It’s that time of year again. Time for Summer Darkness, the dark alternative festival that comes to Utrecht every year. Considering Goth is a part of the festival, and Utrecht has its very own half-standing Gothic cathedral, it’s a match made in heaven. Or Hades. Depending on your perspective. All I know is that the little Goth girl in me of my teen years would have LOVED this festival. As it is, I’ve been tempted to go see Nitzer Ebb or Killing Joke when they perform this week as part of the festival.
As I’ve done the past couple of years, I will definitely head over to the Domplein to check out the fashion shows and outdoor market they set up for the weekend. It’s always fun for people watching, especially some of the visual contrasts that pop up.
As I said, the cathedral in Utrecht, which is located at the Domplein, is one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture in the Netherlands, so it’s an ideal setting for many of the festival attendees, as well as for all the photographers who swarm the Domplein to get some interesting photos of the visitors. It’s quite common to see photographers approaching some of the more interestingly dressed people to then head to the cloistered gardens for a Gothy photoshoot. It’s not just photographers, either. Lots of interviews take place there, as well.
I don’t really the look the part anymore, and my Bauhaus t-shirt is a bit too snug now, but maybe I’ll buy one of the purple wigs they have each year in the market. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had purple hair.
We frequently watch BBC’s program called Coast, which explores Great Britain’s coastlines, along with those of other nearby countries. One episode focused on the Netherlands, but I missed that episode when it first aired and only recently tracked it down. Watching it this afternoon, I realized that although my Dutch is still limited, my cultural integration has definitely expanded.
The program featured a short piece on fierljeppen, which I’ve written about before. I recognized it immediately, and soon realized that I even recognized one of the athletes! Sure enough, I looked through my photos from the event we went to last year and found the guy in the video, Jaco van Groot. How’s that for integration! Not only did I immediately know what sport they were doing, but I even recognized the athlete.
In another segment of the show, there was a Dutchman used as a local guide during a visit to Scheveningen. (They mispronounced it in the voiceover, something which could have gotten you shot during WWII when the name was used by the resistance as a test to prove that the person actually was Dutch and not a Nazi infiltrator.) While at the beachside town, they enjoyed some raw herring. As I watched and listened to the local, I soon realized that I did, in fact, recognize him, as well! His name is Philip Walkate, and I recognized him from his humourous bits about the Dutch inburgeringscurse (integration course).
And, of course, there was the bit about Dutch cuisine. As they commentators discussed the popularity of Indian cuisine in Britain, I knew immediately that they were going to be talking about the popularity of Indonesian cuisine here in the Netherlands. I knew that meant one of two things, saté or the broader rijsttafel. They went with the rijsttafel, a meal that goes well with my love of a selection of lots of smaller dishes.
I was ridiculously thrilled to recognize the athlete and comedian and to realize that I was very familiar with much of the information they provided, although the story about Texel island up north during WWII was something new and fascinating. My cultural integration is moving right along.
Yes, more talk of the carnival from last week. It has served me well with fodder, especially considering the rain we’ve had this week that has kept us indoors. I was surprised to see the American flag popping up in spots I least expected it. There were a lot of very nice stuffed animal toys to be won at the games, and many were more typically Dutch, such as the cows and of course, Nijntje. But I also saw these teddy bears sporting an American flag on their shirt.
Later in the day, we saw this pink caravan flying both the Dutch and American flags. It was a candy van of sorts, although the only American treat seemed to be popcorn. Still, I did hear one little boy catch sight of the caravan and exclaim, “Popcorn!”, so I guess there’s some demand for it.
The US wasn’t the only foreign nation represented. We also saw a couple of stands offering verse Spaanse Churros (fresh Spanish churros). I was tempted by the churros, but in the end decided to make the most of the olibollenkraam to get a mid-year olibollen treat. They’re usually only available around the winter holidays, and they’ve become one of my favorite Dutch treats.
Keeping with the foreigners in the Netherlands theme, I headed out yesterday to meet up with a large group of expat ladies. In all, there were 12 or 13 of us, with some coming and going at different times. The US was represented by a few of us, but Canada, the UK, Australia and Peru were all represented, as well. It was a truly fun day spent indoors at the Muntkelder pannenkoek restaurant on the Oudegracht. The frequent rain and the friendly staff that didn’t seem to mind us taking up the back room meant we spent four hours talking and laughing and having a good time.
This fluffy little guy was hanging out at one of the carnival game setups with his owner the day we went. It was still early and most of the rides and games were just setting up, so he had room to just hang out and watch. I tried to get a shot of his eyes, because he had at least one beautiful, light-blue eye (I never did see the second eye behind all the fur).
