Dutch Tales (2019)
ADVENTURES IN UTRECHT
Originally published for Utrecht Central, a local English news site in 2020 - the newspaper folded in June 2021.
Real Expat Stories from The Netherlands
EPISODE #1: The Washing Machine
Our first flat in Utrecht had a washer and a dryer, conveniently located next to the food and appliances in our tiny kitchen. I’ve never seen this before - in America, laundry and lunch are strictly separate activities. No matter, we will adjust, adapt and move forward.
What? All the washer instructions are in Dutch. Surely there will be a manual online, right? Yes! In Chinese, French, German, and probably even braille… but not English. Fine, we’ll figure it out.
After a few minutes, we thought we had sorted it out. When I poured half a bottle of liquid laundry detergent into the soap reservoir, I figured this ‘smart device’ would use only as much as each load required. Brilliant!
But I was making multiple mistakes. I had filled the water reservoir of the dryer, which has nothing to do with the soap reservoir. Through a combination of stupidity and arrogance, we let the machines run with a load of towels while we went to the grocery store. (see Adventures in Utrecht #2) Feeling pretty good about our big brains, we strolled down to Albert’s Hennie (our cheeky name for AH) and shopped for a half hour.
Upon returning home I noticed foam squeezing out the front door as I turned our key. What followed was a soft, silent tidal wave of foam in slow motion because our entire apartment was filled with white bubbles and suds (zeepsop) up to our waist. It was also pouring down all 24 steps and out our front door. (photo courtesy of a nasty neighbor and posted online).
Over the next half hour, the neighbors were both civil and cruel to us, laughing like seagulls as they helped us clean up the mess. Fortunately, we had closed our living room door so our possessions were safe, but the carpet took weeks to dry and ultimately had to be replaced, yet another weird experience for a later story.
P.S. – Ok, the carpet replacement was crazy as well. The workmen brought in the flooring, perfectly cut it to our living room. Then, they gave us a can of glue (with some instructions in Dutch) and left. No padding, no nails, no stretching, just a sheet of Berber and a can of glue. Today, the carpet remains unsecured and the glue unopened - it's for the next tenet, we’re just not doing it.
EPISODE #2: Why is the Water on Fire?
When we first moved to Utrecht, we went food shopping at Albert’s Hennie and brought back the groceries in a half dozen heavy plastic bags that made our fingers bleed. Some items were familiar but in unusual packages - like hotdogs floating in a laboratory jar or mayonnaise in a toothpaste tube. Other foods were totally unfamiliar and Dutch, like dripping stroopwafels and bags of drop.
‘DROP’ is a candy; a licorice rope made of sugar, used chewing gum, and oil spill residue. When you eat it, the candy ‘drops’ out of your mouth as you cough up blackened phlegm and spit it out. I think that’s where the name comes from, but I’m not sure about that.
Anyways, rather than buy Evian, Aquafina, or Fiji Water I selected a local brand of bottled water called ‘Azijn’, the AH store brand I guess, hoping to save money. (Dutch people, keep it together now)
After we got home and cleaned up the foam off of the refrigerator (see Adventures in Utrecht #1) I put the bottle in the fridge to chill and took a nap that involuntarily became a long, deep sleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night. I was half asleep cracked open a new bottle of ice-cold ‘Azijn’. I drank it down fast like a Tour de France winner. After some big gulps I was immediately fully awake, eyes popping, gasping for breath, and coughing. A moment later my wife rushed in as I was puking into the sink and screaming “Aaahhh! The water is on fire! Why is the water is on fire? It burns!”
Yes, I had swallowed a large dosage of pure white vinegar from that cold, clear innocent-looking bottle.
Turns out 'Azijn' in Dutch for vinegar; we signed up for Dutch lessons the next day.
EPISODE #3: The Special Poffertjes Bag
Dutch people already know the magic of poffertjes - delicious coin-sized pancakes made of batter, powdered sugar and love. I say love because they are best are made by hand, often on a special iron grill passed down by generations of swollen Dutchmen for about four euros a serving. We discovered them shortly after moving here from Trump’s America in downtown Utrecht. You can usually only get them during the holidays or festivals but we found them at a cafe and ordered three dozen of these sweet little buttons - but that’s just the start of the story.
Truth be told, my wife and I bought far too many treats for one sitting - how typically American. We decided to save the remainder but had no way to carry lots of tiny, sticky sugar pies back home in a purse or handbag. (I don’t know why I didn’t just ask for a box or bag from our waitress – maybe it was shame or pride.)
