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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

European Adventure 2005 Day 19

Woke up this morning to the soothing sound of rain and i almost blew off breakfast to continue laying cozily in bed drifting in sleep.
But, since i was looking forward to climbing Dom toren before leaving Utrecht, i threw back the duvet and got the day rolling.
By the time i finished breakfast and replied to a few emails, the rain had subsided. so, under grey but clearing skies, i walked into town centre taking an alternate route than my usual and was pleased to discover that my sense of direction on the winding and confusing streets had improved... i didn't get lost this time! :D
I arrived at the Dom tour office just in time to catch the noon tour group (the guided tours are scheduled hourly). besides the tour guide, there were only twelve other members of the tour group (25 is the usual group size) which was good... i would be sharing the Dom toren with a smaller crowd.
Dom tower, built between 1321 and 1382) rises an impressive 112 metres (368 feet) and is set upon a foundation 8 metres (26 feet) deep. gaining access to the highest gallery, the steeple gallery, requires walking up 465 steps. on the way up, we would stop on each level of the tower and the guide would explain to us about the construction and history of Dom Toren.
The second level of the tower is very impressive with 13 giant bronze bells dating from 1500, the largest weighing 8,222 kilos (18,127 pounds!!!), suspended from giant timbers.

The next level houses bellworks for the clock chimes and there are a total of 75 bells. wow, that's a lot of bells! every quarter hour, they can be heard chiming... and, it's nice.

The stairway winds up the interior of the tower, beginning relatively wide and gently steep gradually narrowing and becoming quite steep. the last 100 or so steps gave me one helluva workout... i felt like i was climbing a ladder made of tiny rungs of smooth stone inside a stone and mortar cocoon.

But, the view from the occasional small window and the thought of feeling the wind on my face while looking upon the town below inspired me. just when i was nearly convinced that the stairway would go on winding upward and narrowing forever into the heavens, i rounded a turn and there was the low door leading out onto the steeple gallery.
Wow! to stand there on the narrow walkway that circles the perimeter of the base of the steeple with only an open stone barrier of Gothic design separating me from the openness of the sky was literally breath-taking. the sky was still a bit grey, but the view was incredibly expansive stretching beyond the limits of Utrecht city into the Province beyond. somehow, the greyness of the sky seem to enhance the colors of the rooftops and buildings of the town below, the green leaves of the trees seemed brilliant and almost glowing, the water in the canals seem to almost shine and sparkle... it was simply and utterly beautiful. i felt like i was standing on the greatest balcony that mankind has ever built.
I hung out admiring the view, walking the perimeter, touching the ancient building stones and wondering about their stories of what they had witnessed over the centuries...
Then, the tour leader broke the magic and told us it was time to descend before the next group would begin their climb.

After the invigorating (albeit, challenging) climb, i decided to would be apropos to seek out the 'Stairway To Heaven' cafe as recommended by a local friend. the rock cafe is owned by Henk Westbroek, a famous Dutch musician/music industry celebrity. i knew in which area of the old town the cafe is located and had no trouble finding the place. whooaaa, is that place ever cool! a nice mix of old world charm and modern rock music memorablia... kinda like that American chain of clubs, 'Hard Rock Cafe', but with style and class.
On the walls hang an impressive collection of guitars donated by famous rock musicians and bands... including (among others) guitars of Slash, Metallica, INXS, Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Page, Cream, Eric Clapton, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Peter Frampton, Steve Vai and Live (cool for me to see because that band is from York, Pennsylvania, a small town very near my hometown). there is also a tom-tom drum from Def Leppard. great rock music from the '60's - '90's was playing and he staff was very friendly. lots of students were sitting at tables studying, other customers having lunch and some guys were just hanging out at the bar having a good time. there was even a guy working on a laptop. when i commented how cool it is that there was Wifi availability, the guy offered me a few minutes on his laptop if i wanted to access the internet. what a nice guy, eh?!
I had a couple beers at the bar and chatted with the bartender then decided this would be a good cafe to see if the Dutch know how to make a good burger and fries. so, i moved over to a table with a fresh beer and was quickly served what i consider the official american meal. the burger was quite large and good (but too salty... why to European burgers always taste too salty?), the fries were heaped on the plate looking like a small mountain and a delicious salad garnished the plate. oh, and of course, there was a generous portion of seasoned mayonnaise accompanying the fries... no, i didn't ask for ketchup. :p other than the burger being too salty, everything was quite good, but the portions way too much and i could only eat about half of the meal. i completed the meal with a nice strong black coffee. considering the great atmosphere of the place, the excellent friendly service and the quality & quantity of the food the price of €11.50 was quite reasonable. i'd recommend the 'Stairway To Heaven' cafe as a great lunch spot.

After enjoying my respite, i set off to find the docking station for the canal boat ride. i found the station with little problem and bought a ticket just in time for the next departure. i really enjoyed the canal boat tour a lot. it was soooo much better than the Amsterdam canal boat tour i took a couple of weeks earlier (and only 1/3 the price). not exactly sure why.... maybe, because the wharves housing businesses and apartments at water level with the streets and town above make the canal more interesting? also, the tour wasn't a recorded speech, but a real live woman who did an excellent job of describing what we were seeing and pointing out buildings of interest. she did the tour in 3 languages... Dutch, German & English. she would have done it in French, too, but there were no French-speaking persons aboard. still impresses me how multi-lingual are Europeans.
Anyway, the canal boat tour was very interesting and very relaxing. very nice and enjoyable way to complete a day after climbing to the top of Utrecht and rocking out at lunch :)
When the tour ended, i walked leisurely back to the hotel and had a quiet evening and blissful sleep after such an active day.

In short, today was another awesome day in The Netherlands :)


  1. Nice pictures... as i have a fear of heights i will stick with these.. I know now what i'll find if i climb the DomToren.

  2. so staggering is the view from atop, even my cheap simple camera is able to capture a bit of the dizzying height of DomToren.
    and, of course, the steep, narrow stairway is quite dizzying, itself.
    i'm glad i climbed both DomToren and MartiniToren in Groningen... the Martini climb was very cool because i had the tower all to myself for quite a while before any other visitors came along. Groningen is an interesting town to view from above, too.
    despite sharing DomToren with the 13 others of the tour group, i somehow felt i had an important part of the world to all to myself when looking upon Utrecht town and province disappearing into the horizon.... where sky and earth meet...

  3. The first time I walked up those stairs when I was a kid (I was born in Utrecht), I fainted after looking out the narrow 'windows'. My first encounter with 'hoogtevrees'. Glad you made it ;-)

  4. you were born in Utrecht, mindcaster? wow, i think that's a very cool city to come from... it's so historic and the old town so very pretty. special canals, too. i really, really like Utrecht a lot and get a lot of strong good vibes from the antiquity of Utrecht.
    so, very glad that good i don't suffer from hoogtevrees (think that means 'fear of heights') because i actually like being in high places... love the view from up high on the DomToren.