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.

Friday, September 16, 2005

European Adventure 2005 Day 8

Today was a kicked-back lazy dag of grey sky and druilerig (drizzling rain). after a typical Dutch breakfast buffet (so called on the hotels' menus) of fruit juice ... mmmm, mango this morning... milk, coffee, bread, cheese and a selection of nicely sliced meats, i took full advantage of the good internet connection that i'm paying 7.50/day to access and caught up on emails and podcasts and surfing fav websites. felt good to lay back for a bit...

anyway, sometime mid-afternoon, i donned my beret basque to keep the rain off my head (didn't feel like carrying an umbrella today) and took a walk into town in search of food. after walking through neighborhood areas i had not yet ventured into, i found myself headed toward the Dom and town centre. i must not have looked the typical tourist walking without fear of the rain (i like rain) because i was stopped a few times by people asking me for directions (clueless), the time (could help with that), something i didn't understand because the old lady waiting at the bus stop was very much Dutch (she smiled widely and waved me on when she understood i didn't speak Dutch) and a couple of young guys with clipboards soliciting to locals... one was apparently representing a bank. even after establishing the fact that i was an American visitor, he still wanted to know if i had an account with a Dutch bank... hehehehaha, i told him "no, but if he wanted to give me one i would be appreciative on account i've got almost no money in my American banks." he flashed me one of the most beautiful smiles i have seen in a while and wished me a good day and nice stay in Holland :)
which reminds me of something i'm beginning to wonder about.... are there any unattractive Dutchmen? if so, the government must hide them...
also, wondering if all Dutch children are well behaved and happy. if not, the government must be hiding the unruly screaming children, too.
anyway, by now i had decided it was time to get out of the rain for a while and have a bite to eat. i had a great meal at a beautiful old restaurant at the base of the Dom Tower called Lokaal de Reünie. while listening to the beautiful chiming of church bells in the near distance, i had a very delicious meal of pasta met gerookte zalm en salade (fettacine tossed with smoked salmon, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, 2 kinds of olives and tender greens) and red wine followed by espresso with little Belgian chocolates. very nice and very reasonably priced at €15.20 + small tip for great service. i think i'm getting better at not over-tipping... hard habit to break when so used to the American system where food service people are paid next to no salary and earn nearly the entirety of their wages in tips.

Utrecht has a whole different vibe going on than Amsterdam. Utrecht is much more mellow with an air of quiet dignity pervading. people here seem to take more of a moment before speaking than do Amsterdammers, but yet do not hesitate to interact. there are a lot of schools (of all levels), and centers of learning in Utrecht. (btw, i saw an impressive old building called Pathologisch Instituut near my hotel). also, i'm impressed with how many bookstores (old and new), artisan shops, artist studios, art galleries, antique shops, furniture restoration/refinishing shops and musician shops i have seen while exploring. the vibe i'm getting is that Utrecht is a town that places value on higher learning/education and craftmanship and this permeates the social dynamics and general attitude here.
also took note that the native Utrecht people i've talked with take much pride in being from Utrecht. they seem appreciative of and enjoy the historical aspect of their town. i get a real sense of community in Utrecht that i did not feel in Amsterdam. one cafe owner emphatically told me that the character of Utrecht is special and not like that of Amsterdam because Utrecht people are not "arrogant bastards" like the Amsterdammers. it's my impression he told me this not to be particularly mean to Amsterdammers, but to explain to me what makes his town unique.
so, with thoughts of how Utrecht is different from Amsterdam, i asked which direction was the Maliebahn (the stately tree-lined avenue adjacent to my hotel) and set off to find my way back to a warm, dry room and hot shower.

oh! here's some nice decoration i saw on a bicycle on my way back to my hotel to dry off and watch some BBC TV before sleep. pretty neat use of beer bottle caps, eh? :D


  1. Wow.. you found my bike :D


    A hotel near the Maliebaan..so i now where to place you now approximately. If you are walk through the "Nachtegaalstraat" to the centre of town, there is a great bagel shop.. (oh no.. you are not a cop... :))

    The maliebaan means you can walk to the fort Rhijnauwen which i think was on your planning to visit.

    Did you succeed in climbing the dom, or is that still in the planning? Who knows..

    How long will you be staying in Utrecht?

  2. And yes we have irritating, unruly kids as well. you were probably just lucky having missed out on them. In holland we also have "hang jongeren", youth just hanging around doing nothing.. maybe you saw some around as well..

    And yes.. all dutch men are goodlooking :D.... no, you must have lucked out in that aspect as well..

  3. :D i absolutely love what ya did with your bike, Prof.! it's even groovier than the one i saw with colorful silk flowers decorating the frame :D
    yup, i've seen 'hang jongeren'... and, haven't we all been part of that scene? ;)

    oooh, thanks for the suggestion of Fort Rhijnauwen! i really love seeing old buildings and churches and castles and forts and historical places like that. i was unaware of Fort Rhijnauwen, so i'm glad you mention it :) [i want to visit Bourtange while in Groningen.]
    i'm off to Groningen on the 18th for a couple of days. then, because i really, really enjoy this charming town of Utrecht, i'm coming back here for a few more days before returning to Amsterdam to be near the airport and my return flight back to the States. so, i'll climb the Dom and see Fort Rhijnauwen and tour the museum that has all those musical clocks and stuff... forget it's name, at the moment.

    btw, my hotel is on the Maliestraat, so you most probably know it. heehee, will look for that bagel shop/cop hangout next time i walk into town centre... maybe i can get a good photo of Dutch police hard at work. lol