Time Travel: Voetiusstraat

domplein1900voetius

I thought I’d try to get at least one last Time Travel post in, even though I really should be writing for work, or packing, or doing dishes. I don’t even have a really good comparison photo, but it’s close enough.

What you see in the older photo is a view of a couple around 1900 walking along the north side of the cathedral, along what is Voetiusstraat. It’s a strange view if you’re used to the street now, because while the buildings on the right hand side of the photo remain (the one with the writing is now the delicious Carla’s Condoterie), the left has changed dramatically. I think it was around 1910 that the street was widened and the buildings on the left were constructed, particularly Voetiusstraat 2-4, which is a fairly impressive building done in the neo-Renaissance style. It was used as a public reading hall/library.

For the record, the street gets its name from Gisbertus Voetius, a 17th century professor of theology, whose house once stood there.

What is interesting about this section of street where Domstraat intersects with Voetiusstraat and the cathedral is the new herringbone brickwork that has gone down. It’s all more even and in an earthier, tawnier color. It really does look quite nice. I wish I knew how far it’s going to spread.

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In this slightly different view, you can’t see the buildings as clearly, but you can see the step into the cathedral that is visible in the old photo. The street levels do change a bit over the years, but the lamps remain much the same!
North Side

 

black and white photo via Het Utrechts Archief

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Utrecht’s Artistic Girls

3484868135_34cdbc98c4_zOn the bridge by the Stadhuis, looking across the Oudegracht to the Winkel van Sinkel, is a relatively small statue of a girl on a carousel horse. Meisje op draaimolenpaard was created by Dutch artist Pieter d’Hont (1917-1997) in 1986. It turns out that she is just one of the many sculptures that d’Hont created that have found a home here in Utrecht.

There are more than 40 of d’Hont’s works in and around Utrecht, but the three I know best are the Girl on the Carousel Horse, Trijn van Leemput, and of course, the beautiful statue of Anne Frank, which he created in 1960, which stands outside of the Janskerk.

The next time you’re wandering around Utrecht, keep an eye out for some of his beautifully sculpted women. From sheer joy to stoic resolve, they’re impressive.
Anne Met Bloemen
Anne Frank
Trijn van Leemput
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What do you get for the 894th anniversary?

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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.
stadsdag
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.
Urban Invasion
Nijntje
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
Cathedral Art
Grachtenrace ronDom
Autumn on the Oudegracht
Brug
Rietveld-Schröder Huis [Day 281/365]
Stadhuisbrug
Soaring
Winkel van Sinkel
Paushuize

Ghost in the Sunshine
Views from Neudeflat

Trijn van Leemput

Trijn van Leemput
In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do a quick post about Trijn van Leemput. She’s considered a heroine of the 80 Years War against Spain, particularly here in Utrecht. The story revolves around the Vredenburg fortress that the Spanish had built on the western side of town after the Spanish annexed Utrecht in 1528. The Spanish garrison stationed there came under seige by local rebels soon after the start of the 80 Years War in 1576 and by 1577, a negotiation was reached and the fortress was abandoned.

An abandoned fortress wasn’t enough. Utrechters wanted the fortress to be demolished. Unfortunately, the city government disagreed. Not that that would stop the locals. On 2 May, 1577, Trijn van Leemput gathered a group of women, and with a makeshift banner made of a blue apron tied to a broom, they set off to take matters into their own hands. With pick axes and hammers, they began demolishing the brick fortress.

The story may be a mix of fact and fiction. Trijn van Leemput did exist. She and her husband, a brewer and miller, were among the leading families of Utrecht at the time and they had a large house on the Oudegracht. The statue of Trijn in my photos is located on the Zandbrug, a bridge over the Oudegracht near her home. The statue was erected in 1955 and shows her standing atop the Vredenburg fortress, with a pick-axe in one hand and one of the bricks of the demolished fortress in the other. Someday, I may get around to writing more about the remains of the fortress, some of which can be seen in random spots like one of the underground bicycle parking places.
Trijn van Leemput
Trijn van Leemput
Trijn van Leemput

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

Castellum Lights

A Flamingo in Utrecht
The Domplein — the square in the heart of the city where you will find the Domtoren and the cathedral — has a long history. The square was originally the site of the Castellum Trajectum, the Roman fortress established nearly 2000 years ago to protect the northern border of the Roman Empire. The sign in the picture above marks where one of the entrance gates to the fortress was to be found.

In fact, they have found the foundations for the old fortress and you can see some visual depictions of what the fortress would have looked like through various apps now available. I think you also get to learn and see a bit more on the DomUnder tour (which I haven’t had a chance to take yet).

