Climbing Dom Tower of Utrecht to Ring the Bells

The cityscape of Utrecht is dominated by one and one thing only, the Dom Tower. Between the canals you can always orient yourself by looking up and finding it above. Sitting within the boundary walls back in the Roman Empire, it isn’t just centred, it is the centre of the city. A community of bell ringers – let me say right now this shit is very serious – take their job very much to heart. Unlike “those other” bell towers in Utrecht, they still do things the old way, by hand. No automated BS here. With a bit of luck you may get a guided tour during one of their bell ringing sessions. It’s a decent climb up, but even with the bells the view is second to none, in a town which has restricted planning to high rise buildings to outside of the city centre. (Technically this isn’t entirely true, but they all admit it was a mistake and looks like a concrete piece of dog shit.) So early one summer weekend morning I rode my bicycle in to join my friend on a tour of the Dom.Before we head up to the top we get a talk and get to explore other parts of the Dom. It’s really great to see there’s a society who put a lot of effort into maintaining the symbol of the city. They have a lot of respect for what it is and what it means. All the members are older however so hopefully they will be able to continue to attract new members.

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We head up to the where the bells are. There are some automated ones for the half-hourly ring but the main ones are higher up and truly impressive. It is hard to walk in between them there is so little room. The ropes lead up to the next floor again. Here we learn there’s a hierarchy based on experience. So you need to start early if you want to become a bell ringer master.

After they have a briefing they wait until it’s time and commence what is a rather technical sequence, each person must ring their bells at the right time, with the right strength all with the inertia of the bell itself.

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Don’t forget the view

Of course if you’re climbing the tallest building the city it would be amiss to not see the view. Utrecht is the fourth biggest city in the Netherlands and part of the urban sprawl that is the Randstad yet it still feels small in many respects.

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Just be careful, there’s not much room up there.

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You can only climb the tower by guided tour, so check out their site for times.

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