Living like the locals

Trip Start Nov 18, 2013
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Julianapark

Flag of Netherlands  , Utrecht,
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oh, breakfast was such a delight! Rianne laid out Dutch bread and crackers, spreads, muesli, natural yoghurt, eggs, juice, tea and coffee.

We all showered and got ready, and then caught the number 3 bus into town. We hopped off at the Utrecht University where Rianne is studying history. She showed us some of the buildings and then we made our way to the Dom Tower; the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. It's 112.5 metres high and is part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin.

Rianne headed off to a session at uni, but luckily for us, Tijs was back in Utrecht and was taking a tour up the tower at 12.30! He told the group we would climb 465 steps to ascend to the top, and that the bell tower was built between 1321 and 1382! We stopped off on a lower level to look at some slides of how the church used to look before it was partially destroyed by a huge storm in 1674. The locals at the time thought it was a sign from God, and the church wasn’t repaired for 150 years – the cursed stones weren’t even touched. The church complex looks considerably different these days to the original layout. Tijs also said a unique factor of the Dom Tower is that it was built from the inside out. On each level you can spy a man-hole in the roof where they hoisted up materials for construction.

We stopped off halfway at the bell level, where Tijs rang all the bells with a mallet – so loud they make your insides vibrate! He told us that back in the day, they would have gotten the 32,000 kg worth of bells to that level with wooden structures – amazing. There were fourteen bells at all different pitches; 7 were original, and 7 were made in Holland at the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry in the 1980s. The original seven were moved up to the top to be part of the bell play.

The 360 degree view from the top was really lovely; Utrecht so far is very charming. We even met an Aussie girl at the top (small world). Tijs told us later that the tour guides hosted a sleepover in the tower, which I am very jealous about!

Afterwards we went for a coffee with Tijs, Rianne and their friend Mica. It was a specialty coffee place and they even had heated seats.

Next, an insider tour of the university. We got to see the library and the club rooms and gardens. It’s a really lovely campus. The outside looks very grand and traditional, but the inside is very light, airy, modern and accessible. Rianne showed us a traditionally Dutch lamp above a door, which stuck half outside and half inside the house. This was designed to save money and be innovative, rather than having a lamp inside and out. We kept seeing stickers around the campus with Tijs’s face on them saying 'have you seen this man?’ in Dutch. Apparently one of his friends made them when Tijs was away on a trip for a couple of months – so funny and awesome! He looks a bit like Napoleon Dynamite in the sticker actually…

We meandered around town for a while, sticking our heads into lovely local shops like Dill and Camille, and even visited an Aboriginal art gallery. It was so bizarre to see one in Europe, and even stranger to see them selling products we don’t have in Aussie.

Rianne had told us about Olivier’s Belgian beer café, which used to be a church (when worshipping in public was illegal in Holland), but has since been turned into a successful drinking and dining establishment. It’s quite a sight to walk in from a boring door on the street into a lofty and ornate church room.

Tijs decided to go home for a nana nap because he’d had a big night, so Rianne took us to get a traditional Dutch New Year’s Eve pastry called oliebol from a stall vendor, and then on to an organic burger place (kind of like Grill’d in Australia) called Meneer Smakers. It was so tasty and fresh, and the chips looked like REAL potatoes! Rianne has been on an excursion to their farm, so she can vouch for the happy cows and real vegetables.

She had to run off to drama practise for a couple of hours, so Joanna and I walked through the freezing, still, glimmering and light painted streets. Great photo ops! We looked in a quirky shop on the canal, which had crazy innovative gadgets and funny cards.

I know can recognise my Dutch heritage (mum’s surname is van Leeuwen) – I am tall, I have blue eyes, I like the cold and I have really rosy cheeks.

Joanna and I visited the university again to scam some of their wifi. We then met Tijs in a main square and walked to a favourite pub where many history students were gathering. We met lots of cool people that night and drank (and enjoyed) cherry beer. It was good because Jeffrey was there so I got to see him again. We played darts, enjoyed the student discounted beer and were merry.

At 12.30am we caught the bus home and then talked with Rianne’s housemates Lotte and Jantien. We found it very amusing at that hour that Dutch people use the word ‘hoor’ (pronounced like something rude) for ‘eh/aye’, and heard many funny stories about how that’s got people into trouble overseas. We even let the girls try Vegemite, but I don’t think we have any converts.

It was a wonderful day ‘hanging with the locals’, as Tijs would say.
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Comments

Tony N on

I liked the look of my chocolates! Yum yum

caitlinnelson
caitlinnelson on

Yay! I'm glad you saw your chocolates! :D It was darn tasty!

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