Another earlyish start today, our mission this morning was to take the train to Utrecht, a city located in central Netherlands and about a 1/2 hour train trip from Amsterdam. Utrecht is one of the Netherlands oldest cities with a compact medieval centre set around canals that are unique to the Netherlands as there is a lower level where warehouses were located in the 13th century giving the canals a split level character.
We found our city map at the train station. Similar to Haarlem, this map is useful and includes a city walk which takes in most of the sights of the town. So we roughly followed the red line on our map but as we are want to do we occasionally find ourselves wandering down some other alleyway and doing our own tour. Our first stop was at the Dom Church (St Martins Cathedral). The Dom Church is the one church in the Netherlands that resembles the classic gothic architecture style as developed in France. It has one tower, the Dom Tower which has been the symbol of the city since it was completed in 1382 (the first stone was laid in 1321) and is the largest church tower in the Netherlands.
We then wandered a bit further around the town, it is very beautiful, and made our way to the Centraal Museum. We had picked out the Centraal Museum as a place we wanted to visit before we started our holiday and it did not disappoint. The museum contains some very interesting and unique art work and paintings and also depicts the history of the town. We really enjoyed this museum and its art work and story.
Utrecht has a very long history dating back to before Christ when a roman fortress was built on what is now the Dom Square. In 695 the Catholic Diocese of Utrecht was established. The town survived two civil wars in the 1400's and in 1636 the Utrecht University and library was established. Utrecht was the location of the peace talks of 1713 where the European powers of the time signed a peace treaty to end nearly 200 years of war. This also marked the end of the Golden Age for Holland as the French negotiator reminded the hosts that "We negotiate in your country, about your country, without your country".
In the 17th century approximately 45% of the cities population came from elsewhere, consisting mostly of religious refugees. Today almost 1/3 of the population are of foreign descent. Utrecht has always been somewhat of a melting pot of new ideas and art work. Anyway, we really enjoyed our sojourn to Utrecht with its medieval centre and interesting history.
We found our way back to Amsterdam in the afternoon so we could visit the Poezenboot, it is only open from 1 to 3pm so we got there in good time. The Poezenboot is a refuge for stray and abandoned cats set on a houseboat in Amsterdam's canal belt. We loved it and made friends with most of the cats however one which is in the attached photo was not a friendly cat, he was the 'boss' cat and stayed on the highest ledge not letting anyone give him a pat.
The weather cleared today and this afternoon was a peach so we took advantage of the better weather and strolled through the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. This is one of my favourites areas of Amsterdam, it is very picturesque and is away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist orientated centrum area. We enjoyed a saucijzenbroodjes (a Dutch sausage roll) at a little shop as well as a few beers at a couple of bars on the way around. We had wandered a fair distance so to rest our weary feet we grabbed a tram back to centrum so we could get ready for our canal boat tour which we had booked. However we did have time to have another drink at one of favourite bars opposite the Oude Kerk. I can never get bored with the regular chiming of the bells of this church, it's such a wonderful part of the ambience and character of the old centrum area.
The canal tour would be my fourth and second wine and cheese one. We enjoyed a wine and cheese canal tour with mum and dad last time we were here and decided to do another this time around. The canal tour is one of the best ways to explore this magnificent city and is something I would do every time I visit the city. The cheese and wine was very good as well.
It was 10.30pm by the time we finished the canal tour and it was still daylight. Despite this it was time to call stumps on another sensational day in the Netherlands.
Tomorrow we are off to Enkhuizen to stay with Rosemarie and Maikel for a few nights. Looking forward to it.
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