Happy 2014!

New Year's Eve
I hope you all had a safe, enjoyable New Year’s Eve celebration. As is the Dutch tradition, fireworks and firecrackers were going off all day yesterday and at midnight the real show began. We went out to enjoy some of the displays. It’s all amateur fireworks, rather than official programs, which makes it all even more impressive at times.
New Year's Eve
Flare
Fireworks over Wittevrouwenstraat
Fireworks and the Domtoren
That’s the Domtoren in the center distance, next to the fireworks. Next is a group of guys preparing to set off a long string of firecrackers. Video of the actual firecrackers follows. Check your volume first!
Nobelstraat Firecrackers

And this is a video to give you an idea of how loud and crazy it can all be. One seemed to go a bit wayward, which is what lead to a bit of the wobbly camera and lots of laughing afterward.

Utrecht Lights up the Night

City Lights
Whatever your plans for this evening, I hope you have a wonderful night and that 2014 is a great year for all of us. I thought I’d end the year with a few — ok, a lot of — photos of Utrecht as it is lit up during the holiday season. As if the Trajectum Lumen lights weren’t enough to make the city sparkle at night, holiday lights are strung up throughout the city during the end-of-year season. Tonight, those lights will be competing with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of fireworks!
City Lights
City Lights
City Lights
City Lights
City Lights
City Lights
City Lights
City LightsCity LightsCity Lights

Sounds of NYE in Utrecht

As I’ve said before, New Year’s Eve is the big time for fireworks in the Netherlands. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only at night or at midnight. Officially, they can be set off between 10 pm and 2 am, but in reality, they started going off about 7 am today. They’ve been pretty consistent ever since. They’re also getting louder as the day goes on. We’ve had a few close ones that sounded like major explosions in the past couple of hours. Pippo is getting tenser by the hour.

Around 11:45 am, as the bells were ringing and the fireworks were exploding, I thought I’d record it to give you a hint of what it sounds like all day here today. All the cracks and bangs you hear in the background are fireworks. My camera isn’t the best for recording sound, but you get the idea, especially after the 45-second mark when it gets particularly consistent and especially at the one-minute mark. At the very end, you’ll see why we have a hard time fully enjoying the fireworks.

As the bangs and booms continue, we’ve got ragu cooking on the stove ready to be made into lasagne for our dinner tonight. It’s become a tradition for us. We’re having a quiet night in and hopefully we’ll be able to stay awake until midnight. I hope you have a fun, injury-free evening, whatever your plans!

War Zone or Celebration?

Fireworks Display
It’s that time of year again. Today begins the official day when fireworks are legally for sale across the Netherlands. In theory, they’re to be saved until December 31/January 1, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. In reality, they’ve been going off sporadically for the past couple of weeks.

We were on Nachtegaalstraat this week and passed one of the bicycle shops, which seems to also serve as a licensed fireworks vendor. They had an impressive display in one of their front windows. Unlike the US, where fireworks are usually limited mainly to officially organized set events, here they are set off by your average Nederlander anywhere there’s space (or not) to set them off. And we’re not talking small firecrackers and the occasional Roman candle. We’re talking major starbursts and rockets and the kind of stuff I was only used to seeing at the official Fourth of July fireworks displays on the edge of town in the US. Here, I can see the same kind of display from my bedroom window.

Noise

The Dutch spend a lot of money on it all, too. It’s estimated that this year’s sales will be around €65 million. In a country with a population of 16 million. Sadly, the population does go down in numbers every year as a result of fireworks-related accidents. They’re trying to cut down on the number of illegal fireworks sold and there’s certainly a lot of reminders to be careful, but in the heat of the moment, things go a bit crazy. With all of the smoke from the fireworks, it truly does look like footage from a war zone.

I love watching fireworks, but sadly, our dog does not. As a result, some of my enjoyment of them is lessened, because it’s hard to enjoy them when your 70-pound dog is quivering and panting in fear. We try to distract him, but sadly there’s nowhere to go in the house where he won’t hear them. No mercy is right, unfortunately.

No Mercy

Thor

Spare a thought for Pippo this December 31. He’s not a fan of this holiday and a scarf over his ears doesn’t help dampen the noise. Trust me, we tried.
Poor Pathetic Puppy