Going Out: Utrecht


Cafe Belgie – one of my Polish friends was extremely impressed by this bar, describing it as “movie-like”, but he was stoned when we went there. Good, relatively affordable food. Extremely crowded at any time when people are actually likely to go out. An impressive choice of Belgian beers (I like Blanche de Namur).


Olivier – a bar in a former church building, with the acoustics of a football game. Even more crowded than Cafe Belgie, despite being ten times bigger. Also a large choice of beers.

Cafe de Bastaard – the usual beers, a pool table, no food except for tosti’s. Nice music and a hidden back garden. Beloved by leftist activist groups for no apparent reason (and therefore the closest thing I’ll ever get to a “stamkroeg”). However, the Kritische Studenten Utrecht stopped gathering there since they realised none of them is still a student. There’s a gender studies borrel* every week.

Cafe Willem Slok – a cosy small bar. I watched the 2017 election results here with SP Utrecht so I have memories of disappointment associated with the place. There’s a cheap hairdresser next door.

Cafe Averechts – a cute bar slightly outside of the city centre (if we see the big canal – the official name of which escapes me – as a border). Couch surfing meet ups from time to time.

Cafe Tilt – a nice place. Warmed up seats outside in the colder months. They serve fancy food, judging by the menu, but I’ve never ordered any.

Which brings us to…


Gys – affordable compared to other Utrecht restaurants (~€11 for a main dish). Some vegan options. 90% of their customers are young women.

Meneer Smakkers – fancy burgers, several locations in Utrecht. They ask for your name so they can shout it out once your burger is ready.

Hema Oudegracht – €3.50 for a stampot (mushy vegetables with a sausage or meatballs on top), great rookworst (sausage). If you order the biefstuk, prepare for “medium” being “seriously rare” 90% of the time (you probably get a piece of raw meat after ordering “rare”, but I never tried because honestly “medium” gets quite close to this).

Kimmade – a tiny Vietnamese restaurant, Utrecht’s best kept secret which is not that well kept, since it’s often difficult to get a table. The tofu in tomato sauce is the best tofu I have ever tried.

Puschkin – the owners of Puschkin are crazy – despite being Dutch (?), they opened an East German breakfast cafe in Utrecht!

Clubs and concert venues

ACU – a former squat. Another place where you always bump into someone you know if you did any kind of leftist activism in Utrecht, ever. Cheap or free concerts, a disco evening called Vitamine Disco every two weeks (look for the DJs/genre on Facebook). Every second day or so the Kitchen Punx serve creative vegan dishes. Dirtiest toilets I’ve encountered in Utrecht but still usually pretty clean.

EKKO – a more expensive, although rather small, concert venue. They also have club nights. Located next to a really beautiful sluice** on the canal.

Tivoli Vredenburg – a weird big building with several concert halls and multiple events going on at the same time. Terrifying aquaria for smokers, where your hardcore smoker friends disappear for a few minutes and return mumbling about Stoptober:


Derrick – a discotheque in the basement almost opposite ACU. Look at their website to get an idea of what the place is like. Just to be clear, it’s not ironic – first time I’ve been there they had a Baywatch theme (in late September), which also didn’t come across as ironic. They play songs you heard last time dancing in a rainbow coloured top and low rise cargo pants in 2003. Entrance is free (although 21+), but the drinks can be surprisingly expensive.

Chupitos – went there looking for a friend’s lost jacket on a Tuesday, 10pm, and immediately a crowd of people dancing to a remix of Adele’s “Hello” started convincing me to buy tequila shots.

Tivoli de Helling – never been there but it seems cool.

Filemon  & Baucis – you go inside thinking you will dance to “so bad it’s good” electropop, but the music they play sounds as if they couldn’t afford that and settled for “bad”. You have to pay for the bathroom.*** Sweaty people will hit on you.


That’s all I can think of right now. Is this list missing any amazing places crucial for Utrecht’s nightlife? (Most likely, yes) Describe them in the comments!



* A confusingly English-like Dutch word for a gathering with alcohol

** “Śluza” for my Polish readers who also didn’t know that word

*** I should create a separate list of places that make you pay for the bathroom after you paid for the entrance – encountered this also in Amsterdam


11th day at UCLA

“Bittersweet Symphony” – The Verve

‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life
Try to make ends meet
You’re a slave to money then you die
I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places
where all the veins meet yeah…


Did you ever arrive in one of the biggest cities of the leading economy just to realise that, for the first time in your life, you feel like you’re living in a village?

Westwood Village, specifically. With its prettiest buildings being cinemas – sorry, movie theaters – showing only one film – movie – at time in only one vintage interior. With most of its cafés being just a tiny part of huge enterprises. With, supposedly, Hollywood stars using baskets to shop like normal people. A girl from my Dutch university met me for a coffee after I arrived and before she left (back to Europe, back in the lands of proper winter, where “frozen” is more than a title on posters). She thought she saw Ryan Gosling once, but then she wasn’t sure – if that was her star-spotting score after almost four months, what can I expect, if I’m staying here for six? A glimpse of Jennifer Aniston buying kale smoothie at Whole Foods? With my luck, I could go to the famous ice cream-sandwiches place (Digsy’s?… whatever) and have a polite small talk with some sexist white comedian, not aware he is supposed to be a celebrity. Westwood Village. All other parts of Los Angeles can only be reached by bus and I don’t like buses. You never know which road they may take.

