Greetings from Italy

I had truly meant to do one last proper goodbye post before moving, but it just didn’t happen. The move was unbelievably stressful and I’m so glad it’s over. But we survived the two-day drive with dog and cats and as much stuff as we could cram into our car and despite some snow in Switzerland and a traffic jam around Milan, we finally arrived in Bologna, tired but in one piece.

I do plan on having a proper new blog for my life in Italy, but while we wait to get phones and such sorted, you can see some of my photos at the future blog’s Facebook page, A Flamingo in Italy. You can also see some other photos on my Instagram page, oranjeflamingo. And in the meantime, I may even post a few more things here that I never got around to posting about.

I still miss the Domtoren, but I have a new tower in my life. Two, to be specific. I will always love the Domtoren, but I’m developing a new love for the Two Towers of Bologna.

So for now, doei, Domtoren, and ciao, le torri di Bologna.
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Where is the Domtoren?

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First off, happy new year/gelukkig nieuwjaar! I hope everyone survived and there are no hangovers! The only aches I have are from the two-hour death march Charlie took me on this morning. He never gets tired!

As I think I mentioned yesterday, it’s been a bit foggy here the past week. In fact, it’s been days since I’ve seen the Domtoren. As you see in the photo above, on the left is the typical view of the Domtoren that I get each morning when I take Charlie out. On the right is the view for the past week. Do you see a Domtoren? I sure don’t! Crazy, huh!

So on our walk through the generally deserted city this morning, I thought we’d at least head over to the Domplein and try and catch a glimpse of the tower. I’m on borrowed time after all and want to see as much of my beloved tower as I can before we move. The route we took typically has a few quick views of the tower, but none were any help this morning. In fact, even as I got up close on Domstraat, right next to the cathedral, I could still barely make it out, even though it was practically right in front of me!

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To give you some comparison, this photo above was taken shortly before 11 a.m. this morning. This next photo was taken at 9:50 p.m. on May 30,2008, shortly after we moved here.
10 to 10

You can barely see the Domtoren in the photo I took this morning, but you can see how clear it should be — and how close it is — in the second photo.

Maybe I’m just easily impressed by fog, but I was surprised by the density, even up close, particularly as it wasn’t that bad at ground level. Ah well, at least I got to see my beloved Domtoren and managed a few photos, to add to my hundreds!

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Domtorenen

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One of the things about moving is that now I want lots of the touristy things as keepsakes. So this weekend, after meeting up one last time with some friends, I stopped in at the VVV (tourist office) at the Domplein and picked up a few things I knew I couldn’t leave without. I could have gotten each item in different shops or online, but the tourist office was a convenient one-stop shop!

One thing I have wanted and would have eventually bought, even if we hadn’t moved, was the Domtoren cake pan. How cool is that?! They’ve been out for a few years now and I absolutely love it. I knew I couldn’t leave Utrecht without one.

Next on my list was one of the wooden Domtoren ornaments from Noest. They make a variety of items, from decorations to cutting boards, using wood from Utrecht trees (trees that had to be cut down anyway). I had originally tried to get this decoration at the Zelfgemaakte Markt the weekend before, but they didn’t have this particular one. The only ones left that I wanted at the VVV were actually on a display, but fortunately I was able to purchase one of those. Still, the other one is pretty nice. It’s a silhouette of famous buildings around the city.

Finally, I couldn’t resist a Domtoren figurine. Maybe I’ll get my own bell-jar display for it like Utca’s Finest has in their front window. Regardless, I can make sure I still see the Domtoren every day, just as I do now. I’m going to miss that toren.

The Missing Nave

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This is a different view of the St. Martin’s Cathedral than I usually get, but it does give you a better sense of just how big the cathedral was when it was complete (or close enough). The part that remains is the transept (the part that essentially forms the arms of the cross of many churches) and the apse (the usually rounded bit at the top of the cross/church). As I’ve explained before, the nave (or main body of the cathedral) was destroyed in a storm in the 1600s. It reached all the way to the Domtoren, which is just out of sight on the far left of the photo. Seeing the church from this angle really does give a better sense of just how big it was and just how much was lost in the storm.

Plus, bonus bakfiets (the sort of wheelbarrow bike) on the right!

