Mysteries of Utrecht #3: The Wharf cellars

We all know Utrecht is ridiculously pretty. We gaze upon its beauty every single day. At a certain point you just get spoiled by the gorgeous canals and the beautiful houses. The world recognizes Utrecht by its canals. In 2015, the Australian website News.com.au said Utrecht has the most beautiful canals in the world. Utrecht beats Venice, Brugge, St. Petersburg and Amsterdam when it comes to the canals.

What makes the canals in Utrecht so special?

One thing in particular makes Utrecht stand out; their famous wharf cellars. Utrecht is the only city in the world who has these. These wharf cellars make Utrecht unique. But why are these cellars so special?

The first wharf cellars were made in 1150 and therefor extremely old. This day Utrecht counts 732 (!) of these cellars. Right now, you know them mainly as restaurants, shops, or if you’re very lucky, your house. But originally, they were used for storage. It was a very smart and easy way to supply Utrecht with its every need.

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The first cellar was made by an unknown businessman who originally wanted to create a tunnel from his home cellar to the canals of Utrecht. Others took over this idea and the tunnels were getting wider and wider and that’s how the cellars turned into storages. The cellars were very convenient and saved a lot of carrying and lifting.

These cellars and canals created the middle-aged city harbour of Utrecht.

Why did no other city used this concept??

The water level in Utrecht is exceptionally low. This is because of a dam in the river Rijn close to Wijk van Duurstede (A neighbourhood in Utrecht).

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The evolution of the canals and wharfs

‘Till the end of the nineteenth century, the wharfs in Utrecht were extremely important. But when the traffic on land became more evolved and more important, the wharfs were of no use anymore and became neglected. This happened because all the cellars had different owners. The cellars were part of the home and renovating them was very hard and really expensive. This was because you would have to work the wharfs too.

After the second world war, in 1948, the city of Utrecht got ownership of the wharfs and started renovating the wharfs, which made it much more attractive for owners to clean up the cellars. This is how Utrecht’s canals became the most beautiful in the world.

The renovation of today

You might have noticed that they’re still working on the canals. In 2009, Utrecht decided to renovate the canals once more. They had to be restored, but remain the same feeling of the good ol’ days. The City council decided to put 35 million euros into the renovation, but right now the costs have gone up to 47,5 million (!). That seems excessive, but hey… If you want to be and stay the beautiful canal city in the world, you have to be willing to pay a little…

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Modern use of a wharf cellar, on the inside. The canal can be seen on the outside.
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Desperately in need of a great present? These are the 10 best giftshops in Utrecht

When we get older it’s harder to find a gift for someone. What to give? Booze, a book or a giant birthday card (including sounds) – admit it, it’s a challenge every time. When we were kids it was so much easier. Just buy us some toys and cake and it was the Best. Birthday. Ever. But now? The only things we really need are money, a good night’s sleep and some comfort food. But unfortunately, these things are not so easy to wrap. Luckily for you we selected the top 10 of best giftshops in Utrecht when you’re totally out of inspiration.

We know, the official gift season is over. But the cold winter months always seem to be that time of the year when it suddenly is everyone’s birthday. So in case you also have a lot of those birthdays to celebrate: now you know where to shop the perfect gift.

The top 10 giftshops in Utrecht

1. It’s a present

Looking for an original birthday gift including a funny birthday card? This is the place to be. This small store is located in the city center of Utrecht and they sell the funniest and weirdest presents that put a smile on your face. Or even better: on the face of the birthday boy/girl.

It’s a present, Lijnmarkt 16.

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2. Keck & Lisa

This is also a small store, located at the Zadelstraat near Mariaplaats. They sell the best gifts: from travel books till the cutest home decorations. You just want to buy everything.

Keck & Lisa, Zadelstraat 38.

3. Flying Tiger

You’ve probably already payed a visit to this amazing store. They have literally everything you need. Or things you didn’t think you needed, but hey, now you do. Wander through this store and you’ll find the perfect gift. Promise.

