Huize Molenaar Viewbox

Huize Molenaar
I regularly see things related to Utrecht on Twitter or Facebook that interest me. As a reminder, I open up a separate tab in my browser and hope to get around to following up on it in the not too distant future. I’m not always successful, as I kept one tab open for more than a year before finally giving up on it.

Today, however, I’m able to close two tabs. One was for the Heksen van Bruegel (Bruegel’s Witches) exhibit at the Catharijneconvent Museum. I may or may not post on it, as it was mainly for a bit of research for an article I’ll be writing on Bruegel in the future. However, today was the last day of the exhibit, so it was now or never! The other tab I can close relates to the Huize Molenaar and more specifically, a viewbox on a lamp outside of the building.
Huize Molenaar
I’d seen the viewbox somewhere online and was curious to see it myself, so I’ve had the Huize Molenaar website open for around a month. I’d forgotten about it while I was showing my friend around the other weekend, otherwise I could have checked it off my list earlier. I had honestly forgotten about it again today, until I was walking past the building itself and suddenly from the deep recesses of my mind, I remembered that there was something specific related to this building that I wanted to see. Finally, it clicked, just as I was about to walk past the lamp to which the viewbox is attached.

Huize Molenaar is used for private events, ranging from meetings to wedding receptions, and they offer fine dining for any of the events. They’ve been hosting private events since 1892. The viewer shows what looks to be an old photo from one of those earlier events. Ultimately, it’s just one of those cute, quirky things that makes walking down the streets of Utrecht that little bit more interesting.
Huize Molenaar

The Domtoren and the Pope

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I love this little intersection of historic spots and lovely architecture, especially as dusk makes its way in and the setting sun turns the Domtoren a glorious rose gold. Now the spot also has the addition of the statue of Pope Adrian VI to help frame the whole scene.

Camera Obscura

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A friend of mine came for a visit yesterday, but before meeting up with her, I took Charlie out for a walk to try to make up for the fact that I was going to be gone all day. We’d had a very light dusting of snow during the night, but nothing to make walking around treacherous. We had the added benefit of some glorious sunshine, but that’s more relevant to the photos I took later in the day.

Anyway, as Charlie and I were wandering around, I decided to finally go in search of the Camera Obscura I’d seen recently on Instagram. This house on the Kromme Nieuwegracht once belonged to photographer Frans Ferdinand van der Werf (1903-1984). He settled in Utrecht in the 1930s and became well-known for his photos that ranged from comic scenes in the city to the liberation of Utrecht by the Allies.

There is currently a free exhibition of his work at the Utrechts Archief, which is running through 21 May. I suppose I’ll have to leave Charlie behind again for that one, but I really do want to see the exhibit. Maybe I can get some fresh photography inspiration.

A Touch More Tour de France

Rietvelo
2015 was the year that the Tour de France came to Utrecht. We hosted the Grand Depart, the start of the race, and the city was decked out in yellow and other race-related colors for months leading up to and even after the race. Most of the decorations are gone, but a few still remain, particularly some of the wall art.

I had seen a print of the Rietvelo piece of artwork by Menno Anker, and I think I knew it was on a wall somewhere, but I hadn’t known where that wall was. I also wasn’t walking along a stretch of the stadsbuitengracht that I used to frequent fairly often. If I had, I would have seen it much sooner. In fact, soon after adopting Charlie and taking those walks along the ring canal once again, I soon spotted the Rietvelo piece, even from across the canal. I had no idea it was so close!
Rietvelo
Rietvelo
I always love when one of these large solid walls is turned into an art canvas. Some change, some remain the same. The Tour de France may be over, but I do hope this one stays up for a while. Of course, now that I’ve said that, it is probably coming down soon if not already!

Paus Adrianus VI

Pope Adrian
I saw earlier this week that a statue of Pope Adrian VI had been installed in front of the Paushuize, so deciding on where to go for my long walk with Charlie this morning was a no-brainer. I’ve written about this pope and his house here in my blog and even for a magazine article, but if you need a refresher, Adrian/Adrianus was the one and only Dutch pope. He was born here in Utrecht and built a house here in town, though he never actually got to live in it. He died (was possibly poisoned) in 1523 and there wasn’t another non-Italian pope again until Pope John Paul II.

The statue, by Anno Dijkstra, is up on some fancy wooden blocks, but I assume it will be more permanently installed in the future. Or not. I honestly have no idea. (Ok, I wasn’t going to do any research, but I just couldn’t stand not to do some. It seems that the wooden blocks may be permanent. The statue, which was unveiled on Thursday, is made of bronze and was inspired by the portrait of Adrian done by Jan van Scorel.)
Pope Adrian
Pope Adrian
Pope Adrian
Pope Adrian

Crooked Chimneys

Crooked Chimney
I love seeing old buildings like this where it’s clear the original structure has gone through a bit of a makeover with additions and rearrangements. Crooked chimneys such as this aren’t that uncommon a sight, but they always make me smile.

Utrecht’s City Walls

620px-Traiectum_-_Wttecht_-_Utrecht_(Atlas_van_Loon)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.
stadsmuur
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.

Old 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.
11/11/11 at the Utrecht Meridian

Sint Willibrord

willibrord first bishop of utrecht statue at janskerkhofThis 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.

Autumn Colors Along the Maliebaan

maliebaan herfst autumn colors trees changingFinally, 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.
eerste fietspad first cycle path in the netherlandsBut for a girl and her dog, it’s just a great place to take a walk on a crisp autumn morning.

