Christmas in Utrecht: the most festive agenda!

Ahh, Christmas!! It’s that time of the year when you start looking forward to that warm feeling inside, to all the presents that you are going to offer and receive and to all that unbelievable amount of food made by your grandmother!!

Maybe you’ll go back to your home town, but before that you can enjoy some Christmas feeling here in Utrecht! Going around, you might have noticed the Christmas lights on the streets, some proudly announcing the neighbourhood at which you just arrived. If you are looking for some events, here are some awesome suggestions!

  • Knus.

This is the best Christmas event in town! For two full days, the city center becomes a winter wonderland. On Mariaplaats there is a traditional Christmas market, where you can find locally handmade gifts for you and your family, and on Streekmart you can eat like a local. Through the city there will be several street performances; maybe you will find yourself listening to a poetry reading! Come with your friends and join around the log fire, with a hot chocolate or a mulled wine to warm your cold hands. Pro tip: there will also be ice skating! Knus. 16 and 17 December, several locations in Utrecht , free.

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  • Country and Christmas Fair

If you feel like going to the beautiful Kasteel de Haar, I suggest that you go there around the time of their Christmas market. There you will be transported into a magical land of Christmas! Besides being able to visit the castle and its lovely gardens, you will find in the market exclusive homemade Christmas gifts, local products and home decorations. There will also be a lounge terrace and a choir singing, to help spread the Christmas cheer! Country & Christmas Fair 21 to 26 November, Kasteel de Haar (Haarzuilens), 16€ (online purchase)

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  • Fonteyn Festival

Are you fond of wine? In Janskerkhof you will come across this wine festival, with 60 different types of wine to choose from! Also several restaurants take part in the festival, providing food during the festival, so you can go on drinking! Good music, provided by live band shows and DJ’s, will guarantee that you will have a very Christmas-y evening! Fonteyn Festival 15 to 17 December, Janskerkhof, 4€ (mandatory wine glass purchase)

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  • Ice Skating

And for the star of this list… Ice skating!! If your Christmas doesn’t mean the same to you without it, you are in luck! In the Railway Museum, there will be a skating ring for you to enjoy, and you can rent your ice skates over there! To warm up in the end, you can also get hot chocolate and mulled wine. If you have some extra time, you can also take a tour in the museum. Winter Station 23 December to 7 January, Spoorweg Museum, 16€ (museum ticket)

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  • Light seeing

If want to know what Utrecht looks like at night, you have a chance to do just that from the highest tower in Utrecht: the one and only Dom Tower! In December, you can buy a special guided tour, where you  will be treated to the breath-taking view of the Christmas street lights, shining brightly in the streets and canals of Utrecht! In the end, a warming cup of hot chocolate is included. The tours take 90 minutes and start at 20:30. Lichtjes Kijken 13 December to 5 January (scattered days in this period), Dom Toren, 12,5€ (reservation online)

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A bucketlist for international students in Utrecht

Utrecht is a beautiful city. It is cosy and lively at the same time. There is so much to see and do that even locals get overwhelmed sometimes. That’s why we decided to make it a little bit easier for you. We made you a bucket list with five things you should have done by the end of your abroad period!

 

  1. Enjoy the view from the Dom Tower

This first bucket list item is kind of an obvious one, we know. But it’s the proud of Utrecht, so it would be weird not to mention it in this list. The Dom Tower is several centuries old and 112 meters high. If you manage to climb the 465 stairs to the top, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful view over the city. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it in one go. During the climb, your guide will take a break on several floors, to tell something about the history of the Dom Tower (and so you can catch your breath).

 

  1. Eat ‘Domtorentjes’

After the climb, you’ll probably think you deserve something sweet. Thankfully, you’re not the only one who thinks that. At Theo Blom’s bakery, you can buy chocolates that are named after the Dom Tower: Domtorentjes. They don’t exist as long as the Dom Tower itself, but they’re definitely legendary in Utrecht!

 

  1. Boat trip

The Netherlands is famous for its canals. Utrecht is one of the cities that’s characterized by them. The canals give the city a cosy look. Instead of looking at the city while you’re walking or riding your bike through it, you should definitely go and see what the city looks like from the canals. There are several places where you can rent a boat or book boat trip with a guide. Especially when the weather is good, it’s lovely to spend a few hours in a boat with your friends.

