The Old Fire Station

brandspuithuisjeHistory is full of stories of devastating fires ripping through closely packed cities. Having enough fire houses spread throughout the city to quickly respond was vital, especially in the age before motorized vehicles that could move quickly. I think if I was living in a time when you were reliant upon horse-drawn vehicles, I’d probably want to live pretty close to one of the fire stations.

Although it has long since been retired, there is one of the old fire station buildings on Schalkwijkstraat, a charming little street near Lepelenburg Park. (It’s charming now, anyway, although I wonder what it was like originally. Schalk seems to translate as “rogue” so schalkwijk seems to mean “rogue district”. Maybe the firehouse was regularly needed!) This sensible brick building dates from 1860 and served one of the volunteer fire services that were located throughout the city. Although there were many such buildings, only two of them now remain: this one and one on Burgemeester Reigerstraat further east outside the old city center.
brandspuithuisjeI think an architect firm now makes its home in the old building. Fortunately, it retains its large double doors, while the small circular window over the doorway and the scalloped pattern along the top add a surprising decorative element to what was an important functional building.

I’m glad so many buildings like this still exist, giving us a chance to visualize history in ways that you just can’t when it’s only through words or old photos. Seeing the buildings in situ gives a better feel for how they really fit in the city landscape. Of course, it comes in handy that many buildings have informative plaques on them. I often wish any building over 100 years old had some sort of plaque listing any pertinent history/use. It would make my research so much easier (and feed my curiosity)!brandspuithuisje

Meta Cameras

het fotoatelier
While digging through my photo archives, looking for a particular picture (that I still haven’t found), I came across this photo and realized that I don’t think I ever blogged about this shop. Now seems as good a time as any! As you may be able to guess from all the cameras, it’s a camera shop, with all sorts of paraphernalia for both digital and analogue cameras.

I first came across HetFotoAtelier while riding along Lange Nieuwstraat. I’d been up and down the street plenty of times before, but had somehow missed the unusual sign out front. On this particular quiet Sunday, I finally noticed the jutting sign made up of old cameras. I grew up around cameras, thanks to having a father who worked as a professional photographer, so I’ve retained a fondness for some of the older models of all quality levels. And I’m old enough to remember those flash cubes!

The shop was closed that day and I’ve yet to go inside, but from what I’ve heard, it’s an interesting shop, definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in cameras and photography. They seem to offer much more than just supplies. If nothing else, go check out the camera sign out front and see if you remember any of the models on display.
het fotoatelier

Time Travel: Janskerkhof te Utrecht

JanskerkhofAs you wander through the Utrecht binnenstad, if you look closely, you’ll probably notice a number of painted-tile images throughout the city. All are hanging on walls in public places, although some are easier to spot than others. It is worth keeping an eye out for them, as they are something like the city’s own version of my Time Travel posts. Each tile image is taken from old paintings of the city, depicting various important/well-known spots around town. Sometimes, there’s little change; other times, it is completely different. Either way, it’s fun to stand in the spot and compare then and now.

The tile images are an ongoing project, from what I can tell. One of the latest ones to go up is a depiction of Janskerkhof, as painted by Isaac Ouwater in 1779. The original painting belongs to the Centraal Museum, but if you go around the back (northern side) of Janskerk, you’ll find the tile version on display.Janskerkhof
On Saturdays, it can get lost amid the bloemenmarkt, but all of the flowers for sale also add to the charm of the setting and the flower market wouldn’t seem out of place in the painting. The painting shows a handful of people going about their daily lives and it really doesn’t look much different today.JanskerkhofA few things have changed since the painting, including the addition of the Willibrordkerk (the spire in the background of my photos) and many more trees. As a result, it’s hard to get a clear, full shot of the area, but behind the trees and the flower trucks, it really does look quite similar. Trust me when I say that the Janskerk is there on the left behind the trees, looking much the same as it does in the painting.JanskerkhofJanskerkhofHere’s a winter view of the square from much the same spot.Winter Sunlight
Here’s a view of the Janskerk itself: JanskerkhofAnd here is the building on the right of the painting. The building itself has changed, but the grand entrance is still recognizable.
Open Day [day 328/365]

The neighborhood wine bar

Alison:

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about daily life at our wine bar is meeting so many people who read my blog. It’s always a pleasant surprise when someone asks for me or asks “Ben je de flamingo?” This weekend, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a couple of fellow expat bloggers who stopped by. Yesterday, Bitterballen Bruid stopped in and on Friday Cognac and Coffee stopped by. The only downside is not having more time to chat, but a massive thanks to all who stop by. Here’s Cognac and Coffee’s post about her visit.