See You Later Alligator

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Not my usual picture of Utrecht or the Domtoren. This one’s a bit grey and gloomy, especially when you look at the Domtoren’s clock and see that it’s 12:30, as in midday. That’s about as bright as it got yesterday, though at least it didn’t rain.

This past weekend was the seemingly citywide Christmas market festival. Mariaplaats, Stadhuisplein, Neude, Janskerkhof, Twijnstraat and other locations were hosting a variety of festivities. I usually enjoy it, but it didn’t seem as fun this year. The Zelfgemaakte Markt at Mariaplaats was great, as always, but the Stadhuisplein was pretty empty, while Twijnstraat was bigger and busier than ever, to the point that it was too crowded. We got our traditional cup of gluhwein and headed away from the crowds to sit and enjoy the mulled wine by the canal.

Perhaps the grey weather and the not-quite-so-enjoyable Christmas markets were Utrecht’s way of making me feel a little less sad about leaving.

Yup. We’re moving on. It’s not really what we had expected or planned, but it is what’s happening. After eight years in Utrecht, we’re now moving to Italy. In one month exactly. Stressful, depressing, and by the way if you need any furniture, kitchen odds and ends, it’s all for sale and we still have to pack and get the pets’ passports and ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

We’re heading to Bologna next, where I plan on doing some more blogging. After all, I have a degree in art history with an emphasis on Italian Renaissance architecture, so if you think I did a lot of research on stuff here in Utrecht, you can imagine what I’ll be like there!

Still, I’ll miss Utrecht and the Domtoren and the Domtuin/Pandhof and the Spoetnikkijker. I certainly have plenty of photos of them all to remember them by, but it won’t be quite the same. But Bologna is a stunning city and I’m sure I’ll find some new favorite spots.

I certainly hope to do a little more blogging here, as there’s stuff I’ve yet to get around to posting about and a few things I want to see one last time or see before I leave. I’ll keep this blog up, too, as it still gets its fair share of visitors. And hopefully some of you will follow me virtually to Italy. Last time I was there I was using film and not a very good photographer. I can’t wait to improve on all of my grainy photos!

Ciao!

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Utca’s Finest

Utca's Finest
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
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
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!
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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!
Utca's Finest

Sint Maarten’s Fest

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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.
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade
Sint Maarten Parade

Pandhof Sinte Marie

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By the Mariaplaats, on the western side of town, not far from the train station, is the Pandhof Sinte Marie, or St. Mary’s Courtyard. It’s part of the remnants of a covered walkway and monastery garden that was part of the Mariakerk (church) that once stood in the area.

The sunken garden is a beautiful, peaceful oasis in the city, much like the courtyard next to the cathedral. It’s one of those places to simply go and relax and ponder life.
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The last time I was there, I was pondering the colonnade (the covered walkway) that runs along two sides of the garden area. The Romanesque style colonnade — and colonnades in general — will be taking on greater meaning in my life in the future.

More on that to come …

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Back to School Festivities

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There have been signs since this weekend that our park was going to be hosting some sort of event. By Monday morning, our usually empty park with room for Charlie to meander suddenly got a lot smaller and less conducive to free-range Charlie.

It seems that the peace and quiet we’ve been enjoying over the summer is a thing of the past. The students are returning and various student associations are taking over any open spot available.

One sign does seem to be encouraging vaccinations, which is always a good thing, but perhaps a bit more schooling is needed, or at least a few more spelling lessons. I think they’re missing a T. Though hopefully it’s all part of a joke, as I don’t think I’d want to get any vaccinations there!
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Anyway, aside from the usual DJs and beer stands at any event, this year’s theme for one of the groups seems vaguely southwestern/country & western in the broadest of terms. There are hay bales, a mechanical bull, and two teepees.
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return of the students

But that’s just one group, I think. In the field by the Stadsschouwburg, there’s more of a French flair with an inflatable Eiffel Tower. Though it still doesn’t hold a candle to our Domtoren.
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return of the students
As for Charlie, he gave the mechanical bull a few tentative sniffs this morning, but what he was really interested in was the Brood (bread) Company truck. He was giving any sniffer dog a run for it’s money, sniffing every inch he could reach! (He’s way up in the wheel well.)
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But the real love of his life is patat, or in this case, frites. He’s first in line! He’s not an aggressive dog, but I wouldn’t want to get between him and his fries/chips/patat/friet/frites. Met mayonaise, alstublieft!
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