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UTRECH, NETHERLANDS

I was in Utrech in July 2003 in the first interrail that I did. I was to Utrech because Amsterdam was really expensive and dificult to find a place to sleep, so Utrech is just 20 or 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam and the train was free for me. Also I could take advantage to see Utrech. I found a Youth Hostel really cool. I paid just 16 euros I I could to eat as much as I wanted, so was great. Also if you like to play music, this Hostel is great because there are a lot of different instruments.




Utrech city is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the North-Eastern end of the Randstad, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands, with a population of 288,535. The smaller Utrecht agglomeration is home to some 420,000 registered inhabitants, while the larger region contains up to 820,000 inhabitants.
Utrecht's ancient city-centre features many buildings and structures from its earliest origins onwards. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the eighth century CE. Currently it is the see of the Archbishop of Utrecht, the most important Dutch Roman Catholic leader. Utrecht is also the see of an archbishop of the Old Catholic church, and the location of the offices of the main protestant church.
Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university of the Netherlands, as well as several other institutes for higher education. Due to its central position within the country it is an important transportation hub (rail and road) in the Netherlands. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam.



Although there is some evidence of earlier inhabitation in the region of Utrecht, dating back to the Bronze age (app. 1800-800 BCE), the founding date of the city is usually related to the construction of a Roman fortification (castellum), probably built in around 50 CE. These fortresses were designed to house a cohort of about 500 Roman soldiers. Near the fort a settlement would grow housing artisans, traders and soldiers' wives and children. A line of such fortresses was built after the Roman emperor Claudius decided the empire should not expand further North. To consolidate the border the limes Germanicus defense line was constructed. This line was located at the borders of the main branch of the river Rhine, which at that time flowed through a more northern bed compared to today. The name of the Utrecht fortress originally was simply Traiectum denoting its location on the Rhine at a ford. Later the name was adorned with the prefix Ultra (on the far side) to distinguish it from other settlements (for example Mosa Trajectum Maastricht). Over time the two parts of the name would merge and evolve into the current name (Utrecht). In the second century, the wooden walls were replaced by sturdier tuff stone walls, remnants of which are still to be found below the buildings around Dom Square.

In the early 19th century, the role of Utrecht as a fortified town had become obsolete. The fortifications of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie were moved east of Utrecht. The town walls could now be demolished to allow for expansion. The moats remained intact and formed an important feature of the Zocher plantsoen, an English style landscape park that remains largely intact today.
Growth of the city increased when, in 1843, a railway connecting Utrecht to Amsterdam was opened. After that, Utrecht gradually became the main hub of the Dutch railway network.

In 1853, the Dutch government allowed the bishopric of Utrecht to be reinstated by Rome, and Utrecht became the centre of Dutch Catholicism once more.

With the industrial revolution finally gathering speed in the Netherlands and the ramparts taken down, Utrecht began to grow far beyond the medieval center from the 1880s onward with the construction of neighbourhoods such as Oudwijk, Wittevrouwen, Vogelenbuurt to the East, and Lombok to the West. New middle class residential areas, such as Tuindorp and Oog in Al, were built in the 1920s and 1930s. During this period, several Jugendstil houses and office buildings were built, followed by Rietveld who built the Rietveld Schröder House (1924), and Dudok's construction of the city theater (1941).

During World War II, Utrecht was held by the Germans until the general German surrender of the Netherlands on 5 May 1945. Canadian troops that surrounded the city entered it after that surrender, on May 7, 1945.

Since World War II, the city has grown considerably when new neighbourhoods such as Overvecht, Kanaleneiland, Hoograven and Lunetten were built. Additionally the area surrounding Utrecht Centraal railway station and the station itself have been developed following modernist ideas of the 1960s, in a brutalist style. This led to the construction of the shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, music centre Vredenburg (Hertzberger, 1979), and conversion of part of the ancient canal structure into a highway (Catherijnebaan). Protest against further modernisation of the city centre followed even before the last buildings were finalised. In the early 21st century the whole area is being redeveloped.

Currently the city is expanding once more with the development of the Leidsche Rijn housing area.


July 2003

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