 

  1. ‘Broodje Ben’

There are a lot of nice places in Utrecht to get a good lunch, but there’s one place locals are particularly fond of: Broodje Ben. This is a stand at the Oudegracht where you can buy fresh, delicious buns with a range of several different fillings. Do you fancy a nice lunch but are you too lazy to get out of your house? No problem, Broodje Ben also delivers!

 

  1. The Black Slope

Last but not least, the Black Slope. This is a nickname for a pub crawl in the pubs along the Nobelstraat. In the Nobelstraat, there are a few pubs next to each other, which makes it a really fun place to go out. When you’re not really enjoying yourself in one bar, you can walk to the next one in less than a minute!

4 tips to avoid the winter blues

Winter is coming! And winter in the Netherlands is rainy, grey and a little cold. Some people love winter, while others (like me) are just waiting for the sun to come out again. If you’re one of the latter, it’s easy to catch the so called ‘winter blues’. To make sure the lack of vitamin D and the overload of rain won’t make you grouchy all winter, I looked up some tips to avoid the winter blues.

  1. Make your room cosy
    One thing I often miss the most about summer is being outside, chilling on my balcony or in an outdoor café. It’s boring to stay inside the whole day, but when you don’t like the rain and cold of winter either, you kind of have to. To make staying in your room more often a little less boring, you can make your room cosier. Winter is the perfect time for candles and fairy lights. So buy a warm, fuzzy blanket, light some candles and put on your best sweater. Besides, you don’t have to stay in alone! Invite your friends over for a movie night and enjoy the cosiness of winter together.
  2. Plan fun things
    During summer(break) everyone is always planning fun things to do. You go to a festival, organise a barbecue or maybe even enjoy a day at the beach. Then, the colder days come and people stay in and don’t plan as much fun activities anymore. It’s quite logical that you don’t go to the beach when it’s pouring outside, but you can still organise some exciting things. For instance, you can plan a big dinner with your friends, where everybody prepares their favourite dish. Or you can go ice skating or visit a Christmas fair, you name it. Just plan enjoyable things. It will be summer again before you know it!
  3. Make sure you get enough Vitamin D
    One of the biggest causes of the winter blues, is a lack of vitamin D. When the sun is shining, our body is able to make its own vitamin D. But when the sun is hidden behind big, grey clouds, our body has to get it somewhere else. Luckily, it’s quite easy to boost your vitamin D levels with certain types of food. Meat, eggs and oily fish are full of it. Are you a vegan? Then it might be necessary to take vitamin D supplements. They are available at most drugstores, so don’t worry!
  4. Focus on the nicer things in winter
    Off course Dutch winter is depressing when you’re only thinking about the rain and the cold! That’s why you should focus on the nicer things in winter. The holiday season is coming up: Christmas dinners, presents, tons of parties to celebrate the beginning of 2018 (or the end of 2017). Furthermore, the city centre of Utrecht never looks cosier than during winter!


How Utrecht became my city

People ask me sometimes what my connection is to the city I’m currently writing about. Not a totally weird question, since I don’t really live in Utrecht. But we do have history together. So, dear reader, let me tell you my story once and for all.

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The city of Utrecht came into my life when I was in the last year of my high school. Since I had to redo my last year, all my ‘old’ friends already flew the nest. I grew up in Leiden, and if you compare it to Utrecht it feels like a small village. For an teenager as myself Utrecht was the place to escape to in the weekends.

Hoog Catherijne was still under construction, but luckily my common end-station was the always picturesque Utrecht-Zuilen. Once in a few weeks, when the sun was shining and the wind was in the good direction, I made the trip over there on my bicycle. The first was, in every possible way, different from all the times that would follow. My main motivation to make the trip was to impress a girl. Furthermore I was convinced to do so because my dad said I could not make it. In exchange he offered me a crate of beer; which was the perfect way to get a 18-year old teenager sporting. Unfortunately the girl thought this was such a good idea that she offered me, instead of her unconditional love, the same reward. After eight hours of splattering through the snow on my granny bike, without a map and two broken spokes as collateral damage, I finally arrived at my studying friends in Utrecht. I can still remember the feeling of relief, when the Douwe Egberts factory at the edge of the city warmly welcomed me with the smell of roasted coffee beans.

After high school, during my bachelor-years in Amsterdam, I let the Domstad a bit down. For that reason, when my master-period was about to start,  I decided to give the city of Utrecht a chance again. Now, every day when I commute in a fully-packed bus 12 to the ghastly Uithof, I try to catch up with that first moment. The moment the city had taken me into her arms after my harsh bike ride. The moment that I gave the city a place in my heart. The moment that Utrecht became my city. 

