A week full of Dutchness


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Europe » Netherlands » Province of Utrecht » Utrecht
August 7th 2009
Published: August 17th 2009
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PoetryPoetryPoetry

It's not uncommon to find poetry on the walls in Dutch cities, and that's a very good thing. This one is from the "werf" wall by the north end of Oudegracht.
This summer, the only holiday abroad went to the Netherlands - and I had the vacation part for myself, since my dear partner went there for a conference.

For the first time (!) I went to Utrecht. This city is more or less equivalent to Malmö in Sweden when it comes to number of inhabitants, which means it hasn't got 300,000 of those yet. The city has a history from at least Roman times, when it was a part of the Northern frontier, with a fortress where the city centre is today. The city centre is very small and crowded, especially when it's summer and the city is invaded by 1,300 conference participants, but I guess it's the same when the university starts in September, since the universities in this city have some 60,000 students!

As most of my readers know, my totem animal is the rabbit. This city is Rabbit City nr 1 in Europe, at least as far as I know. Partly because they have a huge rabbit (yes, rabbit, it's not a hare, wouldn't I know the difference?) statue in the city centre, and because they have another, not quite as huge, statue of Nijntje, or
OudegrachtOudegrachtOudegracht

Part of the central canal.
Miffy, as she's more often called outside the Netherlands. She has her statue at the square named after her, Nijntje Pleintje! Fantastic. Just look at the pictures.

I also made my first couch surfing, or at least the first via that same organisation. I met two girls with a flare for Sweden, Jessica and Annelies, and got to speak proper Dutch for hours. I normally mostly read Dutch, but I rarely speak it, or at least I rarely have a dialogue in the language, since I sometimes do guided tours in my hometown, making long monologues in the front of the bus. So couch surfing is recommended for those who like to get new friends in other languages, as well as getting a couch to sleep on!

My vacation basically consisted of strolling around, grabbing a coffee/tea/snack when I felt like it, reading newspapers (in Dutch, of course) whenever available, shopping souvenirs and gifts, and of course visiting the Dick Bruna museum. For those of you who are not that familiar with Nijntje/Miffy, I can tell you that he's her "father". He's the artist who created her, some 54 years ago! And he still lives in the centre
Female statueFemale statueFemale statue

I'm not sure what she did to get this, but probably she helped to dig the canal, since she's in front of it with a tool in her hand.
of Utrecht, and goes by bike to his studio every day, it said in the "Big Issue" (homeless magazine) of Utrecht. In 2006, the Central Museum in Utrecht created a special "Dick Bruna house", and this is the best museum for kids I've probably ever seen. Why? Because they had stuff where kids look! Partly some 20 to 30 cm from the floor, but also under and inside the usual museum display cases. Good fun. (I got a restriction of maximum 500 euro shopping at the museum shop, and I only purchased for an even smaller amount...)

Since Jessica works at the university, I could get a cheaper entrance to the Botanical Gardens (thanks again!). At the moment, there was a Paul McCarthy (no, not with an -ne-) exhibition, and that was seriously weird stuff. I guess the guy just got too much hippie-1970s and then neverl let go. See the pictures, and make up your own opinion.

And the last days were also the beginning of the Summer Darkness festival of this year, so we managed to see some bands (Irfan, Veljanov and Dandelion Wine) and have a quick look at the market that was held at the Domplein,
Nijntje Pleintje!Nijntje Pleintje!Nijntje Pleintje!

A whole square dedicated to the small rabbit!
the central town square.

I also managed to get a very nice sort of walking guidebook here, more exactly a book with Latin inscriptions throughout Utrecht centre! A student, Tommie Hendriks, made it in the year 2000, and it was a fun companion around the city! It is sold at the VVV (tourist information) at Domplein, if anyone is interested. Of course, the explaining text is in Dutch, but maybe someone wants to translate it?

Another thing I enjoy during trips to other places is to drink local beer. Unfortunately, this is not what everyone likes, or at least the waitress at longest-beer-list-in-town?-pub Ledig Erf (their website seems to be out of order) was surprised when I asked her for their most local brew. Luckily, there's Bert's Beershop (Bierhuis) instead. Bert is to be found on Twijnstraat 14 (or at this website) and sells even local brews like Paulus (nice, dark but rather sweet (thought of honey, but it was cane sugar) abdij-beer from De Lekkere brewery). This beer has a good story, it's actually made especially for the Archive of Utrecht, who moved to the former Paulus-monastery and then found the recipe and some beer rules from the 15th century. So the beer is
Nijntje statueNijntje statueNijntje statue

Her own statue at her own square.
at least almost like in those days!
There is also Eem brewery products from the province of Utrecht, but unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to taste any this time. Instead, I found a Limburg wheat beer with the name of "hamster", Korenwolf. Here you can see their cute label. It seems the brewery, Gulpener, wanted to support the safety of the hamsters in Limburg, and therefore created this very beer. Me like.

