1.5 Nijntjes

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While visiting the Centraal Museum the other week, I came across two more of the Nijntje/Miffy statues as interpreted by various artists. The first one, appropriately, now stands outside the Nijntje Museum, which is across the street from the Centraal Museum. (One ticket gets you into both museums.)

The second Nijntje is a bit harder to see (thus the 1/2), as I took a photo of it through a window in the museum. It stands in the newly renovated courtyard. This one is particularly interesting, as it’s about four Nijntjes creating one. Unfortunately, I don’t have any artist information for these, but it’s nice to see a few Nijntjes still hanging around her home city.

Utrecht Festival Survival

Festival season is upon us, ranging from street festivals to massive music festivals. Even in the city center of Utrecht you’ll find an increasing number of festivals going from spring until autumn. Some of the newest are the Trek Food Truck Festival and Klein New Orleans. Trek is coming up on it’s third year, while Klein New Orleans is going to be celebrating it’s second year in a couple of weeks. Both have been massive successes. Plus, there’s my absolute favorite, the autumn edition of the Bock Beer Festival.

Maximize is putting together a list of top festival hacks from a variety of bloggers for all sorts of festivals and they’ve invited me to get involved. You can get involved, too, by commenting here and using the #UltimateFestHacks hashtag. I’m particularly interested in learning about others’ tips for Trek, as that festival just gets bigger and busier each year! For now, though, here are some of my tips that work for pretty much all of the three festivals I’ve mentioned.
Klein New Orleans

Get there early.
You may be tempted to go to any of these festivals later in the day/early evening, but if you wait, you’ll end up in long lines amid a crush of people. We usually hit the Bock Beer Festival around 3 p.m. on the Saturday, and it’s still busy, but you can more easily find friends in the crowd and not have to wait in too long a line to try the various beers. For the Trek festival, the earlier the better. It’s busy almost right from the start and the lines just get longer and longer as the day goes on. As for Klein New Orleans, get there from the start, as well, so you can take part in the Second Line.

Scope out your options in advance.

Most of the festivals post information on their website or Facebook page about who and what will be there. If you’re limited on time and/or budget, or there with a group of friends, you can decide what is most important to you and aim for those areas first. Trek, in particular, has so many food vendors set up throughout the Griftpark that making that first choice can be overwhelming, especially if you’re with a group of people. If you can all agree in advance on one place to start, that will tide you over while you plan your next excursion.

Have plenty of cash.

Most festivals don’t take PIN cards and there aren’t always cash machines nearby (although there is one near the Bock Beer Festival, but the lines get long there, too). Try to get some smaller denominations and coins, too, so the vendors don’t have to use up all of their change. If you’ve done some advance research, you might have an idea of how much things cost. For example, there’s a set fee for the glass you’ll get at the Bock Beer Festival and then there’s a set price for the tokens you need to get the beers. Always buy more tokens than you think you’ll want. We ALWAYS end up buying more and the lines are much longer by then. You can turn them in at the end if you don’t use them and get your money back.

Share.

Especially when it comes to the food at Trek and Klein New Orleans, the lines can be long, and if you want to try lots of things, sharing is a great way to cover all your bases. At Klein New Orleans, we ordered both the gumbo and the jambalaya and then split them between us. Though there’s a crawfish boil planned this year, which might require a serving all to myself! At the food festivals like Trek, you’re bound to want to try so many things that if you share dishes, you won’t end up too full after the first few stops.17933083269_d8605e3727_m

Be adventurous.

One of the great things about sharing is that it’s a good excuse to try things you aren’t quite sure about. With two or more people eating, it won’t go to waste if you don’t like it, but it’s also a good way to try things you might not otherwise go for on your own.

Wear comfy shoes.

Be adventurous with the food, not your footwear. At most of these festivals, you’re going to be on your feet for a long time. You’re also going to be in some big crowds where there’s the potential to have your toes stepped on or to get splashed with spilled something or other. You probably want to skip the heels and delicate sandals, as boring as that may be.

So what are your favorite festivals and tips for surviving and making the most of them?

They Startle Easily

Abstraction

We visited the Centraal Museum last weekend to see all of the renovations finally complete. It’s still a stunning and highly creative museum. Even the shadows are works of art.
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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge, whose theme this week is abstract.

My Utrecht Art Collection

Utrecht Kunst
It should come as no surprise that I have a fondness for old photos of Utrecht and contemporary art inspired by the city. Over the past few years, I’ve been creating my own little collection. I don’t have as much as I would like, but I do have a list of artists and images I hope to add some day. For now, though, I have a small gallery wall that makes me happy.

