Utrecht

In the past, I’ve visited Tilburg and Haarlem, always via Amsterdam, and this particular trip to Holland to see Rick the photographer led to a stay in Amersfoort and, more importantly, visits to Utrecht.

Utrecht is the largest city in the province of the same name; Amersfoort is the second. Although many (including me) use ‘Holland’ and ‘the’ Netherlands’ interchangeably, North and South Holland are just two of the twelve regions that make up the Netherlands. Due to its central location, Utrecht is arguably the country’s most significant transport hub and is home to the state-owned track company, ProRail. Their headquarters is one of the city’s most iconic structures for a large UFO sits on its roof. It was placed there as part of the city’s Millenium celebrations and was so popular that it was retained.

The average building in Utrecht is fairly typical as far as Dutch buildings go; and the style is certainly one that I admire. Each is tall and slim but, most importantly for me, operates independantly of its neighbour. This results, of course, in variety and is a refreshing change to the methodical Regency compositions of Brighton & Hove that can be spoilt by one building being out of shape. My favourite bit of Utrecht is its unique two-tier pavement arrangement. The main pavements by the canal are built on top of cellars which are accessed from lower water-level walkways. The imposing Dom tower, the best-known feature on the Utrecht skyline, is one of two remaining parts of the Dom church that have been separated since the collapse of the nave in 1674. In fact, Utrecht has more than its fair share of ecclesiastical structures which is easily explained by the city’s importance as the country’s religious centre.

The most fascinating thing that I learnt about on this visit to the Netherlands was the Delta Works. Heralded by the American Society of Civil Engineers as "one of the seven wonders of the modern world", it is an ongoing construction project to reduce the risk of flooding and is, quite simply, one of the largest projects of all time. I hope to investigate further next time.