Flying Tiger, Oudegracht 118.

4. Beadies

If the person you need to buy a gift for is a girl, go to Beadies. Well, only if she really likes jewelry. They sell beautiful jewelry and accessories of good quality. Is she more into creating her own gems? Choose from all the different beads, chains, pendants, charms, stones and jewels to put together an original piece of jewelry.

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Beadies, Oudegracht 193.

5. Sissy Boy

Sissy Boy sells clothes and beautiful stuff for your home. Or 12 square meter room. They have all sorts of decorations which will make your friend really happy. Plants, photo frames, candles, jewelry boxes, vases – you name it.

Sissy Boy, Oudegracht 124-126.

6. All the Luck in the World

This concept store will steal your heart: you can buy here the most beautiful necklaces, bracelets and other accessoires. And hopefully this gift will bring your friend ‘all the luck in the world’.

All the Luck in the World, Zadelstraat 15.

7. Things I Like Things I Love

Another concept store. You could never have enough of those. Beautiful clothes, pretty accessoires and cool interior items, that’s what they sell here. Literally all the things you like and love.

Things I Like Things I Love, Oudegracht 364.

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8. Urban Outfitters

Not a very unknown brand, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in this list. Urban Outfitters sells the coolest and quirkiest gear for your wardrobe, interior and overall lifestyle. And for your lucky friend, of course.

Urban Outfitters, Oudegracht 152-156.

9. Hema

Another famous store, but this place is as Dutch as you can get, so it needs to be in this list. Hema is the place you go for whatever it is you need. They. Have. Everything. That’s why finding a gift is an easy job around here.

Hema, Steenweg 59 (but there are many more).

10. Bijenkorf

Want a fancier gift? Go to the giant building of the Bijenkorf. You could wander around for hours and find a beautiful gift for your special someone. Especially during sales.

Bijenkorf, Sint Jacobsstraat 1A.

Mysteries of Utrecht #1: The Letters of Utrecht

Once I was making my way down through the Oudegracht in direction to Ledig Erf and I you found some peculiar letters written on the stones of the sidewalk. I was so intrigued that I decided to solve this mistery! Follow me on this journey through The Letters of Utrecht!

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What are The Letters of Utrecht?

These letters on the side walk are part of a project called “De Letters Van Utrecht“, where the goal is to write the longest outdoor poetry piece in the world.

There is a new letter added every Saturday, so the poem grows around the city and with the city. The form of the poem itself is supposed to write the word “Utrecht” across the city as you can see in the map, and, since it takes about three years to publish an average sentence, and every year the poem grows approximately 5 meters, only the collocation of the cobblestones that comprehend the letters “U” and “T” are planned – and that is already until the year 2350! Can you imagine how long it will take to finish?!

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Planned route for the poem in 2012. There were already letters in the red dots. The planned route reads “UT” around the streets.

The inauguration took place in 2012, but, preceding the official start of the project, 648 stones had been previously laid down to pretend that it started in the begging of 2000. The idea is that, since the moment of the inauguration, a new stone is added every week and that this stone is sponsored by someone. The initials of the sponsor can be marked in a non visible part of the stone, so they will forever be part of the cultural identity of Utrecht. This is a way to engage citizens to be part of this social sculpture. It is also a socially conscious project: 10 from the 100 euros that it costs to sponsor a stone go to charity.

The name of the project “The Letters of Utrecht” is also a word-play involving the fact that the letters that are being laid down for the poem will write letters in the big scale too, as seen in the map, and they are the letters of the word “Utrecht”! There is also a reference in the name to the original letters that gave city rights to Utrecht and that date from 1122.

