Education First Annual International Day March 8, 2019.
Evie de Graaff, the Netherlands
It was 50 years before the Common Era (BCE) when the Romans decided to build a fort called Traiectum. This was the moment the city Utrecht was born. Now, more than 2017 years later Utrecht is one of the famous cities in whole Europe. And I am so glad the Romans build that fort because otherwise I would never have grown up in such a great and beautiful city.
History of Utrecht
Around 50 years BCE the Romans built the fort Traiectum. They built this fort as a border for the Roman Empire. Around 270 years CE the Romans abandoned the city. After that, several nations where located in Utrecht. Around 1122 the city got their official documents and Utrecht was officially born. In the 16th and the 17th century, Utrecht was important for the art development. A few famous painters are Jan van Scorol, Cornelis van Poelenburch and Jan Both. In the 17th century the famous University of Utrecht was created. Today more than 30,152 (2014) are joining this fantastic university. According to Shanghai Jiaotong University’s university ranking in 2014 it is the 57th best university in the world.
Geography of Utrecht
Utrecht is located in center of the Netherlands. Utrecht is the capitol and most popular city from the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of 338,949 and counting. Utrecht is famous for her old history, her beautiful channels, the dom tower and of course Miffy. It’s the city where I live. The city Utrecht is a part of the ‘Randstad’ which is part is of the area with the most important cities where most of the money is generated.
The most important train station of the Netherlands is located in Utrecht: Utrecht Central station, because it is located so central, every train to almost every location depart from the train station of Utrecht.
The city of Utrecht is divided into 10 city quarters:
- City center
- Leidsche rijn
- North- East
- South – West
- North- West
- Vleuten- de Meern
Utrecht is a very popular city for tourists. Most of the tourists are coming from Japan, China, Germany, Spain and the U.S. There are beautiful places where you can discover the beauty of Utrecht. Here is a list from the most famous highlights of Utrecht:
- The Dom tower: The Dom tower is the symbol for the city of Utrecht. The tower is 112,5 meter tall and has a beautiful history.
- Oude gracht: The Oude gracht is the most famous street in Utrecht. It is located in the center of Utrecht with beautiful channels and bridges. This is also the biggest shopping street in Utrecht.
- Botanic Garden: The Botanic Garden is located next to the main building of the University of Utrecht. Is has beautiful unique flowers, plants and my absolute favorite, the butterflies.
- Tivoli Vredenburg: Tivoli Vredenburg is a very famous music building in Utrecht. A lot of famous artists and bands have played here.
- Soccer team FC Utrecht stadium: This is the stadium of the national soccer team of Utrech: FC Utrecht. There is capacity for 23.750 spectators.
- Gerrit Rietveld museum: This museum shows the art of famous designer and architect.
- Nijntje museum (Miffy Museum): I believe Miffy is the most famous creature of Utrecht. The little bunny is a creation of painter Dick Bruna who has lived all his live in Utrecht. Especially the tourists from Japan and China love Miffy.
- Aboriginal Art museum : Located at the Oude gracht this museum has a small exhibit of Australian Aboriginal Art.
- Railroad museum : This museum shows the history of the Dutch railroads.
The Dom Tower
The Dom tower of Utrecht is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. The tower is 112,5 meter tall. The Gothic-style tower is the symbol of the city. The tower was part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin of Utrecht, also known as the Dom church. The tower was built between 1321 and 1328. However the cathedral was never finished because there was not enough money. Unfortunately a part of the cathedral was collapsed in a heavy storm in 1674. From that moment the tower became a free standing tower. It is very popular to climb the tower and enjoy the beautiful sight of the city. If you want to do this you have to be able to climb 465 stairs, but I can tell you that it’s totally worth it.
In 2015, the 102th edition of the Tour de France started in Utrecht. The first game of the teams was in the center of Utrecht. All the members of the teams biked next to the dom tower, it was so much fun!
Miffy (in Dutch: Nijntje) is a female little bunny in a famous series of books for children created by Dick Bruna. Miffy was created in 1955 by Dick Bruna after he told his son bedtime stories. What I find so special and funny is because the drawings of Miffy are so easy but it tells so much. When I was a little child I had a stuffed animal from Miffy and it was really a part of my childhood. Bruna has made more than 124 stories about Miffy. The books of Miffy are translated in more than 50 languages, and over 85 million books have been sold all over the world. Dick Bruna has won many awards for his creations about Miffy. In 2005 Miffy celebrated her 50th birthday. In 2006 the museum about Miffy was opened, called the Dick Bruna House or ‘Het Nijntje museum’. It’s located in the center of Utrecht.
Unfortunately on the 16th of February this year Dick Bruna passed away at the beautiful age of 89, but I know for sure Miffy will always be popular.
Famous people in Utrecht
Because Utrecht is a very popular city in the Netherlands with a lot of great opportunities it is almost logic that there are famous people who live in this amazing city ;). Also in the past, a lot of great and important people lived in Utecht. Hopefully, in a couple of years I will also be on this list!
