Monday, November 30, 2009

Utrecht: 4th Largest City in Netherlands South of Amsterdam


Utrecht is the fourth largest city in The Netherlands. "Large" because of the number of residents (300,000), but also due to its important central location in the country and its boundless ambition. Hidden behind Utrecht's well-known picturesque and intimate atmosphere, is the most innovative, talent-rich and creative city in The Netherlands. 

I recommend visiting the following websites for detailed information on food, dining, hotel, entertainment in Utrecht.

De Oude Muntkelder

This restaurant has over 80 different pancakes to choose from! YUMMY! 
Address: Oudegracht aan de Werf 112
3511 AW Utrecht

De Gondelier van Utrecht

You can take an authentic Venetian gondola to sail through the Utrecht canals and enjoy Italian snacks.
P: 0(6) 519 98 519

Broadway American Steakhouse

Address: Oudegracht 139 a/d werf
3511 AL Utrecht
P: 030-2312643
17:00 uur tot 21:30 uur

Colorbike Tours

Located 10 minutes from Utrecht Centraal Station.

You can take a bike tour from the following packages:

1. City Tour- Shows you the entire city of Utrecht
2. Multiculi Tour- will take you to food and drink of Utrecht
3. Fortress Tour- will show you the nature of Utrecht
4. Private Tour- will take you anywhere you would like to go
Cost: 21.50 euro per person- one drink is included
Time frame: 2.5 hours and a short break

Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Nicholas and Sinterklaas Day Most Important for the Dutch Culture

The Netherlands Celebration of Christmas: (my information is cited from the following website:

In mid-November Dutch television broadcasts the official arrival of St. Nicholas and his helper Zwarte Piet live to the nation. Coming by steamer from Spain, each year they dock in the harbor of a different city or village. Wearing traditionalbishop's robes, Sinterklaas rides into town on a white horse to be greeted by the mayor. A motorcade and a brass band begin a great parade which leads Sinterklaas and his Piets through the town. Nearly every city and village has its own Sinterklaas parade.

In the following weeks before St. Nicholas Day, December 6, Sinterklaas goes about the country to determine if the children have been well-behaved. He and his Zwarte Piet helpers visit children in schools, hospitals, department stores, and even at home. The bakeries are busy making speculaas molded spice cookies of the saint. During this time children put out their shoes with wish-lists and a carrot or hay, or maybe a saucer of water, for the horse. When St. Nicholas happens by, the next morning children may find chocolate coins or initial letter, candy treats, pepernoten, and little gifts in their shoes. Everyone hopes for sweets, not coal or a little bag of salt.

The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5th, St. Nicholas Eve, with festive family parties when gifts and surprises are exchanged. In the Netherlands, unlike other places, adults as well as children join in the fun. As the Dutch like an element of surprise, a small gift may be wrapped in a huge box, or it may be hidden and require following clues to discover where it is.

Gifts are prettily wrapped in special Sinterklaas paper or they may be hidden, for example, in a potato or an old sock. Each gift, anonymously signed "from Sinterklaas," comes with a clever rhyme that may point out a person's shortcomings in a humorous way. (For the less creative, there are books with suggestions for making rhymes and packaging disguises.) Originality, not value of the gift, is what counts.

Children sing traditional Sinterklaas songs while waiting for the saint to appear. A knock comes on the door and a black gloved hand appears to toss candies and pepernoten inside. Children scramble to gather up the treats. A large burlap bag, "de zak van Sinterklaas," also appears filled with gifts. At the table, decorated with speculaas and other sweets, guests may find their initial in achocolate letter at their places. Food is apt to include hot chocolate, Bishop's wine, and letter banket.

The Dutch feast of Saint Nicholas is about giving, for "it is in giving that we receive." The fun is in trying to surprise people, to tease in a well-meaning way, to make a good joke, to produce a rollicking rhyme. The gift itself is just a bonus, as the fun is in the doing.

Sinterklaas is the most important tradition for the Dutch, a 2008 Centre for Dutch Culture survey found. Celebrated the evening of December 5 with traditional tasty foods, it is the main time for family gift-giving. The second ranked tradition is decorating a Christmas tree, followed by Queen's Day, April 30. Blowing out birthday candles and eating raw herring were also in the top ten.