Still, you can get a sense of the size of the fortress due to some installations you’ll see in areas around the Domplein. The size starts to sink in when you realize it encompased the whole square and then some. The markers in the ground are bronze-ish metal pieces flush to the ground, with lines drawn in depicting various Roman Empire borders. They’re easy to miss, and even easier to puzzle over if you don’t know the meaning. It took me a few years to finally figure it out.
Hadrian's Wall
However, in the evening, they at least become a bit harder to miss. As part of the Trajectum Lumen displays, they light up and emit a watery mist every 15 minutes or so. The marker on Domstraat is pretty impressive, the way it lights up along one of the buildings and has the cathedral behind it.
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
There’s another by the Academiegebouw, which I managed to capture once, years ago.
Roman Fortress
More recently, I finally caught the one on Servetstraat, in front of the Domtoren. It’s a cosy little street with a nice mix of shops and restaurants, all in the towering shadow of the Domtoren. Standing along any of the old fortress borders, it’s impossible not to look around and think of all the history this one small section of Utrecht has seen and experienced. And now we all become a little part of that long history.
Castellum Trajectum

Variations on a Theme: Trajectum Lumen

ganzenmarkt tunnel
ganzenmarkt tunnel
ganzenmarkt tunnel
I’ve written before about the Trajectum Lumen light art installations to be found throughout the city. From simple to grandiose, they put the spotlight on Utrecht’s rich history. One of my favorites is the Ganzenmarkt tunnel. The lights are constantly changing colors, creating a psychedelic fairytale landscape that makes me think of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Plus, the tunnel leads down to the Oudegracht, where you get a great view of the Stadhuis, plus some more lights under the Stadhuise bridge. During a past visit, this was one of the color sequences, though the shifts from one color to the next are more gradual.

If you’re visiting Utrecht or thinking about visiting Utrecht and are looking for things to do, a walk through the city, enjoying the lights, should definitely be on your list. The lights begin at dusk and go until midnight, 365 days of the year, so you can check them out whenever you like. It’s a nice way to cap off an evening.

Sound the Alarm

BrandbelThe other week, I wrote about a former fire house that dates back to the 1860s. With buildings so closely packed together, it was vital to have a number of these fire stations spread strategically throughout the city. But when your fire truck relies on literal horse power and there are no mobiles that allow anyone to quickly dial 112 (the emergency number) if they spot suspicious smoke, an effective alarm system is vital.

Obviously, in the days before telephones, it was important to have a way of alerting people that there’s a fire. As well as warning neighbours who may be at risk, the firefighters needed to be alerted, as well. One way that was done was through the use of a brandbel (fire bell). Just like the fire stations, they were set up a various locations throughout the city. The bells, some of which came from demolished 17th century cloisters, stood atop wood or stone posts. In case of fire, ring bell.

The firefighters would hear the bell (or be alerted to it) and then head out to the fire. I assume that as someone rang the bell, someone else might run over to the station to alert the firefighters as to the specific location. The bell would at least give them time to get their gear ready while someone else sprinted over.

On 3 March 1921, a telephone alarm system was put in place and by 1935, the last of the fire alarm bells were gone from the regular city landscape. The one in my photo is down by the southern end of the Nieuwegracht and is a replica of one that would have served the Schalkwijkstraat fire station I mentioned in my previous post. It’s nice to have these little reminders of days gone by, but it certainly makes me thankful for modern improvements!

Utrecht Turns 892

StadsdagGefeliciteerd, Utrecht! You make 892 look great!

Today is the official Stadsdag (city day), commemorating the date that Utrecht became an official city. On June 2, 1122, Henrik V officially recognized Utrecht as a city. (However, don’t forget that Utrecht as an inhabited location has been around since at least 50 CE with the Roman fortifications, and people may have inhabited the area during the Stone Age, going back to 2200 BCE.)

Although today is the official date, the celebrations were held yesterday. Sadly, I didn’t get to get out and enjoy them. There were birthday cakes galore, with neighborhood baking competitions and a final round for the neighborhood winners. Appropriately, representations of Nijntje (Miffy) and the Domtoren were among the winners.

Numerous other events also took place yesterday, including the opening of a new exhibit, but I’ll save the details for another post. I’m hoping to squeeze in a visit of my own sometime this week. *fingers crossed* In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the news that the trompe l’oeil image that used to hang on the cathedral is back! It was a nice surprise that I noticed on Saturday while I was out. It’s good to see it back.Cathedral Art

Time Travel: Het Maliehuis

maliehuisZo Was Utrecht, a fantastic source for old images of Utrecht, recently Tweeted this old advertising poster that dates back to 1897. It’s for the Utrechtsche Levensverzekeringsmaatschappij (Utrecht Life Insurance Company/Society), which was housed at the time in the Maliehuis located at Maliesingel 28.

The original Maliehuis (huis=house) was built in 1637 and was used by the administrator of the Maliebaan. The Maliebaan, a long, tree-lined avenue, was originally used to play the game known as malie, which was somewhat like croquet or what eventually became golf. People could rent the game equipment from the administrator at the Maliehuis. This went on through the 18th century.

Then, in the 19th century, the building was significantly enlarged and turned into a house. Eventually it then became office space, for businesses such as the aforementioned life insurance company, and nowadays, I think it’s used as an exhibition space.

It’s a nice house from the outside, with clean, simple, classical lines. There’s also a tile depiction of the house, showing the canal that runs in front of it. That section of the canal is called the Maliesingel, but it is also part of the canal that rings the old city center. The Maliehuis is just outside the binnenstad (city center). My photos are a few years old, and I think the outside has been cleaned up since then. Still, you’ll see just how much the building still looks as it did in the illustration from the late 1800s. To the right is the Maliebaan, where the game was originally played. In the 1600s, it was a student area where they played malie and generally hung out together. It’s since changed to an important and wealthy area. Het MaliehuisHet MaliehuisHet MaliehuisHet Maliehuis