Europe again! In June I headed into The Netherlands (OK, short clarification as I needed it too—The Netherlands—the name of the country, means Low Lands. Holland—two provinces (Holland north and Holland South) with most of the population, was a kingdom for a short time. Not the name of the country! Dutch—our name for the language and the people. Netherlands, country. Holland, provinces :-) ) Ok, but I digress! So, before heading Amsterdam I wanted a night in a somewhat smaller area so planned on Utrecht. Not that much smaller—4th largest city in the country. But anyway. I headed up to the area and realized that my guidebook had a driving tour of the surrounding country side so I headed to that first. Now this is a wet country—25% is reclaimed and a bunch is below sea level. There really are canals everywhere. And not a few windmills! The area just north of Utrecht was one of the most idyllic places that I have ever been. There were canals around every house and little bridges to cross to them. The properties opened out onto fields or estuaries, or even a lake. And the houses were all very lovingly cared for and up kept. I stopped for pictures several times and walked down one road to a windmill (hollow post mill type to be exact, there are many kinds here after all) which went through an estuary type place and I truly don’t think that I have ever heard that much bird song. It was incredible. Even some cuckoo birds. And geese, and ducks, and swans, and…. You get the picture. I just can’t describe it—Do there for yourself. Now. See what I mean J. I also stopped for a cup of coffee and a locally made apple cake in Tienhoven mmmm…tasty!
So I drove around for a couple hours (even went through Breukelens—after which a certain NY neighborhood is named by the settlers!) and then headed into Utrecht itself with really expensive parking. The canals of Utrecht were great—and often decorated with little carvings that were a lot of fun. Modern, I think, but still fun. And the bicycles. Wow. There are more people here on bike than I have ever seen. I am not sure how to describe it without it sounding too crazy. There are bike paths on almost all major roads and they are all in use. Give you an idea—at the mall in town I did a rough count of the bikes parked in back—and came up with over 1600!! They are everywhere. This town honestly puts Davis and Berkeley to shame—China too and I never thought I’d say that! And it is all ages out on their bikes. Unfortunately, may things were closed in Utrecht (the cathedral for organ tuning of all things!) so I didn’t stay too long but it was a fun town—and the area just north, wow.
This picture actually comes from the Post office in Utrecht—very art deco and very cool. Felt a little silly wandering around in the post office taking pictures but it was so cool!