I take off my headphones, just to hear a siren noise outside. Is there a fire, or a fucking earthquake? I’m afraid of earthquakes. I’m afraid of unemployment, poverty, death, illness (if I think only about me, not my family or friends or politics or whatever will happen with all the diverse languages people speak around the world if we all start communicating in English or Chinese); just in this order, because unemployment seems so close and unavoidable for my generation and education and economic background (middle class sociology/politics student with a vague dream of pursuing an academic career, but honestly, too lazy for this). Then, I believe I could die every day, so death as a result of illness seems almost too logical – I could, for example, get hit by a car, a collapsing building (the earthquakes), shot by a person casually playing with their lawfully possessed gun, or just stand up right now and jump out of this window. It’s blocked, but I’m thin enough to fit in the narrow space. I wouldn’t really do something like this, but everyone has these stupid thoughts, and after all I’m listening to The Holy Bible by the Manics and I felt alone for the last three hours, which is simply tragic. Damned time zone differences prevent me from spamming all my friends I left far, far away, and I do believe they are happy about this situation.

Just as I finished writing the last paragraph describing my entertaining life (I’m not joking), I received a message, which reminded me I’m probably going to some parties in frat houses tomorrow. Woohoo. Am I excited? Well, I’m tired. Am I happy? Oh yes, I’m 20. And there will be alcohol. You need to be 21 here so they let you in the lousiest bar. Or to a concert featuring Drenge, a young British band promoted by NME. (Forget Drenge, I think. But if Eagulls happen to tour California and their concert is 21+, I know I’ll break the law. Update: they did play in LA in a 21+ club. I didn’t break the law. I saw them later in Utrecht and they were okay.)

Last Thursday I went to a Maoist meeting (sponsored by UCLA, apparently, so leave my visa alone, thank you) and it showed the dominance of capitalism in this country better than anything else. They had a proper marketing strategy. Little questionnaires (how did you hear about this meeting?, etc.). I left angry, but it wasn’t the productive anger I usually feel after political discussions. I see no direction I could follow in modern politics. This sounds melodramatic and funny, but I’m fed up with apolitical, intelligent young people. Being apolitical means you don’t really care about people who aren’t close to you. I’m in great danger of becoming apolitical, because it’s easy, and my life, so far, is very nice, very easy, wonderful. Of course, poor youth will be always accused of having radical views just because they are too lazy or stupid to “achieve something”; rich youth will be just called stupid, because they care. You can call me stupid, I don’t care (about your derogatory opinion; I do care about working conditions in Bangladesh). They told me I’m very good at writing, but I write in Polish, and I’m too lazy to struggle and publish something; that’s why I’m writing this blog. I expect it to die somewhere on the deserts of internet. It’s a great illusion, becoming famous via internet, unless you are Arctic Monkeys or equally good – they would be famous anyway, just through more traditional media. And if I’m discovering new bands today, it’s via the very traditional NME – although in an illegally downloaded pdf version; I would pay for it if it was in my Californian kiosk, seriously. Love or hate NME (I’m usually mildly annoyed/amused by it), at least they do write about new bands that have just few thousand plays on Spotify. I bought Rolling Stone just after I arrived here: not only is it published biweekly – half of it are irrelevant news about film and pop culture, the other half was about Beyonce. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, there was a long article about Arcade Fire. And the Beatles. But they are hardly the emerging stars of 2014.)

This thing is already too long, and it has no structure, although if you read it very carefully, you may notice there are subtle leitmotivs of British rock and my comfortable life making me lazy and apathetic – are these two connected? Maybe. Definitely. Notice I started with a quote from the most popular song by the Verve. The point is, the Verve doesn’t profit from its popularity – who does?

 “Although the song’s lyrics were written by Verve vocalist Richard Ashcroft, it has been credited to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger after charges by the original copyright owners that the song was plagiarized from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra recording of The Rolling Stones’ 1965 song “The Last Time”.

Originally, The Verve had negotiated a licence to use a sample from the Oldham recording, but it was successfully argued that the Verve had used “too much” of the sample. Despite having original lyrics, the music of “Bitter Sweet Symphony” contains bongo drums sampled from the Oldham track,[clarification needed] which led to a lawsuit with ABKCO Records, Allen Klein’s company that owns the rights to the Rolling Stones material of the 1960s. The matter was eventually settled, with copyright of the song reverting to Abkco. Songwriting credits were changed to Jagger/Richards/Ashcroft, with 100% of royalties going to the Rolling Stones.

“We were told it was going to be a 50/50 split, and then they saw how well the record was doing,” says band member Simon Jones. “They rung up and said we want 100 percent or take it out of the shops, you don’t have much choice.”

After losing the composer credits to the song, Richard Ashcroft commented, “This is the best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years”, noting it was their biggest UK hit since “Brown Sugar”.

On Ashcroft’s return to touring, the song traditionally ended the set list. Ashcroft also reworked the single for VH2 Live for the music channel VH1, stripping the song of its strings. Ashcroft is quoted as saying during the show: “Despite all the legal angles and the bullshit, strip down to the chords and the lyrics and the melody and you realise there is such a good song there.”

In a Cash for Questions interview with Q magazine published in January 1999, Keith Richards was asked (by John Johnson of Enfield) if he thought it was harsh taking all The Verve’s royalties from “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” to which he replied, “I’m out of whack here, this is serious lawyer shit. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.”

So now you see. The Rolling Stones. One would think they are already satisfied with all their hits and riches. But, apparently, no matter if God gave you everything you wanted, you still want more.