How did Utrecht become your city?

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!

 

 

 

No plans for Halloween? These are the best ideas for a spooky night

It’s that time of the year again when the leaves come off, the weather makes us want to hide under a blanket and all we want to eat is pumpkin-related. There’s this atmosphere outside and it can only mean that a certain holiday is coming closer. Yes, I’m talking about ghosts, vampires, zombie brides and a lot of cut out pumpkins – Halloween!

I must say, Halloween isn’t a common holiday in the Netherlands. Children don’t dress up and go out on the streets to collect loads of candy. But the holiday is becoming more popular every year. This year, the shops are full of Halloween stuff and there are more activities than ever before.

What to do on Halloween?

Feeling like celebrating this scary day but have no plans yet? I can help you out! Try one of these activities.

Where to party?

Halloween is all about dressing up. What are you going to be this year? A Game of Thrones character, an emoji (Modern Family’s Luke can give you the right example) or maybe a pregnant Kylie Jenner. Whatever you decide to go with, show your look at one of these amazing Halloween parties:

> Halloween Cantus

Want to show your creepy side and drink a lot of beer? Join the ESN Halloween Cantus at Club Poema on the 31th of October! Dress up as a clown, zombie or vampire (or just cut two holes in a sheet) because, on this night, a frightening outfit is a must.

> Red Cup Party

This party promises to be a crazy one! At Tivoli Vredenburg you can go to the Red Cup Party, which is full of freak shows, scarezones, horror movies and creepy tales. Do you dare?

> Utrecht Halloween Madness

Dress up for this crazy party at the legendary Winkel van Sinkel on the 28th of October. Dance to the best 90’s and 00’s hits, classics and R&B during the Utrecht Halloween Madness party and have the best fright night of your life.

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Where to get the real-life creeps?

If you want to have a fully Halloween experience, including a lot of creepy creatures, screaming your lungs out and scare yourself like crazy, choose one of these activities.

> Walibi Halloween Fright Nights

Feeling like riding a rollercoaster in the dark? Get ready for the Halloween Fright Nights at amusement park Walibi Holland. Everything seems normal during the day, but wait until it gets dark… The creepiest creatures will take over the park while you are enjoying all the attractions. There are even special haunted houses to creep the hell out of you. Goosebumps guaranteed! Note: get your tickets online in advance.

> Halloween Nightmares

If you’re in for a big scare, visit Halloween Nightmares at shopping mall The Wall in Utrecht. It’s the biggest haunted house of the Benelux with over 30 rooms full of creepy clowns, freaks, magicians and other crazy weirdo’s. It’s promising to be really exciting!

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What to watch?

And if you don’t feel like partying (or even leaving your house), there’s only one thing you need: Netflix. Gather with your friends, bring a lot of chocolate and candy, make yourself comfortable on the couch (or bed, we’re still students) and choose one of these scary titles, which are currently on Netflix:

> American Horror Story

If you can’t get enough of horror, this show is perfect for you. You’ll see everything that’s creepy: from haunted houses to ghosts and from circus artists to cults. Pick your favourite theme, because every season is a different story.

> Gerald’s Game

We all know that Stephen King is responsible for all of our nightmares with his creepy horror stories as Carrie, The Shining and It. Another story has been made into a movie: Gerald’s Game. It’s about a couple that wants to spice up their sex life by renting a cabin in the middle of nowhere. That can only lead to trouble.

> Little Evil

Are you a big fan of dark humor? Then this movie could be the perfect fit for you. Gary just married the woman of his dreams, but there’s one downside: her son is kind of the antichrist.

> Prom Night

If you think this movie sounds like a nice rom-com, you’re wrong. Prom Night is about a sadistic murderer that turns the perfect night for these teenagers in a nightmare.

> The Ouija Experiment

Did you ever play spin the bottle? Then you must know how creepy that can be (even though you don’t believe in ghosts, you still pee your pants). This movie took ‘spin the bottle’ to the next level. Can you still sleep tonight?

