A beauty of a July morning to herald a day trip to this old Netherlands city, one of the most historic and picturesque in the country. At this time of year, many other tourists had the same idea, yet the streets and cafes are filled with local inhabitants too. Utrecht is a university town; youthful energy and resonance predominate. One thinks of Amsterdam as the ultimate Dutch canal city: Utrecht is more compact and possibly even more scenic.
In the mediaeval centre of town, the deep canals are a magnetic draw. They bear witness to the city's historical importance as a trade centre once on the Rhine River (the main course of which eventually strayed away). Warehouses for storage were built into the canal banks; now the canals are what remain of once-great commerce. But their presence enables a vibrant string of restaurant and entertainment venues along its reaches.
To reach canal-side, you descend stairs from the main streets above. A boat tour on the oldest canal (the twelfth-century Oudegracht) took us past centuries-old Dutch institutions and mansions. This is a must to fully appreciate the historical past. The day became colourlessly overcast although still warm and muggy.
Originally a fortified city, the walls and a moat helped protect and preserve the mediaeval structures. Utrecht is a great walking town as well; a great religious centre for a long time, the gothic St Martin's Cathedral on the central square stands among several churches in the old town. Near the fourteenth-century Domtoren bell tower, tallest in the country, the cloister garden of a former monastery is a quiet spot to sit apart from the general melee of narrow streets.
All this leads up to a search for coffee and lunch. The streets were packed by then; sitting space was at a premium. The past and the present happily contrast each other.
.We settled at a cafe on a bridge over a canal. Somehow it did not seem odd to have chicken-lady statue in our midst. Yes, those are chickens she is clutching. The sculptor Van de Vathorst has many statues located around Utrecht. We were seated on the site of a former fish market which he commemorated with this "Sale Woman" although why the chickens was my question; gripping a couple of eels or carp might have been more appropriate.
Even more interesting was the world's tiniest washroom on the premises. It has two cubicles (♀ and ♂) and a sink between. I'm guessing the whole works, all three spaces, was about six feet wide and four feet deep. Each space is large enough to hold one very slender person but not all at the same time. There are three doors. Opening any given door will impale someone at the wash basin and/or jam up the opposite door. By the time we figured out the mechanics and stopped feeling trapped, three of us were in helpless hysterics.
Did I see enough of Utrecht? No. Below is a professional photo (postcard) with optimum lighting conditions.
© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman