The Art of Nature

Trees and Shadows
This little park area is a favorite of mine. As well as being next to the Nieuwegracht, it’s also the home of my beloved Spoetnikkijker statue. It’s also home to some really beautiful trees that are sometimes even more interesting when their branches are bare. They have some fantastic textures and shapes.

On this day, my eye was caught by all the shadows I was seeing everywhere, thanks to the bright sunlight. In particular, I found myself drawn to the shadows of the trees on the modern apartment buildings next to the park.
Trees and ShadowsPlenty of buildings in the Netherlands take advantage of their large side walls to serve as canvases for some attractive and sometimes thought-provoking artwork. In this case, the building seemed a perfect canvas for a bit of art from Mother Nature. The shadow of this one tree in particular was a brilliant bit of graphic art with strong lines and swirling curves, moving your eye up and around the whole image.

Mother Nature is definitely an artist to keep an eye on.
Trees and Shadows

A Cat in Every Window

Cat AlleyToday is what is referred to as rokjesdag (skirt day), due to the fact that the sun is shining and the temperatures have begun to warm up considerably. In other words, lots of skirts are likely to be worn.

However, I think a better word for days like today is katjesdag, because today is the kind of day where you’ll see a preponderance of cats in windows. The whole country becomes like a kitty red-light district with cats on display in almost every window. Our two have been baking themselves silly all morning.

On Sunday, it was a similarly sunny day, as you can see from the photo above. At first, it looks like any charming little street in the sun. Yet as we got closer, we couldn’t help but notice multitude of cats, upstairs and down. The first one to catch my eye was this sneaky fellow who seemed to be testing the waters of a fish bowl.
Kitty in the Fish Bowl
Kitty in the Fish Bowl
The next was this black cat who looks just like my lovely Luna.
Luna's Twin
This next charmer managed to find a spot amid the foliage, like a true jungle cat.
Basking
And finally this cat was doing a good job of camouflaging, by picking his own perch among the birds. Though he may have been in too much of a torpor to do more than eye up the birds.
Cat and Birds
Cat and Birds

Time Travel: Achter de Dom

1900 postal workers achter de dom utrecht post office(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)

This photo dates back to 1900 and shows a group of postal workers on the street behind the cathedral called Achter de Dom (achter means behind and de Dom refers to the cathedral). To the right of them is the entrance to the pandhof, the enclosed garden area next to cathedral. To the left was the post office.

Achter de Dom is one of my favorite streets, because it’s filled with historic buildings and just looks so picturesque and charming. Coming to the street from the opposite direction — from the Nieuwegracht — it’s particularly stunning as you see the apse of the cathedral towering over the street. No matter the angle from which you look at it, it’s a winner.
Achter de DomI couldn’t remember the exact angle of the original photo, so when I made this version on Sunday, I didn’t get it quite right, but close enough. Not much has changed, obviously. The men in the photo would have been standing roughly where the woman in the white top on the right is.
Achter de Dom
This is the same photo, but from a wider angle, so you can see the cathedral and its buttresses around the apse on the right. The large greyish building on the center left of the photo is the former post office. It was still in use for another 24 years after the 1900 photo was taken. Then, it was replaced by the massive and stunning building at Neude. Sadly, the post office at Neude closed in 2011 and its final use remains in limbo. In fact, it was the very last post office in the Netherlands. Everything now is privatized. Strange to think that the mail service has changed more than this street in the past 115 years, though mail delivery by bike is still a thing. Of course.

Utrecht on Easter

Paasdag
Utrecht is looking mighty fine today. The weather is glorious, though still with a bit of chill. But as you can see, the sun was shining in full force and the sky was a glorious shade of blue with the occasional fluffy white cloud.

We took a walk along the canal that rings the old city center on the eastern side, planning to drop off some recycling, see my dear friend the Spoetnikkijker, and then head to the Domplein to check out the Streekmarkt, in hope that there would be some fresh asparagus on offer.
Paasdag
The walk along the canal was perfect, with daffodils sprouting everywhere and the water reflecting the sunlight like a mirror. Although the trees are still bare, greenery is popping up elsewhere, making everything look lush and welcoming.

