DOMunder : Utrecht’s secret history

Dom Tower Utrecht

DOMunder, Utrecht – Credit

It’s funny how, sometimes, you think you are so good at something, while the rest of the World believes you are absolutely rubbish at it. For example, I always saw myself as a very observant person… Except for, you know, all those times I walked right past what I was looking for without seeing it. A bus station for example. I guess that’s what one would call being deluded.

However, I am also very good at noticing things that other normal people don’t see. Like a big deer head sculpture on top of a building (Utrecht has many), or a mic suddenly appearing on the right corner of the screen while I’m watching a movie (and that clearly shouldn’t be there). That’s why, when I went to visit the DOMunder in Utrecht and that girl suddenly said « let’s see how well you paid attention on your way here », I thought to myself, « I’m going to nail the answer to the next question ! ».

« Have you noticed anything particular on the floor on your way up here ? ». Erm. You gonna have to be a bit more specific, woman. « Something on the floor that looks like a piece of metal ? ». Erm… well, I mean, maybe… I mean… a manhole ?

« The big metal thing on the road, from which steam comes from sometimes? ». Oh yeah, of course, we (we were two, and not just in my head) just asked ourselves ten minutes ago what that was !

I am an idiot.

DOMunder: Utrecht like you’ve never seen it before

So yeah, my point was : I went to visit the Dom under in Utrecht, and it was GREAT.

Dom under Utrecht

DOMunder entrance, Utrecht

I already told you about Utrecht in a previous post. The DOMunder is an archeological site located just under the Dom Tower. The entrance is on Domplein Square.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to know a bit more about history of The Netherlands. You will learn for example that the first draft of Utrecht was a fortress built by the Romans, just where the Dom stands nowadays (say whaaat).

I don’t want to spill all the beans here, so I’m just going to give you little pieces of it to feed but not satisfy your hunger of knowledge.

Once upon a time, Utrecht belonged to the Romans

If you are a history amateur, I know I just pissed you off. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Dom under Utrecht

DOMunder, Utrecht, Roman Empire

So, of course, Utrecht did not exist 2000 years ago. But the first buildings (as far as I know) where Utrecht currently stands were in fact a Roman fortress. You can even see the wall when you go for the tour. In fact, that wall stands a few meters down to where today’s ground level is, but back in the days, the ground was much lower. That also means that the wall still runs underneath some houses in the historic center. I thought that was pretty cool (but I’m a bit geeky too).

If you go for the tour, and you should, you will learn a bunch of other cool stuff and you will get to actively participate too. Again, I don’t want to say too much, but I was able to correctly place the Dom Tower on an archeologist map and I was pret-ty please with myself.

Then came the storm on Dom square

If you have been to Utrecht before, you will have noticed that there is a big gap between the Dom tower and the church. But if you know your history, you will know that the tower and the church used to be attached, and that the Dom square where you stand used to be part of the church too.

Dom Tower Utrecht

Dom Tower, Domplein, Utrecht

That was until the big storm of 1674, where that part of the church collapsed. The ruins stayed on the square for 150 years because nobody knew what to do with them.

Domplein, Utrecht

Domplein, Utrecht

When you visit the underground, you can see all these ruins just lying there. Again, pretty cool.

One thing to know though is that the underground is obviously completely dark, and to walk along you have to use one of the torch they provide you with at the entrance. With these, you can also listen to some explanations about the ruins you’re contemplating.

Ruins, Dom under, Utrecht

Ruins, DOMunder, Utrecht

Ruins, Dom under, Utrecht

Ruins, DOMunder, Utrecht

At some point during the walk, and without warning, lightnings and thunder will paralyze you in the dark and you will have no other option than looking at a movie about the storm ; thanks to modern technology, you will actually feel like you are in the church at the time where it collapses (don’t worry though, you survive).

Very important advice : do not go with small children. Chances are, you won’t even be able to see anything at all because they will start screaming of fear right at the entrance (comment inspired by true events).

Ruins, Dom under, Utrecht

Ruins, DOMunder, Utrecht

Amongst the ruins from the church, you will also get the chance to admire some pieces from the Roman Empire.

Visiting the DOMunder was good to learn more about the city of Utrecht of course, but also a bit more about the entire country ; after all, I have to admit I was not expecting anything related to the Romans in The Netherlands !

If you get the chance, go up the Dom Tower too, especially on a sunny day. You will get a pretty amazing view on all of Utrecht. Legend says that, by clear days, you can see Amsterdam… I guess that, on top of being completely ignorant to the World around me, I am also blind, because I’ve never seen it.

If you want to learn more about Utrecht’s history, you can also check the official website.

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