Me, four of my AID friends and some friends of them had planned to visit Utrecht (Netherlands) together on Saturday, 23 August 2008. We had agreed to go by bike to Ede-Wageningen train station and from there go by train to Utrecht. But, because it was raining heavily, we changed our plans and we went to the train station by bus.
The first thing we noted when we were leaving “Utrecht Centraal” station were the countless bikes parked around the station. There are so many bikes that there’s an indoor bike park, similar to the multi-storey parking garage with which I’m familiar. But what most caught my attention was the mechanism that allowed to park one bike over another one, in order to optimize the space of the park.
We roamed in the city. In the morning we visited the “postkantoor” (post office) and the “open markt” (open market).
The Utrecht Post Office is a great example of Dutch Art Deco architecture of the Amsterdam school. This outstanding building was designed by the architect J. Crouwel and it was inaugurated in 1924. I learned now that the Post Office closed its doors in 2011.
We had a typical Dutch lunch, which consists of sandwiches (broodjes). I bought a really tasty sandwich of pumpkin seed bread at the Dutch franchise chain “Bakker Bart”.
In the afternoon two more persons joined us. We were now a group of 9 persons coming from different countries: Portugal (1), Spain (3), Italy (1), Greece (2), Mozambique (1) and South Africa (1).
We visited the major religious building of Utrecht, the “Domkerk” (Dom Church), also known as St. Martin’s Cathedral.
This Cathedral constructed between 1284 and 1520 is the only church in the Netherlands that closely resembles the classic Gothic style developed in France. But, unlike most of its French predecessors, it has only one tower, the “Domtoren” (Dom Tower), which is the hallmark of Utrecht.
The Dom Tower is separated from the cathedral due to a tornado that destroyed the unfinished central nave of the cathedral, in 1674. The place previously occupied by the central nave is now a square known as “Domplein”.
The Dom Tower, built between 1321 and 1382, is the highest church tower in the Netherlands. The tower is 112.31 meters high and has 465 steps.
Halfway up the tower one can see the bells Geert van Wou founded in 1505, which have a total weight of no less than 32,000 kg. One floor higher there’s the Hemony carillon of 50 bells, which is manually played every Friday and Saturday from 11 until noon.
The rest of the afternoon was spent around the “Oudegracht” (old canal), which is a canal that runs through the center of Utrecht. The particularity of this canal is the presence of several picturesque cellars on water level that were used for storage and commerce centuries ago.
Me and the two Greek girls who joined us in the afternoon went to a esplanade while the other guys went back to Wageningen.
I stayed in Utrecht for a few days to return the key of the room I had rented for that month.