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Eight (NINE!) More Things to Do in Utrecht

Last November, when I had friends from three countries visiting at once, I wanted to make a list of things they could do when I wasn’t available for sight-seeing — and some I wanted to do but hadn’t gotten around to yet. Of course, there were the museums. Utrecht has a lot of great museums, covering everything from art to automated music players. (Seriously, a guided tour of the Speelklok Museum is surprisingly entertaining.)

My map of 18 things to do in Utrecht has been getting a lot of hits recently, probably due to the fact that people who are coming for the Tour de France Grand Depart in just a few days are looking for, well, things to do in Utrecht. So while I have a few minutes free, I thought I’d share a few more things to check out while you’re in town, whether for the Tour de France, or just in general.

1. Visit V&D Cafeteria for the view
Utrecht 3|2013
In the Hoog Catharijne shopping center (next to the train station, so, hard to miss) the V&D department store has a cafeteria on the top floor. They serve a variety of hot and cold dishes and snacks, but the real reason to go is the view. They have a wall of windows looking out over the city center and if you can get a table next to the window, you won’t be disappointed, even on an overcast day or at night. To guarantee getting a good spot, it’s best to go at off-hours when people are less likely to be there for major meals of the day.

2. Walk along the Maliebaan
Artful Path
The Tour de France route goes along the Maliesingel, but it generally misses the Maliebaan itself. Somewhat ironic, as that was the site of the very first bicycle path in the Netherlands. Today, it’s a beautiful, peaceful, tree-lined street with a mix of roads and paths, as well as sculptures along one section. If you just want to get away from a bit of the hustle and bustle (or want to move between two sections of the route), it’s simply a nice walk to take.

3. Walk the ring canal
Around the Bend
11/11/11 at the Utrecht Meridian
If you look at a map of the city center, you’ll start to realize that there’s a canal that runs almost completely around the binnenstad (old city center). At one point, the canal did circle the city, and in a year or so, it will do so again. In the area around the Vredenburg/Hoog Catharijne/Centraal Station, you’ll see a lot of construction. They’re building bridges and re-installing the old canal, which had been turned into a roadway. Fortunately, most of the canal that rings the city is still in place and it makes for a nice walk around the city. You’ve always got the scenery of the canal, but you’ll also come across some other interesting sights, including the Wolvenplein, which was a working jail up until the past year or so. At the other end, you’ll find the Sonnenborgh Museum with its remains of the city’s walls(second photo).

4. Flower market
Utrecht Bloemenmarkt
There’s no shortage of flowers for sale in Utrecht throughout the week, but on Saturday, the big flower market can be found at Janskerkhof. Under the tree-covered square surrounding the picturesque church, you’ll find a huge assortment of seeds, plants, trees and more for sale, as well as beautiful bouquets, all at incredibly good prices. Even if you don’t purchase anything, it’s a lovely spot to meander.

5. Lapjesmarkt (Fabric market)
Stoffenmarkt
On Saturday mornings on Breedstraat (just off Voorstraat and near Neude), you’ll find the oldest and largest fabric market in the Netherlands. It has been around for more than 400 years and takes place, rain or shine. You’ll find a variety of fabrics for everything from clothing to upholstery, as well as assorted sewing accoutrements. It’s set on another lovely tree-line street and is a fascinating part of history, even if you have no interest in fabric. Take a stroll through and then head off for some other adventures, such as …

6. Domtoren
Domtoren
Come on. Like I’m going to do a list of things to see in Utrecht and not include this. Sure, it’s hard to miss, but it’s still pretty damn impressive. Even if you don’t want to take a guided tour up the 400+ steps, you can still enjoy a lot of it from ground level. On Saturdays, you can also typically enjoy one of the carillon concerts that ring out over the city. There will be some bicycle-themed songs for the Tour de France, of course. And while you’re in the area, check out the cathedral and the cloistered garden there in the Domplein, and Flora’s Hof, another garden with an adorable marmalade cat usually on the prowl.

7. Utrecht free tour
utrecht free toursEvery Saturday at noon, under the Domtoren, you can take an amazing free guided tour of the city. Completely led by volunteers, they take you on a three-hour walk around the city, giving you some great insight into the history and culture that makes Utrecht so wonderful. It’s a fantastic way to also get an idea of things you might want to explore further during your visit. It’s also great for anyone new to the city, and even those of us who have been here for a while. Just show up at noon and you’re good to go!

8. Vino Veritas
vino veritas biltstraat 9What? I can’t promote my own business? ;) Vino Veritas, our Italian eetcafĂ©/winebar/enoteca is located on Biltstraat, which is part of the Tour de France Grand Depart route. Although the route turns off before it gets to us, we’re just a short walk from the route section and we’ll probably be open for lunch July 4-5, as well as our usual evening hours. So if you’re visiting and want a real taste of Italy, stop by Biltstraat 9. All of our food is imported directly from Italy and we use small manufacturers who work in small batches, following traditional methods. And our wine is spectacular! Our meat and cheese boards and our tigelle and piadine sandwiches are a great mid-day meal and we’ve also got a selection of authentic pasta dishes. Whether you’re visiting for the Tour de France or just in general, stop by and say hi. I’m usually in the kitchen, but I’m always happy to say hi to any of my blog readers.

9. The Inktpot and the UFO
Urban Invasion
I can’t believe I have forgotten to add this to either of my lists! Sadly, it’s rare that you can go inside the Inktpot building itself, which is spectacular, but you can certainly see the UFO that landed on it in 2000! The aliens liked Utrecht so much, they decided to stay. I don’t blame them at all. Some say the UFO is just an art installation. Believe what you will. (The building is located by the Moreelsepark, near the train station.)