The pepernoten are flowing and flying, the pakjes (presents) are all wrapped up with poems at the ready, the Piets are knocking on doors and windows and dropping off sacks of presents or bagging up naughty children, and the Sint is ready to head back to Spain.
It’s pakjesavond, the night when Sinterklaas and the Piets hand out presents to all the boys and girls who have been good this year. I don’t think we’ve been very good, so no presents for us tonight. That said, I did make sure we stocked up on the chocolate kruidnoten today so I’ll have enough to last me for the next few months. They’re perfect with a cup of tea or coffee!
As I mentioned in my last post, Utrecht’s former red-light street — Hardebollenstraat — is now the place to find lots of local and indie shops selling clothing, designs pieces, and much more. The large windows that were de rigeur for the previous tenants have remained in some cases and been redesigned in others. Each shop is putting their own stamp on the street.
Utca’s Finest is one of the new shops that has found a home in this revamped street. It has been around for a few years now, first as a webshop primarily and then in other locations and pop-ups around town. They are known for their various types of clothing that all promote Utrecht in a cool, urban, graphic style. Think hip hop, skateboarding, and tattoos.
Utca’s Finest is voor Utrecht, uit Utrecht (for Utrecht, from Utrecht). Utca is another way of saying Utrecht, sort of a street version, in the way that Utreg is a dialect version. But don’t take my word for it. I may be too old and too allochtoon. What I do know is that I love their style and plan on getting some of their shirts when I can make up my mind which to get first. U’tje Tattoo, Utca 030 (030 is the Utrecht area code), or the Utca Crest. And then there’s the scarf that is sadly out of stock! Plus there’s all the cool stuff in the brick-and-mortar store on Hardebollenstraat. Choices!
It’s located across the street from the mural I posted about yesterday. In fact, you can see the mural reflected in one of the Utca’s Finest windows. So if you want a special Utrecht gift or just want to wear your Utrecht pride on your shirt/hat/sweater, stop by Utca’s Finest. And if you can’t make up your mind what to get someone, they also have gift certificates so your recipient can be the one to struggle making a choice!
Everyone knows about the “coffee shops” in the Netherlands (and yes, it’s not just Amsterdam), where you can purchase various forms of hash, weed, pot, marijuana, etc. Voorstraat/Wittevrouwenstraat have a couple of places where you can purchase, but there are also places in town where you can buy your own paraphernalia, AKA headshops.
Conveniently, perhaps, Magic Mind is a long-standing one at the corner of Voorstraat and Hardebollenstraat. Hardebollenstraat used to be the inner-city red-light district here in Utrecht, but no longer. It’s now a trendy shopping street with lots of great indie shops. More about that tomorrow.
With the new shop fronts on Hardebollenstraat comes a new wall mural. (OK, it’s been there for a few months at this point.) Philip Lindeman, a young graphic artist/illustrator is the artist of this latest wall art to enhance Utrecht. I really like his style and a copy of his book The Cover Art Catalog is on my wishlist. Give the mural a look-see the next time you’re in the neighborhood.
It’s the time of year when the Sint Maarten Feest (St. Martin’s festival) takes place around town for about a week. There are theater groups, activities, plays, parades, and tonight there is a sort of trick-or-treat activity, in which little kids go around with lanterns singing songs and receiving candy.
It’s all in celebration of St. Martin of Tours. He was remembered for slicing off half of his military cloak in order to give it to a beggar in rags (the military didn’t allow him to give the whole cloak away). That night he had a dream that Jesus was wearing the half cloak saying that Martin had clothed him. Some versions of the story also have the cloak being whole once again when he awoke. Regardless, all of this was supposed to have played a major role in Martin being confirmed in his piety and being baptized.
St. Martin is a well-known Catholic saint and in fact, the cathedral in Utrecht is named for him. He’s also the patron saint of Utrecht and his sliced cloak of red and white is the symbol/shield of Utrecht. The lantern festivities aren’t just here in Utrecht, though obviously it’s particularly popular here.
Last weekend there was a parade with some truly beautiful and impressive lanterns of all sorts of figures and creatures, including a large St. Martin on his horse that lights up beautifully. Sadly, it was starting to rain and the crowds of running, yelling children were getting Charlie a bit anxious, so we didn’t get to see the parade with the lit lanterns, but we saw some of the preparation and enjoyed the other sights and sounds, including some great samba-like drumming. You can see more photos of all of the festivities on the official website and you can see a video of the drumming on my blog’s Facebook page.
In the Expats Utrecht group on Facebook, Pilar Pereira posted this happy photo of a proposal taken at Park Lepelenburg yesterday with the following caption:
Today (29.10.2016) I spontaneously and secretly took this photo. I would like to thank them for the pic and apologise for being an intruder in their intimacy! But maybe the couple would like to have it as well. Congrats to both of them!
It’s such a lovely photo so I offered to post it here to try and spread the word and see if anyone knows — or is — the couple and can pass the photo along to them.
So to everyone in and Utrecht, whether local or expat, will you please share this post everywhere you can think of, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. and ask others to share it, as well? Let’s find and congratulate the happy couple!
I love getting emails from people who read my blog. Especially when they’ve seen something that makes them think of Utrecht/me/my blog. The other day I got just such an email from Daiane. She’s a Brazilian/Italian student working on her PhD in Utrecht, but currently in the US for an internship.
I was visiting Washington two days ago, and I was surprised when I found another Thinker on the Rock, and immediately reminded of the beautiful pictures on your blog and missed Utrecht instantaneously… so I’m sending you a picture of me with the thinker here on the other side of the ocean🙂
She remembered that there were a couple of other copies of the statue in various locations, but wasn’t expecting to see one, which made it a nice surprise. I love getting to see one of them in situ in the photo! Thanks again for sharing this, Daiane!