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The friend I miss the most

Door Jelle de Korte

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When I moved from Middelburg (A town in the provence of Zeeland) to Utrecht a couple of years ago, I was very excited. I just could not wait to have my own place and start a new life in a vibrant city like my beloved Utrecht. My mother asked me if I was going to miss her. Of course I was, but at the same time not really.
Back then, I used to go back home almost every week. I still played in a band in my hometown so I saw my parents a lot. When I quit the band a year later, I started going home less and less. Still I didn’t really miss my parents, because I could call them and every now and then they would come visit me in Utrecht or my brothers in Amsterdam and we’d go to a restaurant. So no I didn’t really miss my parents and I still don’t.

I also don’t really miss my friends. Most of my good friends live in Utrecht, Amsterdam or Rotterdam and we frequently visit each other. I am very lucky to say that there aren’t a lot of people I miss whilst living here in Utrecht. Some of you might really miss your friends and family, and you maybe wonder why I am writing this.
But there is something we might have in common when it comes to missing someone. Because even though I don’t miss any people, there is still someone I deeply miss, especially when it’s a nice day to go outside. I consider him as one of my best friends and the love of my life.

I am talking about my dog, Bram.

Bram is a moron. He doesn’t fetch any balls I throw and he always looks at me with a stupid look on his face. He is an idiot. But such a sweet, loving and happy idiot. He is always so happy when we finally see each other after weeks or months of me not being at home. There is no one in the entire world who is as happy to see me as Bram and I love him. Without a doubt there are some of you who feel the same way about your pet at home.

A couple of months ago I was really sad. It was such a beautiful day and all I wanted to do was have a long walk with Bram. But Bram wasn’t here. Bram was at my parents’ house, so I couldn’t walk with him. I looked outside the window and I saw some people heading over to the park with their dogs. I cried a little bit. I was so jealous of those people and if I couldn’t walk with Bram I wanted to walk their dogs. But you don’t really go out on the street and ask the first person you see with a dog if you can walk him. So I opened my laptop and tried to distract myself from all the sad feelings.

But then I saw it… I couldn’t believe the coincidence and looked around if Facebook wasn’t spying on me. I usually hate the suggested ads Facebook shows me on my timeline, but this sounded amazing: http://www.hondjeuitlaten.nl. A site where you can offer yourself to walk with dogs whose owners don’t have enough time. I cried again. Could I finally meet another best little friend here in Utrecht?

These days I occasionally walk with a dog from one of my neighbours and it is amazing. But if you don’t have a neighbour with a dog but you do feel the urge to walk with a dog, I suggest you go to this site. It really helps when you’re feeling a bit homesick.

8 amazing facts about The Netherlands you probably haven’t heard of before

The Dutch culture could sometimes appear a bit strange to you, because you are probably not used to all the habits of the Dutchies. Don’t worry, because as soon as you recognize some of these habits, you will discover that they are actually fun (and sometimes make sense). In this article we have summed up the 8 most amazing facts for you.

  1.       Dutchies are the largest consumers of licorice in the world.

The whole population eats more than 32 million kilos per year of this chewy stuff called “drop”.

  1.       On the 5th of December the Dutch celebrate a winter holiday named “Sinterklaas”.

This holiday is centered around St. Nicholas, the same figure around whom the holiday of Christmas is based. Make sure to eat lots of “pepernoten” (small Speculoos bites), “chocolade letters” (letters made out of chocolate) and “gevuld speculaas” (speculoos filled with almond paste).

  1.       In Lisse you find the largest flower garden of the world called “De Keukenhof”.

In the gardens you can see more than 800 different tulips. A must visit in spring! When are you going to plan your visit to see all these tulips?

  1.       Spring officially has sprung when women can wear skirts again on Rokjesdag (skirt day).

Every year in the early spring, the Dutch decide when Rokjesdag will take place. This is always on one of the first days in spring when it actually feels warm outside (around 20 degrees). On this day, women will start showing off their bare legs by wearing skirts.

  1.       The Dutch say hello to each other with three kisses on the cheek.

This is an informal way of greeting each other. Friends mostly give a hug and/or one kiss on the cheek.

  1.       French fries are always served with mayonnaise.

The Dutch love to put a lot of sauce on their French fries, preferably a mix of different sauces. The most common mixes of sauces are mayonnaise, peanut sauce and onions (known as “patatje oorlog”) or mayonnaise, ketchup and onion (known as “patatje speciaal”).

  1.       Dutch men are the tallest men in the world.

Girls, do we need to say more?

  1.    The Dutch have the lowest incidence of lactose intolerance.

An actual reason why they eat lots and lots of cheese.

How fast will you be able to adjust to the Dutch culture? Let us know which of these facts are new to you!

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