Favourite spot

Marjan Slob: Bloeyendael Park

Prominent Utrechters talking about their favourite spots in the city. This month: Philosopher Laureate of the Netherlands Marjan Slob tells us about Bloeyendael Nature Reserve in the Rijnsweerd neighbourhood.

So, Bloeyendael Park?
‘Yes, it’s great. Not one of those neat and tidy parks. It has winding paths so that you can lose yourself a bit. In spring, there are carpets of snowdrops and in the summer, the grass glows gold in the sun. Bloeyendael is a lovely place for a quiet walk; it’s not a place to hang out or do a sport. I like to think while I’m walking there. Not to solve problems, but to reflect. I call it ‘dream thinking’. It allows you to step out of day-to-day reality and open your mind to unexpected, original ideas.’

Biggest annoyance?
‘I hate the fact that I can’t just walk across Neude by the library (which has an important public function), because the bar-owners there have taken over the public space. They give me dirty looks if I walk across ‘their’ terraces. I mean, come on! It’s not their square, it’s ours. And something else that really annoys me is city branding. A city isn’t a brand.’

Guilty pleasure?
‘Going to the movies in the afternoon when I should be working. I see it as an indulgence, a luxury because I live in a city. I love my work, but sometimes my head’s had enough and then it’s good to do something else. I just turn up at the Louis Hartlooper Complex, close to where I live, and see what’s on.’

Best memory?
‘After I graduated, I lived in Lombok for several years. One day, my daughter (who was four at the time) just read the street name of our street: Riouwstraat. She was suddenly able to combine the letters that she knew with the letters on that street sign. Seeing the penny drop was a special, moving moment that I’ll never forget.’

 Best food?
‘In the Stadsjochies restaurant on Rijndijk, where the city ends and countryside begins. It’s a great place and the menu is very up-beat, with not much meat but a lot of attention for vegetables, most of which are grown in the greenhouse you’re sitting in. It adds to the experience, shows you how things could be in the future. A future when food is fair and tasty, with very few animal products.’

The last time you cried?
‘I shed a few tears watching the HBO series Mare of Easttown. It’s a mini-series about a female detective in an American village. The acting is just brilliant, including Kate Winslet in her role. But it was the close female friendships that really got to me. Mare Sheehan, who comes from a lower-class background, is only able to keep going thanks the support of the women around her. The series shows how friendship with another woman can carry you through life. I’ve felt just how crucial an intimate friendship can be in my own life. But you don’t often see it portrayed in series and films; they tend to focus on the fun side of groups of friends.’

Latest discovery?
‘The Social Impact Factory in the former Staffhorst building on Vredenburg has a really good vibe. It’s an informal location with affordable flex-workplaces and meeting rooms, and a nice canteen. I came it across when my husband was fixing something there. It’s good to have a place where people can try something out without having to pay a fortune.’

Inspirational Utrechter?
‘There are so many! I really admire the committed photographer Jan Banning. He travels the world for his photo shoots, and he’s sincere, wanting to connect with the people he portrays. He took photos of an American detainee who’d been sentenced to life imprisonment. But Jan believes that she’s innocent. He corresponds with her and writes petitions pleading for her release. Art and engagement go hand-in-hand for Jan.’


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