zephyr illusions photo by donna October 1992. The view atop Chasseral, Jura Mountains looking across Switzerland to The Alps on the horizon. Fog, intensely thick, rising from Lac Bienne and stretching its fingers high onto the Lignières-Plateau de Diesse after wholly filling the valley below the plateau.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

European Adventure 2005 Day 17

Today, i did the 20 minute walk from my hotel to the old town centre and spent a fair amount of time just wandering around the bordering residential neighborhoods admiring the buildings and cobbled streets.
As i made my way closer to the interior town centre where the Dom rises high above the many cafes, restaurants and shops, i noticed that there seemed to be a lot of tourists bustling about with maps in hand. it was the first time since Amsterdam that i really noticed a lot of obvious tourists with maps and cameras. it also seemed to me that there was more activity, in general, in Utrecht. the weather was very warm and brightly sunny, so i suppose that brought a lot of people out to enjoy the weekend. virtually all the outdoor cafe tables were occupied and the doorways of the shops were busy with people passing in and out of them.

i checked into climbing the Dom toren, but all the hourly tours were booked. (unlike the Martini toren in Groningen, you must join a group for an escorted guided walk up the Dom tower). so, after talking with the University student working at the tourist office, i decided to wait until Monday morning to climb the Dom when it will be less busy and walked across the plaza to enter Dom church. [website in Dutch, but check out virtual tour (Virtuele Tour) if language a problem]
WOW. incredibly beautiful Gothic arches stretch upwards from the solid columns which support them; stained glass windows of huge proportions glow in rich colors as sunlight filters through illuminating the interior of the cathedral; various chambers and sanctuaries are built into the old walls made of hewn stone blocks; tombs, statues and icons of worship; candles and chandeliers; rich heavy wood deeply polished; the solemn sound of quiet respect and awe seems to tangibly fill the air as the sound of slow footsteps of visitors echoed off the tombstones that make the floor worn smooth over the centuries.
As i sat in one of the beautiful wooden pews beneath those incredible towering arches that support the highest ceiling i have ever been under, i was again filled with awestruck emotions that uncontrollably welled up from somewhere deep within me. i felt a disconnection from the present and the people around me and had some sort of sense of sharing a space-in-time long past... a time past stretching over centuries that i cannot explain nor understand. i somehow felt that i was outside my body and floating. after a few minutes of this inexplicable disconnection, i suddenly felt overwhelmed and struggling to maintain control found myself outside in the plaza, vaguely aware of church bells chiming in the distance, gazing back inside the cathedral entrance wondering what supernatural powers command this magnificent ancient structure.
i'm sure this may sound like a bunch of romanticism and fairy tale stuff to some people... but, for me, it is very real. i've had similar experiences at other ancient historical sites, including Mayan temple ruins, but nothing, and i mean nothing, compares to the magnitude of Domkerk.

i walked across the plaza and found a table at one of the cafes under the shadow of Dom toren and had a glass of red wine. lol, it seemed to me that a glass of the blood of christ was in order!

As i savored the wine, i referred to my town map to get a general sense of which direction to find the National Museum Van Speelklok Tot Pierement. i don't know how this translates to English, but it's a very nice museum (housed in another beautiful old church building) of musical clocks, music boxes and other mechanical music devices. after getting a bit lost in the confusing winding streets of the old town, i found the museum. the guided tour was informative and very interactive with the small children in the tour group (seeing the children's fascination with the musical items was as fun as the tour itself). the various objects on display are quite beautiful and unique, my favorite being the intricate mechanical clocks which still play music of amazing tone even though quite old. as the tour ended, my plan was to find a cafe and have a bit of dinner before further exploration of old town Utrecht on a Saturday night.

Then, as i exited the museum and stepped out onto the street, it happened to me! aaarrgghhh, wall-to-wall people! no room to move independently on the narrow streets... no where to go... being carried along on a tidalwave of people... felt the world closing in on me... felt the slow heavy wave of panic rising...forming to attack. i don't know why or where it comes from, but sometimes when in the middle of a large tight crowd of people, i feel claustrophobic and HAVE to escape. doesn't always happen to me in crowds... but, when it does, it hits me hard.
i focused on making my way to the Post Office plaza where i knew i could easily find my way to the familiarity of Nachtegaalstraat, the main thoroughfare that would take me away from the maddening crowd and closer to the safety of my hotel room. lol, i remember thinking as i was fighting my way through the endless throng of people that as much as i like the old town centre of Utrecht, i wished i was spending this particular Saturday night on holiday in quiet peaceful Groningen. much better to be partying with University students in the middle of farmland than struggling to escape what seemed like an ocean of city dwellers creating whirlpools of riptides out doing who-knows-what... i mean, what were all these people doing here?! there was hardly room to breathe let alone have a good time.
Anyway, after ducking into a supermarket near my hotel that was about to close, i bought some chopped ham salad, an avocado, a nice piece of bread and two split bottles of Cabernet-Syrah, i spent the evening picnicking in my hotel room and chatting on AIM with a friend while listening to fav podcasts. whew! made it to the sanctity of sanity without flipping out in downtown old Utrecht. :p

quite the emotion-filled intense rollercoaster of a day, but despite the close call of losing sanity, another good day it was :)


  1. Did you know the Dom and the church were connected in the past. A big fire destroyed the middle of the two (somewehere in the 1600's?) A couple of months ago they rebuilt the middle part with "stijgers" (don't know the english word) as part of a big festival. THere are now people calling for the rebuilt of the church.. but we'll have to see if that will ever take place.

    It's so funny, i read your heading (day 17) and realised that you have been here quite long allready. I keep looking out to new post.. very interesting to read about area's you know through some one else's eyes.

    How long will you be staying in Utrecht now? Then i know when i'll have to go into blogging rehad when the stories stop.. :)

  2. hoi, Prof., i knew about the big storm in 1674 that destroyed most of the nave that connected the Dom toren with the church. that's now where the open plaza between the tower & church exists. is it this plaza that was rebuilt with "stijgers" during the festival? lol, i don't know what 'stijgers' means in English, either.
    i was told by a guy that i met the other day about the hopeful plans to rebuild the destroyed nave. he said the rebuilding would be done using technics of the Middle Ages and would be quite a long project to complete. i think it would be very cool to be accomplished, but sounds very costly.

    glad you enjoy reading my adventures :) i'd still be writing this journal even if nobody read it, but it is very nice to know that somebody is enjoying reading about my experiences as much as i am enjoying my time here in The Netherlands.
    i'm in Utrecht one more day... will return to Amsterdam on Tuesday, 27 September. then, fly back to USA on Thursday the 29th. my 3 weeks in Holland is flying by soooo quickly. wish i could stay...