Fijne Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag Domtoren
Today is Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), which is a national holiday. Tradition is to wear orange, visit the vrijmarkten (special flea markets on the street), drink a lot, listen to a lot of music (live and DJs) and generally have a gezellig time. I think we succeeded. Best of all, we got a respite from the rain and ended up with tons of sunshine and warm temperatures. Not a bad way to spend a Monday!

Utrecht’s Occupation

Wave the Flag
On 15 October 2011, people of all ages began gathering at the Domplein in Utrecht. The crisp, autumn morning saw signs being made, posters being hung, and people coming together to voice a frustration with the form of capitalism that has taken over in many countries. On this day, in cities and countries around the world, people joined together to show a solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not everyone there was an anarchist, nor were they all dirty hippies or a lazy bums (or any other needlessly pejorative terms). They were young and old, dreadlocked and neatly shorn, obvious protesters and people who look like someone’s granny. Many had different issues that they found particularly frustrating, but the point was that they were all feeling a bit fed up with how the super wealthy and the corporations seemed to be getting the better end of any and all deals.

Since that day many of the Occupy protests around the world, including the original Occupy Wall Street, have been closed down, sometimes with unnecessary violence and brutality. Other protests have popped up, often with mixed results, and frequently with seemingly unnecessary arrests. I recommend checking out some of the posts at nylondaze for some great photos and discussion of recent protests in New York.

While other groups have been shut down, often ages ago, the Occupy Utrecht group, which took over a small section of the square behind the old Stadhuis (city hall) in the center of town, has hung on through (lots of) rain, snow, and changing seasons. They’re still there, and while relatively small, they’ve been clean and organized and seemingly willing to talk every time I’ve gone past their camp.

However, they’re finally being asked to move. Well, at least for a day. You see, April 30 is a national holiday, Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). Mayor Wolfsen has decided that for the health of the protesters and others, the camp needs to go. The protesters obviously didn’t agree, especially when it was stated that they couldn’t return after the holiday. However, a judge has agreed with them and stated that they can return on 1 May. I’m not sure if they are going to move, but if they do, I suspect they will return, especially when you consider the history of 1 May, also known as May Day and International Worker’s Day. This is a day traditionally when labour and left-wing movements often take to the streets for demonstrations and marches throughout the world.

I’m not sure if I’ll be passing by the Stadhuisplein on Monday, although if the weather isn’t pouring down in buckets as it’s doing now, I may be tempted to go to see if they complied for the one day. I did stop by yesterday, though, and got a few photos. As you can see, it’s not a large, unruly camp. It’s actually condensed and become more organized over the months. With the current austerity measures vote and the recent collapse of the government, I don’t think it’s a bad group to keep around as a reminder that lower and middle classes shouldn’t be the only ones to bear the brunt of economic struggle.

Occupy Utrecht

Occupy Utrecht

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

Sunshine
This was a challenging theme this week, because the sun has been playing hide and seek. It’s out as I type this, but has a habit of disappearing behind clouds the moment I pull out my camera. Instead, I’ve gone with these lovely yellow gerbera daisies that I picked up last week (and they’re still going strong), since they act as a little touch of sun, even when it’s raining, as it has done quite a bit this week.

Utrecht’s Convent Girls

Catharijneconvent Museum
The other week, as part of the national Museum Weekend, we finally went to visit the Museum Catharijneconvent. From the museum’s website: “Originally built in the 16th century as a monastery for members of the Order of the Knights of St. John, it was named after Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The monastery’s infirmary eventually became Utrecht’s first teaching hospital while the Catharijneconvent was subsequently used for a wide variety of purposes.” It wasn’t until 1979 that it eventually became a museum, officially opened by Queen Juliana. The museum contains historical and art-historical exhibits, with pieces ranging from reliquaries to clothing to works of art dating from the medieval period to contemporary art. In fact, some of the contemporary pieces were quite impressive on their own.

