Today I’m bringing back the cheer as I continue to wage a war against the university job agency! (I haven’t had any luck so far, but it’s only a matter of time surely …)
It may have been a pretty rough week for me, but this Saturday marked one year since I arrived in the Netherlands and I was going to be darned if I let some bureaucratic concerns stop me from celebrating. Neither Pieter nor I had ever been to Utrecht before, so we decided to make a day of it and explore this gorgeous city together.
Utrecht is one of the biggest cities in Holland, and it’s full of secret gardens, artsy shops and tree-lined canals. All of that in combination with an unchangingly grey sky gave our trip an enchanted sort of feel.
The day started off on an excellent note with the discovery of a narrow little shop that sold all manner of candy – North American included!
(I was extremely good and didn’t have any.)
One of my favourite parts of the day was walking along one of the main streets in the centre of the city. It was split in two by a very low canal, and if you wanted to you could climb down little steps to walk right alongside the water. Right there on that narrow sub-street were dozens of underground studios buried in the brick wall – sculpture, painting, dancing … all forms of creative expression were accounted for.
Of course, we took a look at the Dom, a famous medieval tower right in the middle of the city. According to legend, no member of the Utrecht ‘corps’ fraternity (the oldest fraternity) may walk beneath the Dom or people will die. Yet another perplexing tidbit to add to my knowledge of Dutch fraternities! It’s really too bad for them though, because hidden behind the Dom is a gorgeous garden complete with white benches, a manicured lawn, and even a resident cat.
Alas, the place was pretty busy – it was, after all, around noon on a Saturday – so my pictures don’t quite convey the magic.
Right across the street, the Dom cathedral also offered some lovely sights. We were lucky to meander into the church right as choir practise was starting!
After all of this wandering, we had earned ourselves a coffee break. Having seen more than one café/bike repair combination, and many more heads sporting toques (which are not, in fact, cool in Holland like they are in Canada!), we had to conclude that Utrecht is a little bit more hip and edgy than Leiden. The people-watching was particularly good that day …
Once we’d warmed back up, we continued on our way and soon stumbled onto a deserted area called a beeld tuin, or picture garden.
Just like in Leiden, in Utrecht you might be on a main street one minute, and the next find yourself in a place like that, away from the city noise and the (surprisingly aggressive) cyclists!
My one-year anniversary with Holland was a definite success – it even happened to fall on the same day as the Eurovision Song Contest finale, which I obviously watched with great delight! (Apparently that’s not at all cool, but I’m willing to play my foreigner card on this one.) My favourite performers were Roberto ‘crazy-eyes’ Bellarosa for Belgium and the painfully beautiful Zlata Ognevich for the Ukraine. (Watch with discretion – all of those Eurovision songs have been playing on repeat in my head since Saturday.)
Today I’m heading up North to Groningen to see my lovely friends. Fingers crossed for some good news about my job when I get back!