Utretch, Netherlands

Utretch, Netherlands

I have been coming to Utrecht (the 3rd largest city in the Netherlands) yearly for a while now that I have come to consider it my second home. It is a charming city highlighted by the Dom Cathedral and the shops and restaurants that align De Oudegracht.

Having stayed at many locations around the city, I have come to know the alleyways, out-of-the-way pubs, and other special locations. It is not surprising that I would select Utrecht for some R&R before heading out on my next cycling trip. Unfortunately, a spring cold decided to join me, so I wasn't able to wander the city like in years before.

Though, all was not lost. My accommodation for the week was a centuries-old Dutch home on the Oudegracht Warf mere feet from the water. From my second-story window, I watch the many boats full of tourists, students, and the occasional wedding party cruising the canal and enjoying the sites of the city, occasionally sharing a "hallo". It is nice to see people enjoying themselves. With so much going on in the world today, we can often lose sight of the joy we share amongst ourselves.

Perhaps one of the greatest joys I have experienced was witnessing a naturalization ceremony a few years ago in Utrecht. As each person was presented their citizenship papers, I couldn't help but share their excitement while wondering about their story. Though unique within itself, I sense a common thread.

The one thing I continue to learn cycling around Europe is that regardless of our differences, we all share common experiences and the desire for happiness for ourselves and others. I think too many times we lose sight of this and need a reminder that to achieve happiness we have to be willing to give up a little. Perhaps this is most evident in a Utrecht woman who gave up her freedom due to her beliefs to achieve a greater reward.

She is known as an "anchoress," someone who voluntarily walls themselves up with no doors in the stone of a church. For within the same church that the naturalist ceremony had taken place, 500 years earlier, Sister Bertken lived for 57 years in a tiny cell eating, sleeping, reading, praying, and dispensing advice to those that sought her out.

So, as I ponder when this cold will leave me, and I can start my journey. I am reminded that I am blessed to be here and whatever is in store for me will be the experience and I will love it. 

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