He seemed happy just to hang out and watch people go by and seems like he’d be a nice companion to have during the down time. Still, he might be a pretty good guard dog, because he certainly seemed fairly alert. Just after we’d walked past him — and I gave up trying to get a photo of his eyes — something seemed to get his attention, because he started barking. His bark, in turn, set off one of his neighbors in the next game over.
This tiny little fellow was determined to speak his mind and obviously wasn’t going to put up with any tomfoolery! Don’t let his small size fool you; he seemed a pretty determined and adorable little fella!
Dogs are a frequent companion at festivals and carnivals like this, for both the workers and the visitors. Dogs, in general, are welcome most places here in the Netherlands. It’s not uncommon to find them in bars and restaurants and shops. We’d love to take our dog with us more often, but he gets super excited when he sees other dogs, so we prefer not to risk a scene and disturb others. Such a shame. Just consider how many more fans he would have if he got out in public more! Oh well, at least when we’re out without him, we can stop and say hi to some of the other lovely dogs we see out and about.
Sunday, while enjoying the street festival on Nachtegaalstraat, we suddenly heard a band start up nearby. Drums in the lead, there was a tuba and various horns, all approaching us at a fairly quick pace. It turns out they’re the Blaaskinkels, and they seem to be fairly popular, particularly for carnival season and maybe other festivals. After a quick bit of Googling, I’m still not quite clear on who/what they are, but they do have a website. It seems they’ve been around in one form or another since 1973.
Ultimately, though, I fully admit that it was the fact that they were wearing klompen (clogs) that truly got my attention. It’s not something you see very often here, despite what you may think, so it’s still a bit of a “foreign” thrill.
I don’t know how wide-spread this is, but I’ve been seeing a lot of reproduction American-high-school lettermen jackets around town. It’s one of those strange fashion things that, as an American, gives me a bit of a giggle to see.
Sunday, while perusing the street festival lining Nachtegaalstraat, I saw this stall selling their own version of these classic jackets. It was a trip down memory lane for me, particularly with this blue and white jacket with the letter R. The high school I attended had jackets very similar to this — blue body, white sleeves — except the blue was a bit darker, I think. Even more nostalgic for me was the fact that my school’s letter was, indeed, R for Ragsdale.
I never bought the jacket, but I did earn my letter, although I have no idea what happened to it. I don’t think I’ve seen it in the past 15 years. You usually earn a letter through your participation in one of the school’s sports. Football, basketball, and baseball are the obvious ones, but track, soccer, and in my case, wrestling, were also included. Furthermore, you didn’t have to actually be the athlete to earn the letter. In my case, I was a wrestlette, which meant that I was one of a team of girls who set up the mats for the competitions/tournaments, kept score/time, and helped run tournaments held at our own school. It was its own form of work and was also a lot of fun. I’m glad I got involved and still enjoy watching wrestling. The gym at the school has recently been renamed in honor of the father of one of the girls I was a wrestlette with at the time. He has been very involved in high school wrestling over the years, so it was nice to see our neighbor (they lived on the street behind me) be honored for all of his hard work.
We went to the Maliebaanfestival today — more to come on that — and while there we saw ponies! They had a variety of sizes, from ponies to small horses. Sadly, I didn’t get many good shots, since it was particularly crowded, but I did get a few shots off. Of course, we also saw a couple of dogs who gave the smallest pony a run for its money when it came to size!
I really do love this street. I posted various photos of it — and some of the wall art — earlier in the year. Any time I head to the Vredenburg market on Saturdays, I always cut through Zakkendragersteeg, because it’s just so charming and picturesque and gezellig. Last week, as we cut through to the market, I noticed this new bit of wall art. It’s a bit of decoration for Restaurant de Zakkendrager, with a bit of influence from Vermeer. Yet another reason for me to love this narrow street.
In fact, the Oudaen castle that I posted about in my last Time Travel entry is next to this street, so if you visit one, you can see the other! Further down Zakkendragersteeg, there are also some new posters up on the wall, showing old photos and drawings of the area, while explaining a bit of the history. Sadly, my camera’s batteries were dying at that point, not to mention it was starting to rain, so I don’t have any photos of those to share. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to go again soon and maybe check some of the other side streets off the Oudegracht to see if there are more of these posters.
We’re expecting more rain again this weekend, so I doubt I’ll do much exploring, but I am thinking of heading to the Utrechtse Archief (Utrecht Archives) to check out an exhibit of old photos showing how animals have been a part of the city over the years. Fijn weekend!