For whatever the reason, I saw a grocery across the street and decided to quickly buy some plastic bags to carry our Dutch desserts home while my wife waited for the check. I tried to find them myself but I ended up asking a non-Dutch immigrant employee because I was in a hurry. I suspect I explained what I needed very poorly but the worker brought me a box that looked correct. (see top picture)
What I thought was a package of small plastic bags was actually 30 “ijsblokzakjes” or ice cube bags. But I was blissfully ignorant of this fact when I ran back to the café, where my wife and the server were chatting while waiting for me.
I noticed the amused face of our waitress as I explained myself as I pulled out the bag and began. This wasn’t a normal sandwich pouch however, this was a weird plastic mistake. It kinda seemed like a lot of little pockets inside a sandwich bag. Puzzled, I slowly decided this was a special poffertje bag, complete with separate compartments for each delightful morsel. I struggled to insert each poffertje, one by one, carefully into the little pockets. Our waitress began to laugh out loud and take pictures with her cell phone. Other people tried to understand what was happening and also began to smile and point.
Before I knew it, images of the stupid American with his special leftover poffertje bag were all over Instagram and Twitter. Our server finally brought us a little box and helped us fill it with sad, embarrassed poffertjes. We could still hear people laughing as we left, wondering what other surprises await in this strange land.
EPISODE #4: Piss Frites
The Dutch are strangely obsessed with what some visitors would call “French Fries” (frites) to the point of weirdness. These deep fried potato strips are consumed as a meal in itself in Holland, forget the unhealthy side dish most Americans are familiar with. Dutchies eat an average of 18 kilograms a year, not including the half kilo of creamy maynonaise balanced on top. Yes, frities are ‘number one’ here in The Netherlands, so is that why they’re associated with pee? Let me explain.
Not long after moving to Utrecht, I came across a chain of restaurants that felt that associating their food with a urinating child is ok. (Photo 1) Would you eat at a burger restaurant with a toilet logo? I think not.
The ‘Mannekin Pis Child ‘(Photo 3) is a famous bronze statue in Belgium, where frites were actually invented. It’s also the logo of this well-known fast food chain. (Photo 2) Understanding why fries are associated with urination was a mystery to me and I was desparate to understand. As an foreigner I was horrified to think that perhaps it was one of the many sauces they offered - Please no.
My imagination boiled with ideas. Are fried frities are so good that literally ANY fluid tastes amazing on them?! It doesn’t seem all that crazy when you actually see the variety of sauces available. One assumes that toddler urine is NOT an real choice unless you have a creepy arrangement with some kid -which is both undeniably wrong and absolutely illegal.
By far the most popular ‘frietsaus’ is just a big glob of Dutch mayonnaise - originally made from spoiled milk, orphan tears and whale blubber. After that, the choices just get more diverse.
The list of actual frietsaus options include ‘patat met’ and ‘potatje joppie’ with curry, both popular in the north. Kapsalon, ketchup and melted cheese are also popular, but mostly enjoyed by portly tourists and drunk football fans – not so much the theater crowd. Fussy party girls prefer less mess, often choosing salt, pepper or garlic butter to keep the fries drier and to keep stains off their knock-off designer clothes.
In the south, I don’t know who won the potato war but the ‘pataje oorlog’ sauce includes both onions and peanut sate, battling for your tastebuds attention. Less popular (for good reason) are nutmustard and paprika – often presented for spicy foreign palettes. The flavor offerings seem limitless. Can cavier and toothpaste options be far behind?
That said, a good brushing after a cone of Dutch ‘piss fries’ might be the best choice of all!
EPISODE #5: Souvenirs
Tacky, disturbing, and often inappropriate - Dutch souvenirs are everywhere, and where quantity rules - quality suffers. In Utrecht, these are found at a slick store called ‘Piet Snot’, but it s’not really that good – they try too hard.
I mean, how desperate were Delft craftsmen were when they decided to taint their centuries-old ceramic tradition by producing “Cow Coitus” saltshakers for the masses – classy. S’not!
Of course, marijuana imagery rules most gift shops in the major
Dutch cities, which is ironic since Netherlanders don’t smoke near
as much herb as most of their European neighbors. And while I can
understand stuff like lighters, clothes and tote bags with the leaf,
I have a harder time with other concepts.