And finally, I have to tell you how we got to Utrecht. By night train! There are now direct trains in continental Europe, and we took the one Copenhagen-Amsterdam, that also stops in Utrecht on the way. These trains are seriously fascinating, since they are put together with wagons going all over Europe, so in our train going there, people were also travelling to Basel and several cities in Germany, and on the train home, there were wagons going to Prague and Moscow! We bought our tickets via the Netherlands, but they can be bought in Denmark, and probably from Sweden too, but then at a slightly higher cost, at least by the look of it on the Danish rail company's website. It did feel genuine to
Rabbits galoreRabbits galoreRabbits galore

Of course companions Zakjekonijn and Nijntje had to be photographed.
go by train again, last time I was on a night train was in Poland some 5 years ago, but before that it was during the 1990:s, and most likely during the first half of that decade as well. I really prefer trains to airplanes, and the way of travelling is so much nicer. I really hope there will be an easier way to get cheaper train tickets throughout Europe soon, and that we'll be able to buy them in whatever country we're in - like with airplane tickets. Availability is a huge factor in how people travel!

So now the autumn seems to have arrived and we'll see where the next blog comes from. Enjoy the pictures!


Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


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Nijntje lightNijntje light
Nijntje light

There's even a pedestrian crossing with green and red Nijntes!
The Thinker, rabbit styleThe Thinker, rabbit style
The Thinker, rabbit style

By Neude square, central Utrecht. And yes, it's a rabbit.
Dick Bruna-huisDick Bruna-huis
Dick Bruna-huis

The rabbit companions are eager to get in.
A golden statue!A golden statue!
A golden statue!

This was given to the museum (?) at Nijntjes 50th anniversary. Impressive.
Post office, entrancePost office, entrance
Post office, entrance

The Utrecht Post office was really strangely cool, beginning 20th century style.
Post office hallPost office hall
Post office hall

Enormous wall decorations
Post office outsidePost office outside
Post office outside

Apparently, this building is now sold, so we'll see what happens to it in the future.
In the cow's footIn the cow's foot
In the cow's foot

I feel like I'm missing something here, but the place is called "In the cow's foot".
Paul McCarthy exhibitionPaul McCarthy exhibition
Paul McCarthy exhibition

Reeeeaaally strange.
Paul McCarthy exhibitionPaul McCarthy exhibition
Paul McCarthy exhibition

Oh, yes, I got into the Botanical Gardens (thanks, Jessica!) while the Paul McCarthy exhibition was there. Something of the strangest I'v seen so publicly exhibited.
Paul McCarthy exhibitionPaul McCarthy exhibition
Paul McCarthy exhibition

Not quite as strange, but still.
Not even hardships deterNot even hardships deter
Not even hardships deter

One of the many inscriptions, and if you look up this house...
... or do they?... or do they?
... or do they?

... this is what you see. It might fall, might it not?
More odd ballsMore odd balls
More odd balls

Another Latin inscription, and another ball risking to fall, but this time with the saying "Not all that threatens will pass". Nice to know.
Free!Free!
Free!

There are several small plates like this in the streets of central Utrecht. I get a 1960's vibe from them, but this one was nice.
Dandelion wineDandelion wine
Dandelion wine

Good show, good music, a novelty to me. Nice australians.


17th August 2009

Night trains
We also enjoy night trains. We took a few in Ukraine. They have plenty of them there and they are good too. You can also take night trains in Sweden. We took a night train from Malmö to Stockholm just a week ago! Why on earth haven't you visited Utrecht before? It is very Irene-ish! Ake and Emma
18th August 2009

Strange, indeed
Well, there ARE night trains in Sweden, but I rarely go Malmö-Sthlm for instance. And the last time I had to go up north, I had to be in a hurry, so train was out of the question :-( And why I haven't been to Utrecht? Heck knows. The Dick Bruna-house only started in 2006, though.
9th August 2010
Dick Bruna-huis

Did you enjoy the museum?
Joplin? Zakje? Did you enjoy the museum? Did your mum, Big Rabbit, like it? Emma and Jean-Claude
15th August 2010

Oh yes!
Of course. Stupid question. Best museum in the world. Big Rabbit said it was very good for human kids, too, but it was of course best for rabbits.

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