The large print on the right was one of my first pieces. I’d seen it on Pinterest first, actually, but couldn’t find any info about it at the time (one of the drawbacks of the site). Eventually, though, I found the print itself at one of the local art stores and couldn’t resist. It’s a great collection of Utrecht symbols including lovely Lepelenburg Park, the Willibrord statue, Broodje Mario, the train station, and one of Rietveld’s chairs. What’s not to love?

To the left is an old print of the Paushuiz as it originally looked before the additions. Beneath that is the first print I bought from Ellessi at one of the Christmas markets. I just fell in love with her style. That day, I’d seen the next print to the left, on the top, but hadn’t had enough money with me to get it. The next time she was in town at one of the markets, I went specifically to get it. It’s a view of one of the cafés at the Donkere Gaard, as seen from another café that I frequent from time to time. Beneath that is another old print of the Oudegracht and the old crane that used to stand by the Winkel van Sinkel. Tucked in the corner is one of my own small photos that I have a fondness for.

The small picture on the bottom left is an antique postcard of the Breyerskameren, a view I get daily, as it’s across the canal from the park where we’ve taken our dogs over the years.

And on the top far left is my first print from L-Tuziasm. He’s a local artist I’ve written about previously. I absolutely love his work and hope to purchase one of his paintings some day. Each year, though, he does a limited print of the Domtoren. This was the first one I was able to get. However, I recently added a second one, the most recent one he’s done.

I had requested my copy, but a while later he contacted me to work out a barter. He was putting together a catalogue of some of his work and wanted to include an English translation. I helped him with that in exchange for the print (and a copy of the catalogue). Awesome deal! I might need another print before I can hang it, in order to get things balanced. For now, it’s sitting happily beneath the gallery wall, with one of my own photos and a few odds and ends.
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In Search of Art

Portrait of Amalia van Solms
The Centraal Museum has undergone some renovations and expansions recently and they’ll be officially unveiling them this coming Friday and over the weekend, as part of the National Museum Weekend. To raise awareness about the museum and it’s collection of Utrecht artists, they have put up murals of some of the museum’s collection on walls around the city. Today, I went in search of one.

Charlie and I headed out for a nice walk in sunny weather with deep blue skies overhead. I took a slightly different route than I usually do to end up at the Van Asch van Wijckskade. When I got to where I thought it was supposed to be, I was clearly in the wrong spot. There was a building with a painting on it, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. Slightly confused, I decided to keep walking. Turns out I had stopped a block too soon.
Portrait of Amalia van SolmsBut there she was, the Portrait of Amalia van Solms (1602-1675) by Gerard van Honthorst. With the trees starting to bloom and the glorious blue sky, she was in the perfect setting. Nor was I the only one admiring her. Another girl had approached just as we did and she walked up close to pause for a moment and admire Amalia.

There are two other murals to see, but they’ll have to wait for another outing. I do have two tickets for the museum’s grand opening on Friday. I would take Charlie, as he seemed quite interested, but I suspect he may not be so welcome. I guess I’ll just have to take G instead. Charlie is disappointed.
Portrait of Amalia van Solms

One Last Nijntje

Nijntje!
On the Jaarbeurs side of the train station there was yet another Nijntje on parade last summer. She had a view of the recently completed new town hall building. This splatter version of Nijntje (called Nijntje!) was by Jurriaan van Hall. His approach was like that of a toddler, tossing colorful plaster to create something between painting and sculpture, all the while paying homage to her playful character.
Nijntje!
Nijntje!
Nijntje!

Oma Nijn

Oma Nijn
I never finished posting some of the Nijntje statues that were dotted around the city last summer as part of the celebration of Nijntje’s (Miffy’s) 60th birthday. Seeing as today is Easter, I thought today might be a good day to post one of the image-heavy Nijntjes. This one is Oma Nijn (Grandma Rabbit) by artist Charlotte Dematons. Her version has Nijntje in a cozy cardigan featuring typical scenes of Dutch culture with Nijntje scattered throughout. I like the one where she and her friends are cycling through the tulip fields in both sunshine and rain. A bit like today! Which is your favorite?
Oma Nijn
Oma Nijn
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Oma Nijn
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Oma Nijn

Trijn van Leemput

Trijn van Leemput
In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do a quick post about Trijn van Leemput. She’s considered a heroine of the 80 Years War against Spain, particularly here in Utrecht. The story revolves around the Vredenburg fortress that the Spanish had built on the western side of town after the Spanish annexed Utrecht in 1528. The Spanish garrison stationed there came under seige by local rebels soon after the start of the 80 Years War in 1576 and by 1577, a negotiation was reached and the fortress was abandoned.