The poems that are featured are written by poets that are originally from Utrecht. They feature themes like the passing of time and our place in it, how it is so everlasting and ephemeral at the same time. So far, this is how the poem goes (each paragraph was written by a different poet):

You have to start somewhere to deal with the past, the present is less and less important. The further you are, the better. Go ahead now,
leave your tracks. Forget the flash in which you may exist, the world is your street map. Was there a time when you were another: it passed.
You are already the other. You are, as you know, the key figure of this story. This is eternity. It lasts. It has time. Go into your story and swell. Tell.
Tell us who you are with each step. In our story we disappear naturally, and only you remain in the long run. You and these letters, which are cut out of stone. Like the letters on our grave.
The cracks in the Dom. Plunged into the sky like an index finger, to indicate the guilty and demand more time. So we can go up straight, like people along the Gracht.
Who stares at their feet. Look up! See Utrecht’s churches protruding above ground level. Raise the hands, begging with the towers to be this privilege: to be, now. The weather is nice.
Keep staring. Life is witness of your gaze on the horizon. Your footsteps
connect the pa(st)… (Note: the word is not finished, but it’s going to say ‘verleden’ which means ‘past’)

Translation by Marjolein van den Brand.

A very interesting feature of this project is that the poem will grow slower than the average pace of evolution of a language, so it will track the evolution of the Dutch language too!

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The goal of “The Letters of Utrecht” is to leave a cultural legacy for future generations which they can be part of, too. It acknowledges the people from the present and it relies on the people of the future to exist. It’s a living and breathing peace of art of which we all can be part of.

If you want to know more information about this project, check out the official webpage: De Letters Van Utrecht.

Have you found other cool art pieces in the streets of Utrecht? Let us know what is your favorite in the comments below!

 

 

 

Summertime Snacking!

Summertime Snacking

 

The sun is blazing,

Slowly your skin is bronzing,

What food looks amazing?

Let me help you!

 

Now that the sun is out, everyone seems to be out! Being indoors to cook food doesn’t always seem so pleasing when you also want to be outdoors enjoying the sun. So what yummy alternatives are there to grab and go here in Utrecht?


Italian Sandwich Huts!

Do you have lessons on Janskerkhofand wonder which hut to choose to buy a sandwich in-between your lessons? Or have you simply cycled past and noticed two huts standing in the square with outdoor seating and ever wonder what there was to offer? Well, don’t wonder anymore! They both offer Italian themed food, especially sandwiches. Do you fancy calzone, pastie, pizza, or a homemade sandwich? These dedicated sandwich artists wake up at 4am (as was informed) to begin baking the bread and pastries in order to bring you the best quality sandwich eating you could ever imagine! And just look at the size of them!

Right Hut – Described to have ‘true Italian’ ingredients as told by Italian sources. Dutch + Italian preference.

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Left Hut – Described to be fuller with various ingredients and variety. International preference (you will hear them chant Italiaanse Broodjes from their homes – they will come in herds).

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So which will you prefer? There is a silent war between the two, yet, overall they both provide food at a similar price and just as excellent quality.


Noodles – Eazie

Are you at the Neude and cannot be bothered to walk towards Janskershof for an Italian sandwich? Why not try Eazie, where you can create a box of your preference filled with a pick-and-mix choice of healthy goods? On the board above the staffs head you are guided on how to fill these snack boxes – rice or noodle – thin or thick – and how many veggies or meat you would prefer. Within 5 minutes, boom, your beautifully crafted and well thought out concoction of healthy goodies in your box and ready to go. Eazie – aye? Get it… easy… haha.. No? Ok. How about if I tell you ESN have a deal with Eazie! So bring your ESN card! Here is a photo of a small choice!

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Sweet choice

So, you have made your own sandwich or noodle/pasta at home or went to Jumbo/Plus/AH for snacks, but you want something cold? Well, there are many options for you! Of course, look out for Mr Icecream Bike man. He will most likely come and find you if you are in a very populated destination.

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Of course, if you are in Utrecht town you can find the ice-cream shops and stationary vans where you can get your cold goodies. These are dotted around everywhere, especially around the Dom area where you can get a Frozen Yoghurt, or a Fro Yo if you’re hip and down with the kids. Here is an example of a small Fro Yo located next to the Dom Tower neatly placed in a cute traditionally Dutch designed cup. This is small, the larger options did not come in this cute cup.  

