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

Telling Time

11/11/11 at the Utrecht Meridian
Today’s confluence of ones in time and date is mildly interesting, but I knew there were some photo groups that would be posting photos from around the world, all on this one day. It’s a topic I generally find interesting, having participated in a past One Moment in Time project that the New York Times did a while back. Since I’m still taking at least one photo a day, I figured I’d try to come up with something vaguely interesting for this particular theme.

After a bit of thought, I decided to head over to the Sonnenborgh this morning. The Sonnenborgh is an observatory and museum that stands atop one of the city’s old bastion walls that used to ring the entire city center. After all, don’t forget that Utrecht, as a town, was already massively important one thousand years ago in 1111, and was granted city rights by Henry V a few years later in 1122.

However, the main reason I chose to photograph the observatory at the Sonnenborgh is because the museum is also the home of the Utrecht Meridian.

For centuries many cities had their own observatory in order to ascertain the time. The stylish Meridian Room at the Sonnenborgh was also constructed for this purpose. Up until the start of the 20th Century, the stars were mapped to measure the passing of time, with the aid of a special telescope positioned on the Utrecht meridian. Come and check what the actual time is at longitude 5° 07′ 46.67″!
Source: Sonnenborgh

Thus, it seemed appropriate, on a day when everyone was focused on the time and date, to choose a location in the city that had served as an official time keeper. I think that’s one of the many joys of living in a city with so much history. You can find a connection, no matter what the theme!

Sonnenborgh Observatory and Museum

Sonnenborgh

Foto Vrijdag 2.15



Last weekend was National Museum Weekend, in which 500+ museums were open free or highly discounted throughout the country. We (finally) went to the Centraal Museum to see the exhibit about the Italian/Caravaggio influence on the Utrecht school of painting, which in turn influenced much of Dutch painting, including Rembrandt.

We took the route to the museum that goes past Lepelenburg and Sonnenborgh in order for me to stop by my favorite sculpture — De Spoetnikkijker — and get a few photos. The sky was a great mix of dark clouds against a bright blue sky, which lead to some interesting photos (see my Flickr feed). I also got to play around with different angles, made easier by the fact that I didn’t have Pippo with me. I love going on photo walks with him, but I can’t spend quite as much time on the shots when I’ve got an 80-pound dog attached to my arm via leash. He’s gotten quite good at waiting patiently, but I feel bad about getting his hopes up that we’re going to move on, when really I’m just moving a few steps to get a different angle.