All Roads Lead to Rome (and Utrecht)

Schatkamer | Domplein
The big news in Utrecht today is the recent discovery of a Roman road in the Domplein (cathedral square). Excavations going on in the square, as part of the development of a new permanent exhibit of the city’s history, have unearthed more than the old pillars and foundations of the churches that have stood on the spot since the 7th century.

It’s not a surprise that there would be a Roman road in the center of Utrecht. After all, it’s well known that the Romans set up a fort in what is now the Domplein in 47 AD. The area has been inhabited in one form or another ever since. Still, it’s exciting to find some of the actual remains, which will become part of the overall Schatkamer (Treasury) exhibit that opens in June 2014. Tours will be available, but the uncovered architecture and settlements will also be visible through a glass walkway over the structure in the ground of the Domplein. There are more than 5 meters worth of history to be explored.
Roman Empire BorderRoman Empire Border Marker

The Schatkamer will be a great addition to the already established markers throughout the square, signifying borders of the Roman Empire and the actual outlines — marked on the Domplein, in Domstraat, and in Servetstraat — of the original Roman fortress.
Hadrian's Wall
Markers like these can be found around the Domplein and light up at night as part of the Trajectum Lumen light display.
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
A plaque marks the spot where the entrance gate to the Roman fort stood. It can be found behind the cathedral.
A Flamingo in Utrecht
Uncovering the Schatkamer
A photo taken earlier in the summer when the excavation was in its early stages (early enough to replace the flooring for an event that weekend).

Insert Irony Here

Window Seat [Day 63/365]
This is one of my all-time favourite photos that I’ve taken and it was such a lucky shot to get. I was out with a friend admiring the view when I happened to notice the woman sitting in the window with her legs dangling over the edge. It was one of the first sunny days of the year hinting at the arrival of spring and everyone seemed to be taking advantage of the sunlight, even though it was still quite cold. The image of the woman reading at the window was appealing on its own, but having the massive Domtoren rising up in the background just made it perfect.

A couple of months ago, as part of the city’s bid for European Cultural Capital of 2018, the organizing group hosted a photo competition asking for photos of Utrecht. In theory, you were supposed to work in the “18” theme, but you could also just include the logo and simply explain why the photo represented the best of Utrecht. I sent in this photo and simply added the logo to the corner (not seen here). I said something about the city being full of surprises and cultural gems, etc. I don’t think the quote really mattered in the end.

Sadly, before the photo competition was over, the city was knocked out of the running for cultural capital, along with Den Haag. Three other Dutch cities remain and I wish them well. Despite the early ending of the campaign, the photo competition continued and the winners were announced a week or so ago. My photo came in second out of 80 entries. It seems the jurors liked my “surprising and exciting” depiction of the Domtoren. You can read the news story and see the 1st and 3rd place photos here (in Dutch).

So where does the irony in the post title fit? First prize in the contest was an iPad. What did I win for second place? Two tickets to climb the Domtoren. You may remember that last month I posted about my phobia of sorts regarding stairs sans handrails? Yeah. I do also have a knee that can get a bit gimpy, which is what I explained when I wrote back to them about the prize. I didn’t feel like trying to explain (in Dutch) about my phobia, especially since I did know how to write about a kneeblessure. They kindly offered a Schatkamer tour as an alternative, which I’ve been wanting to do, so this is actually a wonderful alternative. Mainly, I’m just grateful that they even offered an alternative.