A Flamingo in Italy

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The site is still a work in progress, but you can follow my new adventures in Italy at A Flamingo in Italy. The best way to keep up is to subscribe through email. Then you get a message in your inbox any time I add a new post. Don’t worry, you won’t get inundated and you also won’t get anything other than blog updates. Promise!

What you will get are pictures of Italian architecture, pictures of bicycles, because it’s become habit, and quite a few pictures of the wall art/graffiti that is everywhere in Bologna. And the occasional coffee and pastry, because they’re delicious!

To be honest, who knows what else you’ll get. I have a lot of city to explore and there could be all sorts of surprises! Follow along and see what I find.

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Time Travel: Voetiusstraat

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I thought I’d try to get at least one last Time Travel post in, even though I really should be writing for work, or packing, or doing dishes. I don’t even have a really good comparison photo, but it’s close enough.

What you see in the older photo is a view of a couple around 1900 walking along the north side of the cathedral, along what is Voetiusstraat. It’s a strange view if you’re used to the street now, because while the buildings on the right hand side of the photo remain (the one with the writing is now the delicious Carla’s Condoterie), the left has changed dramatically. I think it was around 1910 that the street was widened and the buildings on the left were constructed, particularly Voetiusstraat 2-4, which is a fairly impressive building done in the neo-Renaissance style. It was used as a public reading hall/library.

For the record, the street gets its name from Gisbertus Voetius, a 17th century professor of theology, whose house once stood there.

What is interesting about this section of street where Domstraat intersects with Voetiusstraat and the cathedral is the new herringbone brickwork that has gone down. It’s all more even and in an earthier, tawnier color. It really does look quite nice. I wish I knew how far it’s going to spread.

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In this slightly different view, you can’t see the buildings as clearly, but you can see the step into the cathedral that is visible in the old photo. The street levels do change a bit over the years, but the lamps remain much the same!
North Side

 

black and white photo via Het Utrechts Archief

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Holy Apartment

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There are plenty of jokes about not being able to go far at all without coming across yet another church in Europe. They’re everywhere! Though I grew up in the Southern part of the US which certainly doesn’t have any shortage, either. Yet sometimes there end up more churches than needed. Demand has dropped. So what do you do with these beautiful buildings? In some cases, you turn them into apartments.

St. Martinus, a former Catholic church, was built in 1901 by architect A. Tepe in the Neo-Gothic style. By the 1970s, it was falling into disrepair and it was around 1988 that it was converted into apartments as they stand now.

One side of the building looks out onto a street, but the other side looks out over the Oudegracht. On that side, there’s still a statue of St. Martinus.
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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!

Sint Maarten’s Fest

Sint Maarten Parade
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

Sunny Sunday and St. Augustine

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After a frequently grey and misty week, this morning was a real stunner with pure blue skies over Utrecht and nary a cloud to be seen. With the trees slowly turning their summer greens to autumnal reds, oranges, and yellows, taking a walk through the quiet Sunday morning streets was irresistible.
Augustinuskerk
Augustinuskerk
Charlie and I found ourselves at the Oudegracht and decided to head north and admire the classical architectural style of Augustinuskerk (St. Augustine Church) up close. I’ve always loved the soaring Doric columns and triangular pediment that frame the entrance, but as I looked beyond these eye-catching elements, I also noticed a Greek key pattern over the three doorways, as well as some ecclesiastical decorations overhead. The gold colors, even out of the direct rays of the sun still shimmered in the morning light.
Augustinuskerk
Augustinuskerk
However, as it was approaching 11 a.m., I was surprised to see the iron gates and the large green doors closed up tight. Not what you’d expect on a Sunday morning! It turns out the church suffered some interior roof damage, with pieces of the ceiling decorations having fallen. As it stands, there’s still investigation and repairs to be done before it is deemed safe to open to the public once again. Unfortunately, it may not be open before Christmas.
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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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Foto Friday: Anne Frank

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As is so often the case on Sunday mornings, the day after the large flower market in Janskerkhof, the statue of Anne Frank is awash with flowers placed in remembrance. This particular Sunday saw an extra large display.
Anne Frank
Anne Frank

Domstad Pride

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Hi! It’s me again. I haven’t been doing anything interesting, so there’s been a lack of drive to post anything. This post, though, is all about the potential to finally get some content for this blog again!

There’s a new exhibit at the Centraal Museum that I’m really excited to see. It’s all about the Domtower and the rich history of what has become a symbol of the city. In fact, Domstad (Dom City) is one of the city’s nicknames. Utreg, as seen in the picture above, comes from the local dialect (don’t forget the G is more of a guttural sound and not that far off the “cht” sound in Utrecht). When I eventually get to see the exhibit, I’m sure I’ll post about it.

What you see in the photo here is some sort of power/who-knows-what box along Nobelstraat that is covered in stickers. Charlie (giving it a sniff in the picture) and I couldn’t help but stop and appreciate the city pride in this batch of stickers, not to mention the international flavour. Too bad part of the sticker on the right is gone, but you can still see the ever-glorious Domtoren.

Speaking of which, the Secrets of Utrecht page on Facebook is doing a contest this week. They’ve posted various pictures people sent in of the Domtoren and the photo with the most likes will win two tickets to the DomUnder exhibit that is literally underneath the Domplein. DomUnder opened a couple of years ago, but when I tried to see it while some friends were visiting, it was fully booked. Since then, I haven’t gotten around to going. I’ve been planning on going soon, and winning the tickets would offer the extra impetus to go, plus I’m more likely to get G to go with me.

So if you don’t mind going to the post with my picture of the Domtoren and “liking” it, I’d be ever so grateful. Plus, it’s something else that I’m sure to write about once I’ve gone. Content! Real content! Two thousand years worth of content, in a sense. Romans! Tempests! And so much more!