An abandoned fortress wasn’t enough. Utrechters wanted the fortress to be demolished. Unfortunately, the city government disagreed. Not that that would stop the locals. On 2 May, 1577, Trijn van Leemput gathered a group of women, and with a makeshift banner made of a blue apron tied to a broom, they set off to take matters into their own hands. With pick axes and hammers, they began demolishing the brick fortress.

The story may be a mix of fact and fiction. Trijn van Leemput did exist. She and her husband, a brewer and miller, were among the leading families of Utrecht at the time and they had a large house on the Oudegracht. The statue of Trijn in my photos is located on the Zandbrug, a bridge over the Oudegracht near her home. The statue was erected in 1955 and shows her standing atop the Vredenburg fortress, with a pick-axe in one hand and one of the bricks of the demolished fortress in the other. Someday, I may get around to writing more about the remains of the fortress, some of which can be seen in random spots like one of the underground bicycle parking places.
Trijn van Leemput
Trijn van Leemput
Trijn van Leemput

A Taste of New Orleans in Utrecht

okra

This morning, before lethargy and two jobs could distract me, Charlie and I headed out to the market at Vredenburg in search of some okra. I knew that there used to be a vegetable stall there that always had okra, but it has been a while since I’ve been to the Saturday market and I was worried they wouldn’t be there today. Fortunately, my concerns were soon allayed and I was in possession of a nice bag full of okra. And I only had to wrestle Charlie back to his sit position twice!

(Charlie is relatively well trained, but when he’s out in the world with lots of distractions, he gets a bit overwhelmed. I’m trying to get him more used to crowds and all the associated smells and such and he’s definitely making progress. I’m very proud of him!)

As for the okra, the reason I absolutely had to get some today is because I’m turning Vino Veritas into a Creole/Cajun restaurant for one night only on Tuesday, which happens to be Mardi Gras. This time of year, I always get nostalgic for my years in New Orleans and I’ve had a hankerin’ for some authentic gumbo. Since the Klein New Orleans event last summer was such a big hit (although I still question some of the recipes), I thought I’d host my own Klein Mardi Gras — on a much smaller scale, of course.

This has been a really last-minute decision, so I’m sadly short of purple, green, and gold decorations, but at least we should have some mighty fine food and a good Mardi Gras/New Orleans music playlist. I brought a small selection of some of my Mardi Gras beads with me when we moved, so maybe I’ll hang some off the cactus we have at work, in honor of the trees covered in Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans. We had one such tree right outside our dorm room freshman year. I have fond memories of sitting on the balcony and watching the plastic beads catch the light.
Mardi Gras [Day 47/365]
Oh, but the food! That’s what y’all want to know about! We’re going to be serving up gumbo, jambalaya, and shrimp etouffée, and I’m thinking about a marinated avocado and crab salad and/or a corn and black bean salad for starters. And if I can scrounge up some food coloring, I might be making mini king cakes for dessert. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! And if you’re wondering, I have my own recipes, but also got some recipes from my friends from Louisiana, just to make sure I’m doing it right. Seriously, y’all. This is going to be the authentic taste. I guarantee! Ooo weeee!

(I had to throw that Justin Wilson link in. My grandpaw, who used to catch his own shrimp and fish in Florida and cooked a bit of Cajun-style food — despite being from Tennessee — used to watch Justin Wilson regularly and I’d watch with him when I was visiting. It’s one of my fond memories. The last time I saw my grandfather before he died was actually in New Orleans. We ended up going to the Court of Two Sisters for lunch. It was one of the first restaurants I went to in New Orleans and it was always a favorite. While we were having lunch, he told me about visiting the restaurant while he was in the Navy during WWII. They’d been stopped in New Orleans before heading out and he and some friends had dined at Court of Two Sisters. Years later, while we were cleaning out my grandparents’ home, I found a photo taken that night. It’s one of my cherished possessions. That’s him on the right.)
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So, anyway, if you’re in Utrecht this Tuesday, 9 February, head to Vino Veritas (Biltstraat 9) and pass a good time as if you were down on the bayou! Laissez les bon temps rouler!