Our SENSE Summer Social began on 12 August in less than perfect circumstances – a heavy summer rain shower meant that our 17 attendees arrived wet and bedraggled, shaking off umbrellas and removing waterproof layers. Nevertheless, spirits were high, and everyone was excited and curious to see how the day would unfold!
It wasn’t long before our tour guides arrived, and we assembled at the beautiful Pandhof monastery garden of the Dom Church in Utrecht. A story was unveiled to us by our knowledgeable guides, a tale which spanned 2,000 years of Utrecht history. Large maps and diagrams were used to illustrate the ways in which Dom Square has changed over the centuries, and how it has always been the ‘beating heart’ of Utrecht. New buildings were constructed on the remains of old ones, leaving a rich archaeological legacy in the ground beneath. We discovered that the Romans came to Utrecht (which was known to the Romans as ‘Traiectum’) and constructed Castellum Traiectum in the first century. We learnt about the thriving Middle Ages of Utrecht, with its trade routes and connections via the Rhine River, and we were told how the Dom Tower came to be a free-standing tower due to the destructive force of the Great Storm of 1674.
Armed with this knowledge, it was time to venture into the subterranean depths! Like amateur archaeological sleuths, we were each given a ‘smart flashlight’ and then descended underground, ready to explore. The flashlight was attached to an earpiece and, when pointed in the right place, a voice in the earpiece revealed snippets of history about the inscribed pottery, brooch pieces and other historical remains that could be found hidden in the near darkness.
We were busy searching for clues when a thunderous sound filled the room and the caverns’ walls sprang to life, showing an animation of the Great Storm of 1674. The storm had been so fierce that it destroyed the nave of the cathedral that joined the tower and the church. These parts were never connected again, and are now separated by the Dom Square.
It wasn’t long before our exploration was over and it was time to climb out of the darkness, back to the land of the living. We emerged from the ground, squinting like moles in the sunlight, and were delighted to see that the rain had passed and the sky was blue.
Having worked up an appetite, lunch beckoned. As we walked to the restaurant, we were delighted to see a bronze marker below our feet, marking the ancient boundary of Castellum Traiectum. At night, a line of steam and coloured lights emanates from this boundary. Unfortunately, at 12:30 on a sunny August afternoon, we were not able to witness this spectacle.
We arrived at Ubica restaurant, where a private room awaited us along with a delicious buffet of sandwiches, salads and desserts. After being stuck in the depths for an hour, everyone was eager to catch up and have a chat, and the room was filled with noisy chatter and laughter.
During the lunch it was great to learn a bit more about the experiences of other SENSE members, to find out what people do, both in their language work and in their daily lives. For me as a new SENSE member, it was wonderful to meet new people, some of whom have been SENSE members for many years.
As SIG & Social Events Coordinator, this was the first event that I’d organized, and I was delighted that the day was a roaring success. The tour was a fascinating insight into the history of Utrecht, and the ‘smart flashlight’ turned the DOMunder experience into a fun adventure!
Blog post by: Becky Tomas