For example, does a Dutch windmill bong really send the right message as a keepsake? Surely your “I ♥ Weed” bumper sticker or marijuana roach clip keychain can’t look good when the cops pull you over. Likewise, I wonder about the reality of a pot leaf air freshener or the taste of a coffee-hemp blend of ‘Arabica & BlueBall Kush’.
And by the way American friends, no Dutchies wear wooden shoes until late at night. You’ll never find pictures of them, just try. Apparently clogs lost their 400-year hold on Dutch fashion recently and now it’s all very secretive. I’ve heard it’s because they want to keep their midnight meetings in the parks under wraps – but they sound like a stable of three-legged horses in the dark. Weekend nights they say you can hear them clattering down cobblestone streets like a parade of drunk jockeys during carnival season. I’ve even heard that in dry weather their shoes will catch on fire if the Dutchie runs fast enough – which may explain the annual Christmas bonfire of wooden shoes at The Hague – I think.
But these are all rumors, I have yet to see any proof of this. Still, it all sounds strangely possible in the land of orange doesn’t it?
EPISODE #6: Dutch Feats of Strength - Bicycles
It had been more than two decades since I seriously rode a bicycle when I first arrived in Utrecht. But it was soon clear that the modern bicycle was an unofficial hallmark of the Dutch, which makes perfect sense for a small, flat, frugal country like The Netherlands.
The sheer number of bikes you see is overwhelming, especially coming from a place with none. The Orange have become two-wheeled acrobats, managing feats better seen under a circus tent than a busy Dutch intersection. I was blown away by the image of a cigarette-smoking mother of two, with groceries and an infant on the handlebars, and an umbrella protecting the toddler behind her holding a tennis racket, a Rubik’s cube, and a glass of hot tea. Ok, I’m kidding about the tea.
It’s obviously an essential tool as well, so I got a nice one immediately and began working up some kind of stamina on the thing. Day after day I rode hard, but the grey-haired locals were blasting past me in the bike lane, so I pedaled harder. I came home absolutely exhausted trying to keep up with these crusty old batwings, flying by on their Gazelles and Urban Arrows. Frankly, I was baffled by what amazingly strong bikers my elderly neighbors were, and a little jealous!
But eventually I saw an older man zoom up a small hill without pedaling at all, and then I knew something was up. Were these people blessed somehow? Did they have some psychic bike-specific superpower? Had the Dutch covertly mastered gravity!? Was I doomed to ride behind fat ass tourists and overfilled bakfiets forever?
And at that prospect I decided to take a kickstand and arm myself with knowledge.
The ‘secret’ reality these Dutch senior citizens were embracing: e-bikes - elektrische fietsen.
E-bikes are uncommon and very expensive in what was once America, but they are big business in Holland and the industry has been growing exponentially since my arrival. Turns out that powered pedals are very popular with the over 60 crowd, along with judgmental glances and not-so-subtle racism. Riding together, they’re quite dangerous…depending on the weather.
Avoid engagement with these Hell’s Angels of the cycling world: “Don’t judge me youngster, I was in the war – where were you?!”
Anyways, now that the ‘war heroes’ have bought these jet skis with tires, the ‘greatest generation’ has become a real threat to public safety. E-bikes go fast, and when I see that geriatric death stare coming at me at highway speeds, I do wonder about reaction time. A ‘senior moment’ going that fast makes you an urban kamikaze, and a threat to mailboxes and house pets everywhere. Is that really how you want to go out, killing fluffy? Just ride an oma fiets instead speed-racer and give us all a break.
EPISODE #7: Dutch TV with Dr. Pol
A friend who had lived in the Netherlands warned me about bad Dutch TV before I moved to Utrecht, but I just thought it was a shallow comment.
Well, I sit corrected.
I don’t know about the rest of Holland, but there's something WEIRD about television in Utrecht, and his name is Dr. Jan Pol, Large Animal Veterinarian.
The “INCREDIBLE DR.POL” airs for two hours every evening here in his hometown of Utrecht - the Dutch must LOVE this guy ‘cause that’s a lot of screen time. He’s famous in America as a talented, no-nonsense large animal veterinarian with a heart of old – this ancient grandpa looks like a big toe with a mustache. Now he freezes his ass off in snowy Michigan, so much of the show looks like a Himalayan yak farm.
In most episodes the geezer drives wildly through blizzards to attend to afflicted cows and horses in the middle of the night –wow – what a hero. Maybe that’s just doing your job. But it also seems that ten times a week the good doctor finds some reason to jam his arm inside a future cheeseburger in an uncensored procedure that should definitely be censored.