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Before you leave Utrecht, as an international that is, you should definitely try each of these above. The guy on the bike selling ice-cream will see your desperate eyes and want for ice-cream. Once one person greets him, suddenly a group of people will come and more and more!

Keep cool over summer, hydrated and fed during those study breaks! There are snacks and food for all

Happy studying!

Behind the scenes – spring covershoot

It’s the 6th of March. We are lucky because spring is in the air! We chose a perfect day: a blue sky with a few clouds, a beautiful garden with lovely purple flowers and the sun that shone regularly. We are shooting our new cover for the spring edition of the ABROAD magazine! The shoot is located in ‘De Oude Hortus’, the garden in the University Museum. From 1723 till 1920 it was the Botanic Garden of the University of Utrecht. The garden is located through the Lange Nieuwstraat and the Nieuwegracht.

Our team of today consists of 4 of our JoCo members and two models. The models arrive exactly on time at the location and we start casually with a coffee to discuss our plans. Today we’re working with Anshul and Elvira, two internationals that are studying in Utrecht. It’s amazing how these two have appeared as thought they areas professional models. A big thanks to the both of you!

Trough a photo diary we would like to give you an inclination of this great day!

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Before our models have arrived Maaike and Evelijn have been searching for the perfect spots for our shoot. Aren’t these spots looking amazing??

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Inside or outside?                              This doesn’t look really Dutch!

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Strike a pose Evelijn!

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Ready to take off!                               Okay not yet… 😉

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First location!

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Our second location! It is amazing to see how comfortable our models are together. Posing if they do this every day  🙂

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Single shoot of the models

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Third location, such a spring feeling right?!

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Annalise is working on the final picture!

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Amazing reflection effect in the water

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The team of the spring covershoot!

We still need to find models for our last ABROAD of the year! Do you enjoy posing for the camera and do you want to help us out? If that’s a yes come and send us an email. @ will.eke.geertsema@hotmail.com 🙂

The best outdoor study spots in Utrecht

The weather has finally taken a turn for the better and after all the rainy, grey days it’s finally sunny and wonderfully warm! In this kind of weather, even the biggest of couch potatoes have a newly found desire to be outdoors and soak up the sun. However, it’s prime exam time, and the thought of doing nothing besides having a picnic with your friends fills you with a sense of joy and revision anxiety, all at the same time. So what should you do? The JoCo team comes to the rescue and recommends you the best places to study while still being in the fresh air!

Wilhelminapark

This wonderful spot hallway between the city centre and the Uithof is a haven for those wanting to escape the nerve-racking closed spaces of the library. There’s a huge grass-covered area where you can lay down on your favourite blanket with some snacks and focus on your studies. Also, there’s a great ice cream stand nearby in case you get hungry 😉 Caution: if the weather is extra nice, the park can get overcrowded with students playing football and young families!

Botanische Tuinen (The Botanic Garden)

If you have many classes on the Uithof campus, spending another minute there might feel like punishment. That shouldn’t be the case when you think of the Botanic Garden filled with rare species and plenty of quiet corners to get away from everyone. If you’re a student or an employee at Utrecht University, entry is completely free of charge and you can stay till 4.30 pm to make the most of your afternoon. And since the garden officially belongs to university, you have eduroam WiFi that you can use to do research online!

Park Bloeyendael

Located near Rijnsweerd-Noord, this natural park is a short cycle away from the centre of Utrecht. It’s a nice little variation from your everyday learning spots since, instead of neatly trimmed lawns and designated picnic areas, you can find wildflower meadows, a water lily pond and a varied flora and fauna here. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, this is an excellent spot for some alone-time. Just be careful to remain focused on your studies: the numerous hiking trails and the local botanical garden will lure you into leaving your books and discovering nature instead!

