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19-21 April: Utrecht-based

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Wednesday morning I was up with the muffled sounds of announcements in the ship's hallways, and cleaned up, mostly packed, and headed for my last oatmeal breakfast. After cleaning my teeth and packing the toothpaste and electric brush, I wheeled out the smaller roller and carried it up a flight to debark and head over numerous ramps to collect the big roller. Out onto the pier, and street, waving farewell to the ms Rotterdam, I headed towards the Metro stop. The night before at dinner Tyler had explained it was a two stop ride to the train station as he was heading to the Amsterdam (Schiphol) airport.

Alighting at Rotterdam Centraal, I located the stored luggage area. I wanted to leave my bags for a few hours to allow me to visit the Catholic cathedral in the city, as it was only open in the mornings. After two failed attempts at 9,50€ each (the instructions were difficult to comprehend), I decided to bail and headed into the train station and boarded for Utrecht Centraal.

The Moxy hotel I’d booked was not proximate to the main station, but was a single local stop south. My Eurail pass was now active, so I just jumped on a local train, rode it to the station, clambered down the stairs and crossed the street into the hotel. I was prepared to just leave my luggage, but the room was ready and Jimmy got me set up and into it. While I thought I knew my lock code for the big roller, it didn’t work, so Jimmy arrived with a pair of pliers and yanked them out! I juggled my items (camera out, journal and reader into my day pack) and was soon walking north towards the three local cathedrals.

Exterior, St Catherine’s Cathedral, Utrecht
St Catherine’s Cathedral, Utrecht

The first I encountered was St Catherine’s Cathedral, the current Roman Catholic cathedral. It was open but is built tightly within its neighborhood. I noted it was unusual in naming, as there are few RC cathedrals named solely for women saints other than Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. It was the second I’d encountered dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria, the first being in St Catharine’s, Ontario.

With a pointed spire on the hexagonal front tower, I was able to shoot through leafless trees for my exterior shots. Rather tall, the interior has white walls and columns, windows at the gallery and clerestory level.

Exterior, St Gertrude’s Cathedral, Utrecht
St Gertrude’s Cathedral, Utrecht

St Gertrude’s Cathedral, the Old Catholic’s see, faces on a canal and was closed. Blocky, it is a double-towered brick edifice.

St Martin’s Cathedral, Utrecht
St Martin’s Cathedral, Utrecht

St Martin’s Cathedral, the old Domkerk and original seat until 1580 was open. A tall Gothic structure, there are beautiful lights, plenty of art in the memorials, illustrations and statuary.

While it faces on a square, tight viewing lines limited getting the depth photos I prefer to take. Of special note is the superb cloister - a peaceful, soothing space for contemplation and prayer surrounding a garden.

Exterior, Cathedral of St Lawrence and St Elizabeth, Rotterdam
Cathedral of St Lawrence and St Elizabeth, Rotterdam

Not quite two o’clock, I decided I’d return to Rotterdam to see the Cathedral of St Lawrence and St Elizabeth, which I’d bypassed earlier. Jumping on a train, I was soon back and decided to splurge and took a taxi from the train station to the cathedral. I knew it would be closed, so I walked about on the median in the roadway facing this squat, blocky brick structure with a single square tower. I decided to walk back to the station and returned to Utrecht, having to again switch to the local to get to the Moxy. Due to problems on the direct line, I had to take the train first to Schiphol before switching to Utrecht and then the local.

Custom pizza, de Pizza Bakker
Custom pizza, de Pizza Bakker

Having my welcome drink, a gin and cranberry juice concoction, served with a large sprig of mint, I found it was too sweet for me, but refreshing. Walking north across a canal bridge, I arrived in the “social area”, with some commercial retail stores but mostly bars and restaurants. Intrigued by de Pizza Bakker, I customized my order for sausage and salami with gorgonzola and onion, accompanied by an arugula salad. With two glasses of wine, the tab was 34€. On my return to the hotel I hit a market for bananas and a bottled smoothie, getting back to the room before 10.

Finally on the Internet, I began updates, downloads and housekeeping. Most emails of daily news feeds were discarded. I prepped the Eurail pass data for my trips the next day, started charging devices, set an alarm and crashed.

Thursday began in a drizzle as I crossed from the hotel to the train station, catching a local south to s'Hertogenbosch. (This was generally pronounced “genbosch”, with the first syllables almost swallowed.) After walking through town, I arrived at the Cathedral Basilica of St John the Evangelist.

Exterior, Cathedral Basilica of St John the Evangelist, s'Hertogenbosch
Cathedral Basilica of St John the Evangelist, s'Hertogenbosch

A large, tall Gothic structure, there is much glass and statuary adorning the nave and ambulatory walls. A lantern at the transept crossing added more illumination. I particularly appreciated the chapel screens and triptychs as I walked around the sanctuary. The large square outside allowed for my shots, working around those ever present trees.