Originally posted on :

Yesterday we enjoyed some fantastic wine and snacks at Vino Veritas. The bar was recently opened by two former New Yorkers. Very pleasant atmosphere, authentic food, and really good wine. We will be back!

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Time Travel: Biltstraat

Biltstraat 1947 (Het Utrechts Archief)It seems appropriate that I came across this photo of Biltstraat recently, as this is one of the only streets I see these days. The wine bar and my freelance writing are keeping me very busy. This photo is relatively recent, dating back to 1947. In some ways the street has changed little. Amusingly, even the awning looks to be the same style on the second-from-the-left building. The fifth building with the bay window looks nearly identical, as does the larger ninth building and everything in between.

The street used to be lined with trees, but those were felled during the war, I believe, but they’re gradually being reintroduced, which makes taking comparison pictures a bit more difficult. The biggest difference, perhaps, are the defined bike paths now on each side of the street. They’re the reddish strip seen in the current photo. Amazingly, it looks like I managed to find almost the exact same spot to snap this photo as the original. Mine just includes a few more rooftops, a bit of sunny, blue sky, and the other side of the street.Biltstraat
To show just how little the street has changed in almost 70 years, here’s a photo I took from the front door of our wine bar, Vino Veritas, earlier this week. In black and white, just a few steps up from where the original photo was taken (directly across from the third/fourth buildings), everything looks surprisingly similar. The grand old dame is holding up well! Biltstraat
First photo via Het Utrechts Archief

Cathedral Light Play

North Side
North Side
This is the northern side of the cathedral, and it was the decorative finials silhouetted against the bright blue sky that initially caught my eye that particular day. Still, seeing more of the detail of the Gothic architecture, as well as the daily street life also appealed to me. So you get both! And if you’re in the Netherlands, you can use this to remind yourself that it’s not always raining here (it just feels like it today).

Happy Fourth, America

Stars and Stripes
Between working two jobs and preparing for the Wittevrouwenfeest tomorrow, American Independence Day has gotten a bit lost in the mix. Yet being able to celebrate multiple holidays and important events is one of the perks of being an expat/immigrant. Although we won’t be doing the traditional barbecuing this year, I have made some potato salad (a traditional July 4th side dish) for lunch today. It’s the little things in life. :)

One of the things that stood out to me on my trip back to the US last year was the number of American flags I saw everywhere — homes, businesses, churches, etc. This is nothing new, but after spending a number of years here in the Netherlands where the flag is only flown on specific dates, it really stood out. Just a short walk through my parents’ neighborhood revealed a number of flags, and this motor inn up in the mountains of North Carolina certainly wasn’t going to have anyone questioning its patriotism!
Stars and Stripes
So, Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans and happy Friday to everyone else! By the way, if you’re in Utrecht this weekend, Biltstraat and the Wittevrouwen neighborhood are having a big block party. We’ll be representing Vino Veritas there, so come by and say hi, and try some of our Italian wine and food. Or come by today and enjoy the sunshine on our terrace (or cool off inside). Either way, I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many of my readers so far!
Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes
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Rusticated Portal on the Nieuwegracht

PortalThis is a Wordless Wednesday, other than I’m curious if anyone knows something about this gate on the Nieuwegracht. Was it part of the many church immunities in the past or royalty related (crown and lions depicted)?

Pretty in Pink Revisited

Pretty as a PictureI originally posted this photo back in 2011, but since I’m not going to get a chance to go look for new photos today, I thought I’d repost this one. The reason for the pink balloons was the running of the annual Meidenloop, and today is the date for the 2014 edition. The Meidenloop is a 3k, 5k, or 10k race for women through the city, including under the Domtoren, which is where this stretch on Zadelstraat leads.

The race raises money for the Helen Dowling Institute, which helps those who are battling cancer. It takes place every year, so if you’re the running type, consider taking part in the next edition. It’s for a good cause and follows a beautiful route. Succes dames!