Quadrants

I didn’t take photos inside, so all I’ve got are photos of the various parts of the interior of the convent grounds, which are quite beautiful and interesting on their own. If you enjoy religious art and can read Dutch, the actual museum is worth a visit. The information that goes with each piece is only in Dutch, so keep that in mind. If you’re interested from an art-historical perspective, rather than a purely religious perspective, it may seem to lack detail and information on the artistic aspect of the pieces. The information given tends to be specifically about the religious story/history being depicted. It’s still interesting and worth a visit, but if nothing else, I recommend a visit just to look around the central quad to admire the buildings, garden, and the general layout. All of that is open for view and doesn’t require a ticket. They also have an indoor/outdoor café, which might be a nice place to stop on a lovely spring/summer day.

In the meantime, here are somemany of the photos I took of the grounds. They maintain the older structures beautifully, but I like the way they add in some of the necessary modern additions, including the glass walkway. It serves a purpose, while not completely blocking the view of the old buildings.
Modern Connection

Lente

Picturesque

Step Right Up

A Pause

Catharijne Convent

Fietsen

Tracery

Nederland in the News

Train Trein
The Netherlands has been making news over the past few days, for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately. Although to watch some of the international news programs, you wouldn’t know it. For example, there was a train crash on Saturday, in which one woman died and 117 were injured, but it didn’t get a mention on BBC’s The Hub news program, which we watch nightly. It’s not that they don’t cover similar stories, since the plane crash that happened that day elsewhere was covered quite extensively.

It seems that the crash was the result of one of the drivers missing possibly missing a red light. However, the driver may not face prosecution, because the signal safety was out of date. It, and most of the other signals across the country, lack the updated security, which would cause the train to halt and avoid running into another train. They have been attempting to update the security of the signals since the 1980s, but the original plan was put on hold, because of a different EU system. However, the EU system was prohibitively expensive and never put in place. Since 2006, they’ve been installing an improved version of the system they started with in the ’80s, but only 1,264 signals have been refitted. Out of 6,000. The transport minister said in November of last year that she is not planning on rolling out the upgrade across the country. I wonder if that plan will change now.

Milling About
However, it is not likely to change any time soon, since the other bit of news is that our government has fallen apart. Geert Wilders, leader of the PPV, who made up an unofficial part of the majority coalition, decided to take his toys and go home (he pulled out of the budget negotiations), causing the coalition to collapse. Prime Minister Rutte (VVD) handed in his cabinet’s resignation yesterday to Queen Beatrix. There was a debate today as to when the election should be held, with some groups preferring to hold it within the next few months, but it seems as if it is going to be put off until the beginning of September. We will be left with a caretaker government in which the current figures carry on, but cannot make any major laws or changes.

The collapse hasn’t come as any real shock, since the VVD and CDA were unable to form a more stable coalition, ultimately having to depend upon an unofficial majority through the support of Wilders and his PPV party. The problem is that Wilders is a eurosceptic and heavily opposed to what he calls the “Islamisation” of the Netherlands and Europe in general. His party’s support has dropped recently as the party itself seems to be falling apart. He’s not well-liked by many here, and he was always viewed as the straw that would probably break the coalition’s back eventually.

So now comes the juggling to see which parties will take the lead in the election, which may well depend on when the election is held. If it were to be held sooner, certain parties would be more likely to come out on top, whereas with a longer delay, other parties might be able to take the lead. As for now, there’s still talk that an agreement over the austerity plan will be reached before the deadline of April 30, when it is supposed to go to the European Commission in Brussels. I guess we’ll see.

Here are some English-language stories with more details:
Train crash
Election
Government collapse

I thought this was an interesting opinion piece (in Dutch) about Wilders having laid the ground work to make a move to the US.

Utrecht’s Little Wooden House

Old and New
I’ve been trying to figure out some way to make a Drie Biggetjes (Three Little Pigs) reference for the title. We’ve got wood and we’ve got brick, so we’re just missing a straw house. I’ve been meaning to check out this wooden structure since I first came across an article about it on December 28, 2011. I’ve kept the tab of the article open since then. Yes, it is late April of the following year. I am an amazing procrastinator, especially if you knew just how close I live to this building. It’s not exactly a long trek to go see it.

This morning, though, I was in a mood, and decided that despite the rain, I was going to go see it. Pippo needed to go out anyway, so off we went.