Apparently ‘cow fisting’ is his answer to almost any medical problem - breech birth, diarrhea, rabies, gambling addiction – it’s a “go-to” cure with a “go-away” smell. Digging around in this bovine cookie jar plays way outside of my idea of family television at dinnertime. And it’s unsettling to see how much Jan enjoys ‘checking the oil’ of a pregnant cow or a distressed thoroughbred. I finally stopped watching it at home, but I still see the show unintentionally sometimes. Let me explain.
The Dutch don’t believe in curtains, so while passing my neighbors townhouses at night I can see what my fellow citizens are watching. Accordingly, cycling on my street can sometimes reveal a sadistic rotoscope of TVs - all tuned to ‘Docktor Mengele’ pulling another blockage out of a freezing heifer. I learned to ignore this prime-time horror show eventually, I instead focus on getting home with my daily groceries - milk, cheese, yogurt and steaks for supper.
As with many Dutch towns, Leiden is best explored by foot and one can easily see the most important sights in a single day. Start early to avoid the midday crowds and plan on strolling a couple kilometres to see the best stuff. There are walking tours available, costing between 20-80 euro per person depending on size, time and excursions. The only free English one is a two-hour tour beginning at the Beestenmarkt on 10am every Saturday. Perhaps a better option is to follow along with me, beginning at the train station.
Exit the northwest side of the station and turn right. At the end of the block on your right, walk under the train overpass pass and down Schuttersveld until you notice the Windmill Museum (Molen De Valk). The nominal six euros entrance fee is fair for a modest museum which can be enjoyed in less than an hour, including a visit to the top of the mill which offers a spectacular view of the city. You can well imagine it’s focus on Dutch history, engineering and culture, so if that’s your passion this is a must see. Otherwise, head south along the canal on the Kiekpad towards the modern, brick bridge.
Just beyond this bridge you’ll find the National Museum of Ethnology, which is a celebration of the artifacts of man from science, arts and daily life. At 15 euros per ticket (less for kids & elderly) check their website first to see if it’s your thing, and allow a couple hours to see it.
Moving on, continue south past the museum on Binnenvestgracht through a leafy brick street to the Morchpoort, a picturesque city gate from the 1600s which leads directly to the Morschbrug bridge – a perfect place for selfies. Then turn right around and continue down Morsstraat, a narrow, Renaissance era brick pathway lined with cute shops, relaxed cafes and small businesses. After half a kilometre you’ll find yourself on the Blauwpoortsbrug - a wide, open area featuring a beautiful harbour with docks, boats and restaurants. It is here that you can take a lovely canal tour on the water – generally about 10 euro a head and well worth it if you have an hour.
Go across the Blauwpoorts bridge and make a hard right along the waterline going south on Prinsessekade for a minute and onto the Bostebrug, a featureless bridge that provides a great view of the waterways downtown. Continue down the right-hand side of Kort Rapenbrug towards a split in the road at an old English pub you can’t miss. Continue to the right side, striding along the famous Rapenburg Canal.
The Rapenburg Gracht is a major attraction and perhaps the prettiest canal in Holland. Strolling past dozens of 17th & 18th century buildings is a delight for fans of architecture and history and makes for great photo opportunities on the odd sunny day.
Not too far down on the left, consider crossing the small Doelen Bridge (Doelenbrug) to visit the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities - established in 1818. Adults pay 14 euro (w/audiotour), but offspring under 18 are free, making this a great value for a museum of this calibre. The collection is primarily ancient artifacts from Egypt, Greece and Rome with some Asian, European and local keepsakes as well. It’s a large building, and you’ll need at least an hour to zip through, or two if you want the full experience.
After your visit, get back on the Doelenbrug to find the Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world dating from before the 16th century. It’s a nice visit, but the gardens are well hidden and difficult to find without these careful directions.
From the Rijksmuseum, go back across the Doelenbrug, straight down Doelensteeg to number 12, where you take a hard left at the small canal. Follow the waterway for a city block until you see the entrance to the gardens, clearly marked. With both inside and outside displays, this landmark is a delight in early spring, late summer and autumn – but not so much in winter. Visits take about an hour and might include the nearby Old Leiden Observatory. Founded in 1633, this science and astronomy museum is a must for nerds, geeks and stargazers - but for the rest of us the mixed reviews indicate better experiences elsewhere. .
