Utrecht is a university town southeast of Amsterdam, about 45 minutes by bus. It is a lovely place to explore, and we were fortunate to have an expert guide called Ingeborg Behari to show us around.
We started off in the Railway Museum Het Spoorwegmuseum where Ingeborg volunteers as a guide. We were not interested in the trains, it was the beautiful building that was so captivating. Typical of many of these grand railway stations built in the 19th century it featured stunning architecture and grand interiors, and this one even has a Royal Waiting Room. (Though truth be told, this room was actually somewhere else to start with, but was transplanted here to the railway station when it became a museum. BTW, do check out the height of the mirror in that Royal Waiting Room. It is absurdly high, impossible even for tall people so its purpose was really to make the room look larger.)
PS (Tuesday) I had an email from Ingeborg with some extra info about the ceiling of the Royal waiting room.
After that, we took a stroll through the canal districts, where Ingeborg regaled us with all kinds of interesting stories about the rich, the famous and the ones who wanted to be. But one who definitely deserves to be famous is Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen who won a Nobel Prize for discovering X-rays, and you will see a tiled image of him in the slide show below. Utrecht encourages its citizens to come up with good ideas to enhance the city, and as well as ones like this that commemorate its most eminent citizens, there are also some that show paintings from past times, sited in the same place so that visitors can see the place both then and now. The best of these is the one that shows the cathedral before the tornado blew half of it away in 1674.
Utrecht is also very excited about two major events this year. They are hosting the start of the Tour de France, and they are celebrating the 60th ‘birthday’ of Miffy. If you don’t know who Miffy is, you had a deprived childhood, because the Miffy books are enchanting. There are large Miffys all over the city, decorated by various artists, but this one is wearing a cape to keep it warm, courtesy of university students who play all kinds of pranks in the city, including chucking some of the ubiquitous bikes into the canals, so much so that they have had to increase the depth!
We were sorry to come to the end of the tour, but we enjoyed a nice lunch at Graaf Floris. Tim had Kroketten (which are, you guessed it, croquettes) and I had pork satays. He also sampled two of the local beers including one drunk with a slice of lemon in it, and I had a cup of honeybush tea which was divine. I haven’t had a decent coffee in the Netherlands yet, but their herbal teas are really nice.
We had just enough time to buy some bread, cheese and sausage at the Farmers’ Market for an in-hotel meal tonight and to duck into the cathedral before it was time to go. The cathedral is gorgeous, restrained and elegant by comparison with the more extravagant Catholic cathedrals, and I was especially impressed by the altar which looks from a distance as if it is made of ivory.
And then we were off to see Kasteel de Haar…