Breyerskamers

You see, this wooden structure is actually at the end of the block of one of my favourite buildings in town, the Breyerskameren.That was the main reason I was so curious to see the structure, since I knew what an unexpected location it was. The Breyerskameren were built some time in the 17th century, whereas this wooden building was built just last year. It’s actually an extension of the building next to it, providing extra living space. While it may not “blend”, it’s still an interesting modern design and certainly no more unsightly than the garage space it incorporated, and nicer than the garage space that remains next to it.

It was designed by the local architectural firm, Urbanizer Aannemers & Architecten, and makes use of wood and zinc to create a clean but interesting design. If you go here, you can see photos of the upstairs interior, which is used for extra bedrooms and bathroom. I particularly like the windows and shutters. The downstairs is used as extra living space and was connected to the existing house.

Not only does the Gasthuisstraat have some lovely and interesting buildings, it has a great view of some other well-known Utrecht landmarks, such as the Stadsschouwburg on the left and the Domtoren in the middle distance. I think I might have to start working this area into my walks more often.
Sightseeing

Ukelution T-shirt and Other Things You Want to Buy

Ukelution: The Ukelele Revotion T-shirt
A handful of years ago, I started making these Ukelution (Ukulele Revolution) T-shirts using my own homemade screen-printing process. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most stable of screen-printing processes and the screen didn’t make the move in one piece. Despite a few requests from people for another t-shirt, I never got around to making a new screen. But now there’s Red Bubble, which allows me to offer the T-shirts once again, but this time with a better screen-printing process. In other words, a professional screen-printing process.

So, if you or someone you love is a fan of the little four-string-with-heart and wants to join the Ukelution, head over to Red Bubble and buy one of the t-shirts there. You can choose a variety of sizes and shirt colours, although the design itself only comes in black at the moment. Hopefully I’ll get a white version uploaded this weekend to provide another alternative. The print is also a bit bigger than the one I originally made, which balances out better. If you would prefer a Ukelution sticker for your ukulele case, those are also available.

I do still make things by hand, however. Some of you may have noticed a new tab up at the top of the page, next to the About and Utrecht Calendar of Events. My Handmade for Sale page is a mix of items I’ve made and decided to offer up for sale. It’s worth checking back occasionally, since I will be adding items to the page, including some kitchen towels and fun bird napkins/wall hangings.

Please keep my page in mind when you’re looking for something fun or quirky, whether for yourself or a loved one. Just drop me an e-mail or leave me a comment if there’s something you’re interested in and we can arrange a deal. I do accept credit card payments through PayPal to make payments even easier. Thanks for looking!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects

A Pair
We went to the Catharijne Convent Museum on Sunday as part of the nationwide Museum Weekend. Just outside the museum, I saw these two bicycles (fietsen) and couldn’t resist the shot, with this week’s photo challenge in mind. Sure, it’s the obvious choice for a photo here in the Netherlands, but it’s a classic for a reason.

But then as I turned to head home, I saw this pairing of interesting subjects and couldn’t resist:
Two (Unusual) Objects
It’s the Domtoren (the large Gothic-style bell tower) in the background, which was built between 1254 and 1517. In the foreground is the building on the right with the head of a bull in profile. That is the Kleine Vleeshal (Small Meat Hall) that was built in 1432 for the butchers to sell their wares. That’s a lot of history for just two subjects and all caught in one photo. One very grandiose, and the other very down to earth.

Friday the 13th

Two Cats That Pass In the Night
As often as I have my path crossed by black cats, I’m either cursed through about 13 reincarnations, or that old superstition might be a load of bunk. The only time it’s bad luck for me is when I don’t see one of them and trip over them!

If you’re the type to stay home on Friday the 13th, avoiding possible bad luck, at least there’s stuff going on this weekend to make up for a quiet Friday at home. This weekend is Museum Weekend all across the country. More than 500 museums will be hosting special events and lowering their entrance fees to just €1. We’re thinking of visiting the Geldmuseum or the Botanical Gardens, although after reading Aledys Ver’s post about the participating museums in Zwolle, I’m tempted to go there!

Don’t forget I’ve got an Utrecht Calendar of Events link up at the top of the page. You can see what else is coming up this month. There’s quite a bit of stuff to do in the next few weeks! In the meantime, stay safe, cuddle a black cat, and Happy Friday the 13th!
Symphony in Black