Reversing the earlier directions, return to the Rijksmuseum/Doelenbrug area on the Rapenburg canal and again walk down the right side. You’ll soon reach the Academy Museum of History on the corner - with its library of rare books, old photographs, obscure maps and important papers from scientific reports dating back 400 years. Again, a wonderful time if you’re a collector, a scientist or a bibliophile, but perhaps not a stop for a typical family or romantic couple.
Resume walking on down the Rapenbrug you will soon reach another bridge, the Nonnenbrug. Cross it and continue straight ahead, down Kloksteeg for a bit and you’ll soon see the spectacular Pieterskerk, Saint Peter’s Church.
The cathedral is from about 1100, but over the last 900 years the many additions, repairs and reconstructions have changed the building considerably, creating a complex and interesting past welcomed by history lovers. For example this was a pilgrim’s church, and many of the congregation left on the historic Mayflower ship as it began its voyage to America in 1620. Later, Rembrandt and his relatives attended this church regularly and his family is still buried in front of the pulpit.
Just across from the Pieterskerk, you’ll see a nondescript wooden door. If you push it open, you’ll enter one of the two dozen publicly accessible ‘hofjes’ or courtyards of Leiden. A generous benefactor allowed the poor to live in these enclaves during medieval times. Now they enchant visitors will lush gardens and adorable tiny houses.
Around the far side of the church try to find a narrow, pedestrian-only alleyway full of delightful shops, wonderful galleries and endearing cafes – this is Pieterskerk-Choorsteeg, the cutest street in Leiden. Take your time checking out all the little details of this charming path until you come out on Breestraat, a nice wide avenue and once a major tram route.
You might be tempted by this busy shopping district, but stay the course and walk straight across to Maarsmansteeg, which is really just a continuation of Pieterskerk-Choorsteeg. Another 100 yards or so and you’ll find yourself at a open area blocked by the narrow Nieuwe Rijn canal. You can cross it on nearby Hoogstraat, and you’ll take a right at the next intersection by the ICI Paris XL. This is the Oude Rijn canal and you should follow it some ways until you get to a small pedestrian bridge. Skip the bridge and a few yards later take a right turn onto Van der Starrepad, a featureless alley that leads to something wonderful.
Negotiating these tight walkways you realize you are slowly circling something, and eventually the hilltop Burcht van Leiden (Leiden Castle) reveals itself. Built in the 11th century, the castle is now a public park after time as a military fortification. Aside from it’s long and compelling history, it offers 360 degree views of the city. Best of all it’s free! .
Leave the fortress the way you came, but rather than retrace your steps, go right and continue down the twisting Starrepad until you come out at Brugsteeg, then go forward down this pathway another minute or two. You will return to the Nieuwe Rijn canal and you want to follow it to your right going north all the way to the ICI Paris XL you passed before. .
Now it’s time to head back to the station, so cross the small Sint Jansbrug (St. John’s Bridge) and travel the narrow Donkersteeg alleyway, past the McDonalds and take a left on the big road. This is Haarlemmerstraat, a touristy shopping area we’ll pass through for a 5-minute walk up to the now familiar Blue Port Bridge (Blauwpoortbrug) we saw before. Instead of crossing the bridge, take a right on Turfmarkt towards the big windmill. Keep moving towards that windmill in front of you on Nieuwe Beestenmarkt. Run right past the molen on your right on Molenwerf and soon you will see signs for the train station, less than 500 feet away. . Of course, this three-hour tour doesn’t catch all the great things to do in Leiden, but the major sights are listed herein. For more, check the internet, especially the tourist information site here.
A GREAT DAY TRIP TO LEIDEN - 2023/2024
IF YOU HAVE ONLY ONE DAY IN UTRECHT
In the first century AD, Roman legions sailed up the Rhine River until they came to a convenient turn in the waterway and set up a fort in what is now downtown Utrecht. Two thousand years later the old outpost is a well-preserved Renaissance village, a thriving college town and the fourth largest city in The Netherlands. It’s also one of the most beautiful medieval townships in the world, with graceful canals and landings that are uniquely elegant. An easy day trip from nearly anywhere in Holland, Utrecht has some of the most remarkable scenery in Europe and offers a nice change of pace compared to other Dutch cities.
Planning Your Perfect Day in Utrecht – by Scott Pearson - September 2023
The night before your trip, book the next days’ 10:30 am Utrecht Free Walking Tour to guarantee a spot with the best guides in the province! Set your alarm for 8:00 am and get a good night’s rest for your big adventure tomorrow!
