I don’t really post here now (though I do sometimes post in the blog’s Facebook page), but I did put nearly nine years into this blog and it still means a lot to me. I look back fondly on having a wonderful excuse to learn so much about Utrecht. So if you enjoyed my photos and my posts over the years, I’d appreciate one last vote. Just make sure you vote for OranjeFlamingo. You can only vote once, so make it count!
In the meantime, here are a few photos of Utrecht that represent just a small amount of the city’s great charm, beauty, fun, and overall gezelligheid. Dankjewel!
There are plenty of jokes about not being able to go far at all without coming across yet another church in Europe. They’re everywhere! Though I grew up in the Southern part of the US which certainly doesn’t have any shortage, either. Yet sometimes there end up more churches than needed. Demand has dropped. So what do you do with these beautiful buildings? In some cases, you turn them into apartments.
St. Martinus, a former Catholic church, was built in 1901 by architect A. Tepe in the Neo-Gothic style. By the 1970s, it was falling into disrepair and it was around 1988 that it was converted into apartments as they stand now.
One side of the building looks out onto a street, but the other side looks out over the Oudegracht. On that side, there’s still a statue of St. Martinus.
The pepernoten are flowing and flying, the pakjes (presents) are all wrapped up with poems at the ready, the Piets are knocking on doors and windows and dropping off sacks of presents or bagging up naughty children, and the Sint is ready to head back to Spain.
It’s pakjesavond, the night when Sinterklaas and the Piets hand out presents to all the boys and girls who have been good this year. I don’t think we’ve been very good, so no presents for us tonight. That said, I did make sure we stocked up on the chocolate kruidnoten today so I’ll have enough to last me for the next few months. They’re perfect with a cup of tea or coffee!
After a frequently grey and misty week, this morning was a real stunner with pure blue skies over Utrecht and nary a cloud to be seen. With the trees slowly turning their summer greens to autumnal reds, oranges, and yellows, taking a walk through the quiet Sunday morning streets was irresistible.
Charlie and I found ourselves at the Oudegracht and decided to head north and admire the classical architectural style of Augustinuskerk (St. Augustine Church) up close. I’ve always loved the soaring Doric columns and triangular pediment that frame the entrance, but as I looked beyond these eye-catching elements, I also noticed a Greek key pattern over the three doorways, as well as some ecclesiastical decorations overhead. The gold colors, even out of the direct rays of the sun still shimmered in the morning light.
However, as it was approaching 11 a.m., I was surprised to see the iron gates and the large green doors closed up tight. Not what you’d expect on a Sunday morning! It turns out the church suffered some interior roof damage, with pieces of the ceiling decorations having fallen. As it stands, there’s still investigation and repairs to be done before it is deemed safe to open to the public once again. Unfortunately, it may not be open before Christmas.
Historically, a canal has ringed the old city center of Utrecht. I posted last year about how a section along the western/northwestern side of town was drained and turned into a highway back in the late 1960s/early ’70s. Fortunately, they never got around to paving in the whole canal. Still, the road was still there when we moved here.
Fortunately, that side of town has been undergoing a massive renovation for eight+ years, though it’s got a ways to go still. Some bits I’m still a bit unsure about, but as things start to come together a little more, it’s all looking a better.
I wrote about how a large section of the canal was recently refilled (late last year/early this year), but it seems I never posted the few pictures I took. Probably because it was a rainy day and I only had my phone’s camera and a dog that didn’t feel like pausing for long to get a decent shot.
This week, I discovered that the section near the newly rebuilt Tivoli Vredenburg music hall (the one with all the circles) has had some updates and the water has been added there, as well. The picture quality remains lousy, because it was another rainy morning and Charlie wasn’t interested in stopping for long, and I still only had my phone. Still, you can see the start of things to come. The picture above is a poster showing what the final plans are and as you can see, the steps leading down to the canal on the left have just gone in. In the photos to follow, you’ll see the large central structure under construction. That area behind it all is part of the Hoog Catharijne shopping mall, which is a nightmare now with so much of it torn down and other bits being built. It was always easy to get lost and it’s even easier now!
Behind this view is the stretch of canal that has already been filled in.
I managed to find the photos I took in January so you can follow the canal a bit.
This is looking toward the bridge where I stood to take today’s pictures. You can see that the large central construction is making progress.
This is another bridge slightly further down (with bonus Charlie).
And this is the bend in the canal along the northern section. I should go back and see what they’ve done with the dirt areas. Greenery would be nice.
One of the great things about Utrecht is that it isn’t overrun with tourists, especially in a city that is relatively small. Not that there is any shortage of things to see and do in Utrecht; it’s all just easier to reach on foot without taking lots of trams, buses, or even having to bike. (And really, if you’re a tourist, think twice about biking in the actual hearts of the big cities. Save it for outside the cities where you’re less likely to cause problems.)
Yet Utrecht does have a few spots where you’re likely to find the most tourists. This bridge over the Oudegracht is probably one of the busiest spots. To the left if the Domtoren and the white building on the corner on the left is one of our two souvenir shops. Plus, during the summer, locals and tourists alike enjoy some ice cream from the ridiculously cute ice cream truck there on the bridge. The bridge is also a great spot to take photos of the Domtoren, the views up and down the Oudegracht, and to debate whether or not to go into the “coffee shop” just out of shot.
The city has been making an effort to increase tourism, and there are pros and cons in both attracting more people and how they’ve gone about it. But so far it’s all still bearable. Having lived in Orlando, New Orleans, and New York, these are the kinds of tourist numbers that are easy to live with on a daily basis.
It’s that time of year again. Utrecht is celebrating its 894th year as an official city. On June 2, 1122, Keizer Henrik V officially recognized Utrecht as a city. (Of course, Utrecht’s history goes back much further. The Roman fortifications date back to around 50 CE, and people may have inhabited the area during the Stone Age, going back to 2200 BCE.)
There are usually some festivities each year. I think the ones this year are more about family history. However, throughout the year, you can find a marker along the Oudegracht commemorating the event.
In honor of 894 years as a city, I thought I’d post a few photos of some of my favorite, unique places that make it such a wonderful city.