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.
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.
In case you haven’t seen enough yellow this past week in Utrecht, Toerisme Utrecht did a bit of guerilla marketing in the early hours of this morning, putting out yellow sunglasses along a large stretch of the Oudegracht. (As an aside, I’m writing this with the sound of helicopters roaring overhead. As the race is about to start in about half an hour, I guess it’s a mix of film crews and police overhead.) Anyway, the sunglasses are free to take and they’re promoting upcoming summer events in the city in Dutch on one side of the attached tag, and in English, on the other side, it’s targeting people visiting for the Tour de France today, encouraging them to visit local museums and shops while they’re here.
I knew they were doing this, having received the advance press release, but wasn’t sure I’d end up getting to see it all. However, I woke up early enough this morning and while scrolling through Twitter, I saw a picture and thought, why not! I hopped out of bed (sort of), quickly got ready, and was out the door before I could change my mind. (It’s still warm and humid and it started to rain lightly just as I left the house.)
Actually getting to the canal wasn’t so easy. The race is going through the heart of the city center today (as a display bit, rather than real racing), so lots of the streets are cordoned off to create safe lanes solely for the cyclists. I felt like a rat in a maze quite a few times trying to get around! Eventually, though, I found my way to the appropriate part of the Oudegracht and voilà! Sunglasses everywhere! They were on the ground around a lamp post. They were on the wall of the old post office. They were on bicycles. They were on bollards. They were on shop fronts. They were everywhere!
So, the point is, there’s plenty to see and do in Utrecht, even when the race has gone. Go see the museums, go listen to the weekly Domtoren concerts. Go support local businesses. Go to Vino Veritas, but not today or tomorrow, as we’re closed after a long, hot, busy week. Go on foot or by bike. Just go!
The vismarkt (fish market) might not seem the obvious spot for a somewhat glam rabbit, but that’s just where you can find this almost exotic looking version of Nijntje/Miffy. She’s certainly got a great view of both the Oudegracht and the Stadhuis. She hit the jackpot on location as part of the 60th anniversary celebration of Nijntje! She gets a lot of admirers, as well. This little girl seemed pretty enamored with her. Or maybe it’s just the name. This eye-catching rabbit has a mouthwatering name: Honeybun. She was painted by artist Barbara Wijnveld. She’s grown on me the more I’ve looked at her. Beautiful colors, and lines full of movement, but with an alluring stillness.
After a whole lot of grey, dark days, the sun has made a return visit to Utrecht. There’s a bit of fogginess making the Domtoren somewhat ethereal, but overall, we’ve got bright blue skies today. It’s still cold, but the sun is trumping the cold, with people braving terraces to sit and soak up any bit of sun they can, even if they’re still bundled up in coats and scarves. It’s glorious. And it’s even staying lighter for longer! Hallelujah!