Assuming you came in by train, walk east out of the station under the bubble roof and into Hoog Catherine, the largest enclosed mall in the Netherlands. Head straight through the shopping centre and you’ll come out the other end onto Vredenburg Square, home of the busy Utrecht Open Market (on Wednesdays and the weekend). The ultra-modern Tivoli Vredenburg music centre is on your left, but instead walk right towards the Domtoren, a medieval bell tower in the city centre. You can’t miss it - at 112 meters it’s the tallest building in town and the second tallest bell tower in Europe.
The Free Walking Tour starts right below the Domtoren at 10:30 am or 13:30 pm. It takes about two hours and hits most of the best sights downtown. This includes four important historical churches - St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk), St. Catherine’s Church (Catharinakerk), St. Peter’s Church (Pieterskerk) and St. John’s (Janskerk). It also highlights the incredible architecture of the Pope’s House (Paushuize), the Old City Hall (Stadhuis), and the Old Post Office (Hoofdpostkantoor) at Neude.
But by far the most popular tourist attractions are the historic canals (grachts) with their distinctive wharves and cellars - now converted into shops, cafes, and restaurants. The most famous canal is the thousand-year-old Oudegracht, or ‘old canal’ which runs through the centre of Utrecht, following the original course of the Rhine River. It’s lined with historic buildings, graceful bridges, and splendid sculptures, and its cute café’s makes for the perfect place to have lunch after a lovely walking tour through the city.
After a tasty meal on the old canal, walk up the ancient waterway to find the Schuttevaer Boat Company at number 85 on the Oudegracht. Take the lovely boat tour for under 20 euros a person, including tip, but skip the lacklustre audio guide and just enjoy the scenery. Afterward, consider a visit to one of the many quality museums or the DomUnder experience explained on the tour.
For music lovers, you must find time to visit the Speelklok Museum near the city centre. Housed in an old church, the museum specializes in self-playing musical instruments – from priceless crystal Faberge music boxes to huge Dutch street organs and everything in-between. When you go, be sure and take the special tour, as guides are required to turn on and operate these instruments for visitors or it’s a very quiet visit indeed!
Not far from downtown towards the south end of the Oudegracht is a collection of museums for history buffs and art connoisseurs including the religious Museum Catharijneconvent, the large and impressive Centraal Museum (with its large art and historical archives) and the Sonnenborgh, a scientific museum with antique telescopes, astronomical instruments and a working observatory.
Also nearby is the Nijntje Museum for children based around Miffy, the beloved international cartoon from local artist Dick Bruna.
For families, prepare to spend a couple hours at Het Spoorwegmuseum, a ten-minute walk from the Domtoren and worth every step if you have children. This Dutch National Train Museum is housed in the former Malibaan train depot, which was bombed in World War II. Since then, it has become a major tourist attraction for locals and tourists alike for about 20 euros a person. Inside you’ll not only find some 80 trains to walk through, but fully reconstructed train cafes, unique artifacts, travel art and historical items from over 150 years of Dutch rail service.
If you like exhibitions, consider purchasing a Museumkaart which gives you free access to over 400 collections nationwide for the next year. Available online or from nearly any museum.
Adults might prefer a quick visit to the Rietveld Schröder House on the edge of the town near the Science Park. Take the number 8 bus and ask the driver for details. This UNESCO World Heritage was designed in 1924 by the Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld for Truus Schröder, who wanted a unique house that was functional and adaptable in nature. What she got was a strange, post-modern two floor condominium with a radical design involving flattened roof panels, sliding walls, and movable storage designs with a stark Mondrian colour scheme.
After your visit, consider walking back downtown (20 minutes) through nearby Wilhelmina Park, up the stylish Burgemeester Reigerstraat and towards the large Stadsschouwburg Theatre. From there, take a right to nearby Griftpark and have a smoke at the CultureBoat, the only floating coffeshop in the Netherlands. Top things off with high tea at the fancy Oudaen restaurant near the boat dock, or an apéritif in the quirky but stylish Bunk Hotel, which was constructed within a hundred-year-old church and retains the original organ, stained glass and architecture.
Utrecht has a hyperactive nightlife scene, a bit surprising for a historic town but a welcome distraction for the over 40,000 students in the region! You can find out all about activities after dark here if you still have energy to explore the village at night.
For the rest of us, jump back on the train after dinner and in less than an hour you’ll be back in The Hague, wiped out and napping in your hotel!