Sunday, January 28, 2007

Treasures in Utrecht

Real life can indeed get busy, and tiring. A simple evidence is during weekday evenings after dinner, the living room sofa suddenly looks like an inviting bed to me. It is very tempting to just crash. This weekend, we haven’t done much. We overslept, cleaned a bit, did the laundry and drying, and packed. I’m flying tomorrow to the US for work. The Dutchman is also flying to another country in Europe later of the week for work.

We also have postponed our winter sport holiday. We were supposed to go this week but didn’t because it took the snow a long time to fall in the Alps. It fell this week though, but it was too late already, since we need to make the decision at least a week earlier. We’ll probably go in March.

Anyway, I wanted to write a bit about our nice weekend last week. Reason being, the fickle Dutch sun shone. Its warm rays glowed above the flatlands. People were out and so were we. Dutchman and I, in a rather spur-of-the-moment spirit, which is by the way not a Dutch trait, decided to drive around in the outskirts of the city, somewhere north of Utrecht.
See map here: Utrecht Province Map. In this country, people would think you are crazy if you stay indoors when the sun is out.

River Vecht

We drove past the remarkable and scenic River Vecht; one of Utrecht’s hidden treasures. Along the river banks stood showpieces of regal stately mansions guarded with lovely French-style gardens and petite tea port houses, reminiscing the past glory of the country. Ah, welcome to the elite Dutch country lifestyle during the Golden Ages.

Most of these monumental stunning mansions by the river were built during the 17th century, some later. They served as vacation houses of rich merchants from Amsterdam; adventurous and risk-taker merchant traders that profited from the great spice trade in the East Indies (now Indonesia) during the Golden Ages. The VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie /United East Indies Company), the first multi-national firm in the world became very rich, responsible for making the Dutch known not only as world navigators but world traders.

Life before for the wealthy aristocrats was all about escaping the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam and enjoying the serene and beauty of the River Vecht during the summer months. Nowadays, these mansions are local and tourist attractions.

I told Dutchman that we will come back another time and stroll along the elegant gardens and river banks. Surprisingly he agreed. I also promise to bring my camera next time and take foto’s!

Nijenrode Castle in Breukelen

Trivia: Did you know that the only university in a castle is found in Utrecht, the Netherlands? This university castle is called the Nijenrode Business University in Breukelen, Utrecht.

This is what you see from the road, the frontal view of the Nyrenrode castle along the River Vecht in Breukelen.
Pictures were taken by Dutchman’s mobile phone and they are not of great quality, helaas. These pictures did not do justice to the beauty of this castle.

Speaking of Breukelen, I have another Trivia: Did you know that Brooklyn in New York City, USA was named by the early Dutch immigrants after this little pretty town called Breukelen in Utrecht? Brooklyn is the English translation of Breukelen. Incidentally, I will be in Brooklyn-NYC next week.

This enchanting university castle is built during the 12th century and is the most popular attraction of Breukelen. The castle is private so only faculty, students and official guests can get in. Luckily, there are no high fortresses surrounding the castle and any passersby from the road can freely enjoy the beautiful architecture of the castle. The Dutch brother-in-law by the way graduated here as well.

Oh, how apt. I just remembered reading an excerpt from a booklet in the Quote Magazine–‘How to become a Millionaire’. There was this Dutch millionaire narrating his humorous experience with the erudite. He is basically annoyed by people who harp too much their elite university backgrounds (and he even gave Nijenrode Business University as an example) carrying titles in their business cards supposedly intimidating others, i.e. Msc.M., M.B.A., Ph.D., whatever.

So this Dutch millionaire scoffed, “Heh, I also have a title, M.M.! Multi-Millionaire!”


Then we had tea and apple tart in this little quaint town called Abcoude, just by the northern border of Utrecht province and North Holland-Amsterdam. If you live or are visiting Amsterdam, do drop by in Abcoude. It is just a few minutes from Amsterdam by car, train and even by bike. From Bijlmer Amsterdam train station, the next stop (if you take the stop train to Utrecht) is Abcoude.

Here in Abcoude you can experience the charismatic Dutch modern life, set apart and preserved in a medieval old-world setting, in its compact little and charming Centrum. The village is a perfect hideaway from the modern and tall buildings of Amsterdam just 5 minutes away.

Next time when I visit these Dutch treasures, I promise to bring my camera.

Visit Period: January 2007
Destination: Breukelen (Stichtse Vecht - Utrecht), The Netherlands

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