Wow! It’s already Wednesday night here in Utrecht– can’t believe the first 3 days of the program are already done. Saturday evening brought Andrew to the Netherlands, followed by Erin, Perla, Cori, and Angelique on Sunday morning. The whole group braved intense jet lag to wander around the city of Utrecht Sunday afternoon before sitting down for an intro dinner at the Hotel Mitland. One final trip to the airport to collect Jason Sunday evening and the program had officially begun!
Monday morning we had breakfast in the hotel cafe and then met in our makeshift classroom aka extremely comfy suite living room for an short ‘intro to the Netherlands’ meeting.
On Monday afternoon, we laced up our walking shoes and took the #4 bus to Prins Hendriklaan where we started our walking tour of Utrecht. We walked up to the University College Utrecht campus and saw the Kromhoutskazerne area– site of monasteries and nunneries from the 1100s – 1600s, home to the Dutch military during WWI, and local headquarters of the Nazis in the provence of Utrecht during WWII. It’s currently an English-language honors college affiliated with Universiteit Utrecht (located up the street). We passed by the Rietveld-Schroeder house (a pioneering example of ‘De Stijl’ neo-plasticist architecture), had lunch at the Park Cafe Buiten (I got a great salad with pear, brie, cashews, and arugula), and walked through the Wilhelminapark before catching a bus downtown to Janskerkhof.
From the Janskerk (church) we walked up to the Speelklok museum, which has an amazing collection of automatic instruments (from early music boxes and clocks to large dance organs).
After listening to a number of music pieces–including ones by a self-playing piano, automatic violins, our wonderful tour guide with a phenomenal voice, and one organ fondly known as “the goat”–we gathered up our things and moved on to the Domtoren (crossing over the historical edge of the Holy Roman Empire…of course). The Domtoren is the tower of the largest church in Utrecht. The tower is still the tallest one in all of the Netherlands! We then proceeded to climb nearly 500 steps to the top of the tower. The climb, combined with the view from the top, was absolutely breathtaking!
After the Dom, we went over to the Oudegracht, or ‘old canal,’ to have a traditional Dutch pancake dinner (called pannekoeken) at the restaurant ‘t Oude Muntkelder. As it was Jason’s birthday, we snuck a card around the table to sign and then took him out for a drink downtown at Neude square. For Jason: GEFELICITEERD!
All in all, it was a great first day! I’ll be playing a bit of catch-up here on the blog for the next day or so to fill in the first few days when I didn’t post. Hope you don’t mind backtracking! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next installment from the low countries…