Griftpark

Griftpark is the favourite of many students. Located North of the centre near the Tuirndorp West complex (where plenty of students live), it is easily accessible by bike or by bus, or even on foot! This modern park is the right choice if you’re still undecided about the course of your day: you can read while you sunbathe, play basketball, skate or simply admire different forms of urban wildlife, all in one place! If you start feeling hungry, there’s a stylish restaurant with a fascinating summer terrace right at the heart of the park. Don’t worry, there are also hidden spots in the garden where you can focus on your studies; it’s nice to know that you can take a break and do so many activities though!

Anywhere along the Singel

Yes, Utrecht is indeed famous for its charming canals and its surroundings, but there’s no other canal like the Stadsbuitengracht. This lovely body of water surrounds the old city centre and is accompanied by green areas all along. You can find cute parks like Park Lepelenburg or Park Sonnenborgh along the canal, but even without designated park areas there are plenty of benches for some revision in the sun. And if you get fed up with studies, you can just stroll along the water for a few minutes, take a couple of deep breaths and settle down at some other point near the canal.

 

Hopefully, this list helps you choose a place of study so that you don’t have to lock yourself in your room for the whole exam period. And if you’re done with revision, it’s time to get together with your friends and enjoy the weather together while barbequing or picnicking at one of these great locations! Share YOUR favourite outdoor spots with us in a comment!

Utrecht’s hidden gems ~ Kanaalstraat

A new city means finding new interesting spots, doesn’t it? In this second blog about Utrecht’s hidden gems I’ll take you to one of the messiest yet most colourful streets of Utrecht. It’s located in Lombok, close by the central station and not even 10 minutes by bike from the city centre. When you first set foot in this street, you may first a bit overwhelmed because of the harmonious rush. You will get used to it, trust me!

The street I would like to mention is the Kanaalstraat.  The first characterization of Lombok is the huge mosque.  Generally speaking, what is it that makes this street so special? For me, it breathes culture and many food traditions. This street offers a range of shops where you can buy your fresh veggies and fruits. The prices are absolutely amazing in these shops compared to the prices in the nearby supermarket. 

Many Moroccan and Turkish greengrocers have taken up place in the retail to start their own little shop. The shops are crammed with hundreds of jars of dried herbs; full buckets with olives and cheese, dried fruits, salted and unsalted nuts, fresh herbs and shelves full of fruit and vegetables. Some you might have never seen before! As a regular visitor of this street, I have found my favourite shops I would love to introduce to you! In these shops I can rely on product quality and their assortment.

Bendi Food Center, N50

Besides super cheap vegetables, fruits, olives, herbs you can buy in this supermarket a lot of main products as bread, rice, and pickled products.

Morty’s, N57

This cute little shop sells cheese and local delicacies like whine, fresh baked bread, flour, vegetable milk and all are biological!

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Güven Market, N73

This greengrocer is by far my favourite. It offers many different vegetables for a really low price. Here they also sell great fresh goats and feta cheese and a large stock of nuts.

Beanery Aarti, N75

At this beanery you can try a great taste of the Surinam kitchen! Try a Roti, Masoesa, Nasi/Bami or if you like fish the Bakkeljouw! Take away or sit in.

Organic Greengrocer, N82

This shop/greengrocer offers many biological veggies but I’m mainly going here for the wall full of nuts, dried fruits and seeds that you can put by yourself.

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Yunak Lunchroom, N84

I mainly come here for the delicious Kumpir: a steamed potato filled with cheese, fresh lettuce and vegetables. If you sit in you can order tea in a traditional Moroccan tea pot.  

Bereket Kidapazari, N89

This shop offers mainly the same products as the Güven Market but at times offers a better promotional deal.

Good Food Club, N159

This is a eat and cooking club in the centre of Lombok. Food fanatics and chefs from many different cultures in our neighbourhood are cooking together with vegetables and spices from the shops in the Kanaalstraat.

Kopi_Susu.jpgKopi Susu, N193

This place is a meeting place for local residents of Utrecht West. Arguably, this is the best social cultural day café in Lombok. In this cosy café they offer additional cultural and social programs and twice a month exhibitions. They also offer a GPS route through the Lombok district, which tells you more about some historical sites and the origin of the street.

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