- Pope Adrian VI (1459–1523) – head of the Catholic Church
- Louis Andriessen (1939) – composer
- Marco van Basten (1964) – football player
- Dick Bruna (1927-2017) – writer, illustrator (Miffy)
- H.D. Buys Ballot (1817–1890) – meteorologist
- Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931) – painter, artist (De Stijl movement)
- Paul Fentener van Vlissingen (1941–2006) – businessman and philanthropist
- Anton Geesink (1934–2010) – judoka, first non-Japanese worldchampion Judo
- Gerrit Rietveld (1888–1964) – designer, architect (De Stijl movement)
- Dafne Schippers (1992) – sprinter/heptathlon Olympian
Fun fact: The King of The Netherlands, Willem- Alexander der Nederlander was born in Utrecht in 1967 in the same hospital I was born!
Anouk Slijkerman, the Netherlands.
Get to know the Dutch
Cheese, tulips and riding bicycles. This is what most people think of when they think about The Netherlands, but there is so much more to know about this small country with almost 17 million inhabitants. It’s a very successful country with a lot of history. The Netherlands has a lot of traditions most people never heard of and food that you can’t buy in any other country. Such as drop, stroopwafels and poffertjes.
Netherlands or Holland?
To begin with, I would like to tell the difference between the Netherlands and Holland. Most people are very confused by this. Sometimes when I say, I’m from the Netherlands people don’t immediately know what that is, but when I say Holland, almost everyone knows about the small country. So to explain this difference, we have to look at some history. The netherlands as we know nowadays came into existence after napoleon in 1830. The kingdom also included Belgium and Luxemburg. Later, Belgium and Luxemburg became independent countries. Nowadays, the Netherlands has 12 provinces. Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland, Utrecht, North-Holland, South-Holland, Zealand, North Brabant and Limburg. So, Holland is basically North-Holland and South-Holland combined. Holland was famous during the Dutch golden age, the 17th century, because of their many ships who tried to establish the trading routes. The Netherlands didn’t exist back then, so the sailors referred to their city state, South-Holland and North-Holland. So, Holland refer to the Netherlands as a synonym, but this is not true.
Sinterklaas is a Dutch tradition for small children. Not every citizen likes this tradition, some people consider it as racist tradition because of ‘Zwarte Piet’.
The history of Sinterklaas starts in Turkey. Sint-Nicolaas (original name of Sinterklaas) was the bishop of Myra, a town in Turkey. Because of all the good deeds Nicolaas did, such as giving money to the poor, people professed him as a Saint. A lot of legends started to follow about this man and all his good deeds. So Sinterklaas is originally a Catholic tradition. Sinterklaas has helpers called Zwarte Piet. People aren’t sure where Zwarte Piet originally came from but there is a suggestion. People say that Sinterklaas helped them from escaping slavery, and as an reward they kept helping Sinterklaas. Nowadays, Sinterklaas gives children presents on December 5th. Every year, he arrives in a big boat with his helpers in Holland. Mostly on November 11th. Children put their shoe under the fire place, and every once a week Zwarte Piet comes through the chimney to deliver a present in the shoe of the kid. Some people suggest that this is why Zwarte Piet is black. During Sinterklaas we eat pepernoten. Pepernoten stand for the money that Sinterklaas gave to the poor. They are small cookies made with dutch cookie species and a lot of sugar.
King Day, or Koningsdag how the Dutch call it. This is a day where we celebrate the birthday of the King. Kingsday originally started as ‘prinsessendag’, princess day, which was the celebration of the birthday of princess Wilhelmina. This was on August 31th 1890. 5 Years later, when her daughter Juliana became queen, princess day became Queens Day and was hold on April 30th, the birthday of queen Juliana. Queen Juliana her daughter, who became queen in 1980 decided to keep Queensday on Juliana her birthday in honor to her mother. When King Willem-Alexander, the current king and son of Beatrix became king in 2013, he decided to change it to Kingsday and moved it to april 27th, his birthday.
On Kingsday, most schools, stores and businesses are closed in The Netherlands, so everyone can celebrate the birthday of the king. In the morning, streets are covered with orange decoration and there’s a flea market on every street where people can sell their used stuff. People also play Dutch traditional games. One of the game is Koekhappen, Koekhappen is a game where people have to catch cake dangling from a string in their mouths. In the afternoon, there are big parties in every city and there are a lot of festival with famous DJ’s such as Martin Garrix and Armin van Buuren.
So this were 2 of the Dutch Holidays. Sinterklaas and Koningsdag. But what about the food? There are a lot of typical Dutch dishes. During winter the Dutch love to eat hot, home prepared meals for dinner. One of them is ‘hutspot’ (which can be roughly translated as “shaken pot”). The main ingredients are carrots, boiled and mashed potatoes and onions. All the ingredients are mashed together and it’s mostly served with ‘rookworst’. Rookworst is a smoked sausage.
There are also Dutch sweets and cookies. Stroopwafel is the most popular kind of cookie in the county. Stroopwafel are two waffles glued together with caramel. The waffles get hard but the caramel stays soft. You can buy different types of them. You can buy fresh made ones on the market, but you can also buy them in the supermarket. You can even buy them at Publix, but these are way more expensive than the ones you can buy in the Dutch supermarket.
So I hope you learned a lot moreabout this small country. Are you planning on visiting this country? Come during koningsdag or Sinterklaas. And are you hungry? Go to a restaurant and ask for Hutspot with Rookworst. Maybe you can explain to a Dutch local what the difference is between Holland and the Netherlands. Because there are even people in the country self, who don’t know the difference. The next time you hear a person say, I’m from the Holland. You can ask them, North or South Holland. If they say an other part. Correct them and say no, you mean the Netherlands.