Utrecht

Pictures Of HollandThis post is for friends who are going to buy a house in Utrecht, possibly on the canal pictured below. When mentioning canals in The Netherlands people usually presume you are talking about Amsterdam. Utrecht, however, has got some lovely canals of its own. The difference with the canals in Amsterdam can be seen in this beautiful etching from Pictures of Holland, written and illustrated by Richard Lovett and published by the Religious Tract Society in 1887. He does not seem to be a big fan of the idea of living close to the water:

 

“Evidences of wealth are not unfrequent, such as fine streets, well-built houses, and well-stocked, attractive shops. The two main thoroughfares are the Oude Gracht and the Nieuwe Gracht. These canal-streets posses one very curious and not altogether attractive feature. They run through the town at a much lower level than usual, and have two roadways, one much below the level of the other. The upper one is lined with handsome buildings and fine shops. The lower one with cellars, and stores, and, in not a few cases, dwelling-houses. At intervals flights of steps descend from the higher to the lower roadway. On the whole, the effect is very picturesque; but the thought that a number of the inhabitants live so near to the uninviting waters of the canal is not pleasing.”

Oude Gracht

Oude Gracht

One of Utrecht’s famous inhabitants was James Boswell. He lived there for a year between 1763 and 1764 with the initial goal of finishing his law studies at the University of Utrecht. He did attend lectures there, but became too distracted by falling in love with Belle van Zuylen, a vivacious young Dutchwoman of unorthodox opinions, his social and intellectual superior, and his later attempts to win the heart of the young widow Geelvinck, who refused to marry him. In his diary he describes a very bad winter in February 1764:

“This is the worst winter that has been seen in Holland for many years. We have had scarcely any frost, which is surely the best winter weather in this land. Whenever it freezes hard, so that the canals are covered with good ice, the Dutchmen are happy; then everybody goes out to skate. But this winter we have had nothing at all but rain and wind and thick fogs; weather indeed so unhealthy that a foreigner cannot stand it. I myself have had a bad cold for ten days. I had a severe headache, but I am so regular that I have not been absent a day from my college.”

Utrecht Cathedral

Utrecht Cathedral

 


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