Returning by a less direct route, I found that the downtown area, reserved to pedestrians and bicycles, was empty and retail stores were still closed at 11. Still learning the phone-based pass, I had to get a temporary paper QR code to enter the station. (I figured it out later while returning to Utrecht.)

Another local train making a number of stops for the various universities in Breda, there is a nice park as I exited the station in Breda.

Exterior, St Anthony’s Cathedral, Breda
St Anthony’s Cathedral, Breda

Romanesque, St Anthony’s Cathedral is a dark and simple (as far as ornamentation) church with a single, central tower rising over its entrance. For me, of particular note was the cathedra, which was a modern chair of stone sides and etched glass back.

From my research, I’d included the Grotekerk as an additional stop in Breda. This tall Gothic structure was unfortunately closed for renovations. Walking to the park and station, I passed the “castle”, which looked to be still an active military installation. The park was lovely under the gray skies, so I didn’t linger before boarding a local train back through ‘genbosch to Utrecht Centraal, and then the local to the hotel, arriving at 4pm.

Hungry, I had a snack of the Easter egg from the Hague cathedral and a few cookies I had baked back in Florida. I gathered the second volume (review copy), the scarf I’d won during the cruise, and several candy bars into the shipper box I’d brought along, and headed to the post office. Only to be told I needed to enter all the customs information online before bringing the package in. So back to the room, data entry accomplished, and back to the PO.

Back to the room, I gave my back a break and took a half hour nap, having pushed several glasses of water into me first. Then out to a bar, Lijn4, where I had two beers: Timber-oaked Quadrupel, a dark draft from Daro (porter dark, slight sweetness), and Jopon Sunny Day, an IPA (serious citrus notes, smooth, too much head.) With the latter, sweet potato fries with mayonnaise.

Bar at  Lijn4, Utrecht
Bar at Lijn4, Utrecht

Opa Bob at Meener Smakers, Utrecht
Opa Bob at Meener Smakers

Then on to Meener Smakers for an Opa Bob (bacon cheeseburger), fries and a bottle of Lowlander IPA (with botanicals: coriander seed and white tea; 6%ABV.) The burger was great - the surface had a crunch from a broiler/grill. Fries were thick and unappealing (besides I’d had my fill) and the beer was a fail.

My original plans for Wednesday were Rotterdam, with the Utrecht cathedrals on Friday, as well as a free walking tour in Utrecht. When I woke up, the day was overcast, so I decided to bump my weekend trip from Amsterdam to Groningen to Friday. After my banana and vitamins, and a quick hop to the Centraal station, I was soon on my way to the north of the Netherlands. Arriving about noon, it was brilliantly sunny.

Exterior, Sint-Jozef Kathedraal,  Groningen
Sint-Jozef Kathedraal, Groningen

I walked to Sint-Jozef Kathedraal, which was only open from 11:30 until 13:15. Greeted by a very tall (76 meters) tower on the street corner, the exterior was striated red- and yellow-brick. The long nave appeared to have be closed in (with arched dark stained glass windows) and clear glass in the clerestory, with traditional stained glass along the walls of the side aisles.

The Stations of the Cross are large paintings below these windows depicting the life of Christ, just above fixed pews. Repeated patterns on red tiles, separated by black, filled the aisles. Only a south transept exists, but about a half dozen side chapels have beautiful triptych-like scenes above their altars. In particular, at the high altar, statues of the 12 apostles stand (with St Paul filling out the dozen.)

After a few more pictures in town, I took a longer walk back, noting that some of the medians had been allowed to go wild. I did find the town center, and walk through its market as I returned to the station. Crossing on a pedestrian bridge, I was able to get a few shots of the train tracks, and then some from inside the impressive train station. Up on one wall appeared to be a mosaic in the style of Munch.

The train ride back was crowded with young adult/college age youngsters, who got off to transfer at Zolle for Amsterdam. Utrecht remained cool and partly cloudy, raining for a while while I was aboard the train. Getting back to my room at 3:30, the maids were just beginning to clean my room, so I took my Chromebook and journal to the lobby. After catching up longhand, I started writing my blog for the first days at sea.

Brothers-in-Law Beer, a pub in Utrecht
Brothers-in-Law Beer, a pub in Utrecht

While walking into the commercial area, I’d passed Brothers-in-Law Beer, a pub. As it was Friday evening, the sun had slipped in under the clouds, and all the outside tables were filled.Wanting to avoid the cigarette and vape smoke, I headed inside. Starting with Kueik Bok (“funky and malty”, 6.6%) and double-fried Brussel sprouts with salt flakes, I moved on to a Dunkelweizen (5.7%) and ordered the Big Loaded Nachos with pulled pork carnitas. For dessert, East Coast Porter (7.7%).

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Image of book: Cathedrals to the Glory of God
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1 Comment

So much to take in from your post Ken. Thank you for sharing this trip - I will be on the lookout for cathedrals named for women other than Mary from now on.

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