It was a joy just getting out and enjoying the city and the scenery, camera in hand. It’s been too long since I’ve had a chance to walk around on a nice day, without work obligations hanging over me. I think I took something like 200 photos, so there should be plenty of new pics to post for the next few weeks! I even got a couple of shots so I can do some more Time Travel posts (and close a few more tabs in my browser). Oh, and lots of cat photos!
De Streekmart
Eventually we made it to the Domplein to visit the Streekmarkt. I think it’s the first time the market has been held in the Domplein. It’s been on Twijnstraat and Mariaplaats in recent years. It’s a nice market, typically focusing on organic food and other items all made in small batches. Sometimes there’s fresh produce, so I was hoping to find some asparagus for tonight’s dinner, but sadly I didn’t see any. There were a number of food trucks of one sort or another, including an Argentinian grill truck and a tosti truck. The aromas in the square were mouth watering and everything looked delicious.

Since we were in the area, I decided to stop by the VVV (tourist office) that’s there in the square. I knew they had begun carrying some 3D-printed Domtoren necklaces and earrings and I was interested in getting a necklace. I’ve had a VVV giftcard in my bag for more than a year and figured now would be a good time to use it. In the end, I got the necklace, a Tour de France-inspired Domtoren T-shirt (don’t forget, the race starts here in Utrecht, 4 July), a Domtoren print, and a mug that matches one of my favorite Utrecht prints. All in all, a very nice day!
Domtoren

Apocalyptic Skies and a Banana

Good ol’ Dutch weather. Sometimes it changes from one day to the next, other times it changes from one minute to the next. Mercurial easily defines the weather of the past few weeks in Utrecht, when we’ve had a stunning mix of sun and clouds, often at the same time. Today we’ve got ridiculously high winds that even managed to open our front door! (The locks are now firmly in place.)

We’ve had quite a few days of clear blue skies, without a cloud in sight, which are always a joy to see.
blue skies
And then we’ve had days with apocalyptic clouds paired with crisp sunlight.
clouds and sun
Sometimes you get a mix, depending on whether you’re looking east or west. These two photos were taken seconds apart in front of our restaurant on Biltstraat, looking right (east) and then looking left.
light and dark
silhouette

And when you start to get acclimated to the bizarre weather and think you won’t see anything strange, nature pulls another trick from her sleeve: the banana bush!
banana bush

Castellum Lights

A Flamingo in Utrecht
The Domplein — the square in the heart of the city where you will find the Domtoren and the cathedral — has a long history. The square was originally the site of the Castellum Trajectum, the Roman fortress established nearly 2000 years ago to protect the northern border of the Roman Empire. The sign in the picture above marks where one of the entrance gates to the fortress was to be found.

In fact, they have found the foundations for the old fortress and you can see some visual depictions of what the fortress would have looked like through various apps now available. I think you also get to learn and see a bit more on the DomUnder tour (which I haven’t had a chance to take yet).

Still, you can get a sense of the size of the fortress due to some installations you’ll see in areas around the Domplein. The size starts to sink in when you realize it encompased the whole square and then some. The markers in the ground are bronze-ish metal pieces flush to the ground, with lines drawn in depicting various Roman Empire borders. They’re easy to miss, and even easier to puzzle over if you don’t know the meaning. It took me a few years to finally figure it out.
Hadrian's Wall
However, in the evening, they at least become a bit harder to miss. As part of the Trajectum Lumen displays, they light up and emit a watery mist every 15 minutes or so. The marker on Domstraat is pretty impressive, the way it lights up along one of the buildings and has the cathedral behind it.
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
There’s another by the Academiegebouw, which I managed to capture once, years ago.
Roman Fortress
More recently, I finally caught the one on Servetstraat, in front of the Domtoren. It’s a cosy little street with a nice mix of shops and restaurants, all in the towering shadow of the Domtoren. Standing along any of the old fortress borders, it’s impossible not to look around and think of all the history this one small section of Utrecht has seen and experienced. And now we all become a little part of that long history.
Castellum Trajectum

Variations on a Theme: Trajectum Lumen

ganzenmarkt tunnel
ganzenmarkt tunnel
ganzenmarkt tunnel
I’ve written before about the Trajectum Lumen light art installations to be found throughout the city. From simple to grandiose, they put the spotlight on Utrecht’s rich history. One of my favorites is the Ganzenmarkt tunnel. The lights are constantly changing colors, creating a psychedelic fairytale landscape that makes me think of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Plus, the tunnel leads down to the Oudegracht, where you get a great view of the Stadhuis, plus some more lights under the Stadhuise bridge. During a past visit, this was one of the color sequences, though the shifts from one color to the next are more gradual.

If you’re visiting Utrecht or thinking about visiting Utrecht and are looking for things to do, a walk through the city, enjoying the lights, should definitely be on your list. The lights begin at dusk and go until midnight, 365 days of the year, so you can check them out whenever you like. It’s a nice way to cap off an evening.