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

Augustinuskerk
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.
Augustinuskerk

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

Anne Frank
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!

 

The Return of the Canal

The continued return of the canal
Historically, a canal has ringed the old city center of Utrecht. I posted last year about how a section along the western/northwestern side of town was drained and turned into a highway back in the late 1960s/early ’70s. Fortunately, they never got around to paving in the whole canal. Still, the road was still there when we moved here.

Fortunately, that side of town has been undergoing a massive renovation for eight+ years, though it’s got a ways to go still. Some bits I’m still a bit unsure about, but as things start to come together a little more, it’s all looking a better.

I wrote about how a large section of the canal was recently refilled (late last year/early this year), but it seems I never posted the few pictures I took. Probably because it was a rainy day and I only had my phone’s camera and a dog that didn’t feel like pausing for long to get a decent shot.

This week, I discovered that the section near the newly rebuilt Tivoli Vredenburg music hall (the one with all the circles) has had some updates and the water has been added there, as well. The picture quality remains lousy, because it was another rainy morning and Charlie wasn’t interested in stopping for long, and I still only had my phone. Still, you can see the start of things to come. The picture above is a poster showing what the final plans are and as you can see, the steps leading down to the canal on the left have just gone in. In the photos to follow, you’ll see the large central structure under construction. That area behind it all is part of the Hoog Catharijne shopping mall, which is a nightmare now with so much of it torn down and other bits being built. It was always easy to get lost and it’s even easier now!
The continued return of the canal
The continued return of the canal
Behind this view is the stretch of canal that has already been filled in.
The continued return of the canal
I managed to find the photos I took in January so you can follow the canal a bit.
This is looking toward the bridge where I stood to take today’s pictures. You can see that the large central construction is making progress.
The water returns
This is another bridge slightly further down (with bonus Charlie).
The water returns
And this is the bend in the canal along the northern section. I should go back and see what they’ve done with the dirt areas. Greenery would be nice.
The water returns

Modern Stripes in an Old Neighborhood

Old and New
The first time I wandered into Pieterskerkhof, a cul-de-sac-like area next to one of the churches in town, my eye was drawn immediately to this unusually modern, striped building set amid a wealth of traditional Dutch brick homes and buildings. I was dying to know more about it and see what it looked like behind those atypical stripes and smooth forms.

Eventually, I came across a mention of this building, known as the Van Schijndel House. Over the years, the home has occasionally been opened to the public as part of a few special tours, particularly on the annual Architecture Day organized by AORTA. Yet year after year, I’ve managed to miss this day and particularly this tour. This year is no different; it was just shy of two weeks ago.

Since it seems I am never going to see inside with my own eye, I can be grateful that local writer and architecture enthusiast Arjan Den Boer recently wrote an informative article on the house. It is in Dutch, but you can get the gist of a lot of it using Google Translate, if you’re interested. I highly recommend clicking through to the article so that you can see some of the interior photos. It’s a stunning mix of light, space, and unusual angles, not to mention a few of my favorite Utrecht chairs by Rietveld.

To sum up briefly, architect Mart van Schijndel bought the property in 1988. At the time the buildings were being used as a garage and a graphics studio, though much of the entire closed-off neighborhood was in a questionable state of repair, with junkies hanging out in back corners and cars still being parked in the various garages. In the past, many of the buildings had served as coach houses for the more wealthy homes along the Kromme Nieuwegracht canal nearby. (The linked article has a photo of the buildings from 1974.)

Van Schijndel was a post-modern architect, but he appreciated classical architecture and included some light-hearted references to more traditional architecture, including the pediment. In fact, the building is really more modern than postmodern.

The focus seems to be on light and air with glass walls and open spaces, though you almost never look out at the city, only up to the sky. There are two patios to ensure there is always one to be enjoyed, no matter the time of day. There are also no purely white walls, though they may appear white at first glance. All have different tints to make the most of the light they receive throughout the day. Even the ceiling has a tint of red to capture the summer evening atmosphere.

The interior cabinets, doors and other features were just as carefully designed as the overall structure of the building. It’s no surprise that it won the Rietveld Award in 1995. Sadly, Van Schijndel died in 1999, but his wife, Natascha Drabbe, an architecture historian, remained. She has worked to preserve her late husband’s architectural heritage and does organize lectures, tours, publications, and has set up an international network of Iconic Houses, of which the Rietveld-Schro√ęder House is naturally a member.

The house and the architect’s stunning vision will live on. In 1999, the home was named a municipal monument, the youngest such monument in the country. It does seem that there are now tours by appointment on the first Sunday of every month. If you’re interested, you can contact info@vanschijndelhuis.nl. Maybe I’ll manage to see the inside of the house yet!
Mix and Match

 

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This is Rietveld

Gerrit Thomas Reitveld was born on this day, 24 June 1888, here in Utrecht. The son of a joiner, he would go on to become a world-famous architect, designer, and principal player in the development of De Stijl artistic movement.

In celebration of his birthday, I thought I’d share a few (okay, probably a lot of) photos of his work. Although you can find numerous works of his on display at the Centraal Museum here in Utrecht, you can see a wide array of his architectural works here in Utrecht and throughout the country, and you’ll often be surprised when you learn it’s a Rietveld.
This is a Rietveld
Side View
… but this white building is also a Rietveld.
Oudkerkhof
This is a Rietveld
Chauffeur's House 65.365
… and this is a Rietveld. He even lived on the upper floor for a while.
Colourful Rietveld
These are all Rietveld.
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Take a Seat
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Rietveld Steltman Chair
Lego My Chair
These are also Rietveld:
Warm Glow
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Even this is Rietveld:
Van Gogh Museum

As always, it’s a joy to celebrate the birthday of this tremendously talented artist and native of Utrecht.

Pride and Remembrance

IMG_3613Cities around the world have been remembering those who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week. While it is heart-warming to see the outpouring of support and love, it is heartbreaking that atrocities like these continue.

I was born in Orlando and lived there for the first 16 years of my life and while it has been a long time since I lived there, it will always be home. Having something so hateful and violent happen in my hometown makes it that little more personal, though I have LGBT friends who have sadly been the victims of violence on a much smaller but more frequent scale in a variety of cities.

Back in 2012, I wrote about the gay rights memorial here in Utrecht on the Domplein. At that point, gay marriage hadn’t been legalized in the US. In fact, one of the other states I used to live in was trying to make it very specifically illegal. Fortunately, that was something of a last gasp in the fight against marriage equality for all and gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Of course, the rights of transgendered people have since become the new battle. One step forward, two steps back is how it sometimes feels.

Yet for all the ugliness, there have certainly been large steps forward overall. IMG_3614Pride parades continue to grow and more people stand in support of equal rights for all. Utrecht has an annual Midzomergracht Festival, in its 20th year, celebrating sexuality and gender diversity. At its start on Friday, it included a remembrance at the memorial in honor of those who died in Orlando.

Early Saturday morning, while Charlie and I were out walking, we ended up at the Domplein. The street sweeping machine was out cleaning up the square, but the flowers, cards, figurines, and candles remained atop the memorial. Many of the candles were still burning. It was a sobering, yet touching display. It is awful that so many innocent lives were taken, but it is heartening that they are being remembered and honored around the world.
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