137 Kilometers From Paris to Utrecht

Tour de France Utrecht 2015
OMG, y’all! For the first time in more than a month, I left the house to go somewhere other than work! Six days a week, working two jobs, has left me little time or energy to do much of anything. But a quiet Sunday morning is one of my favorite times to go for a walk and with the heat abating a bit, as well, I set out for a short photo walk.

I had the Stadhuisbrug in mind today for a specific reason. Today is the last 137 kilometers of the Tour de France. Next stop? Utrecht! As I’ve mentioned before, Utrecht will be the site of the Grand Depart for the 2015 Tour de France. Various decorations, signs, and banners have been popping up around town already. The latest is this sculpture on the Stadhuisbrug.
Tour de France Utrecht 2015
I learned from experience when another sculpture representing the Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrecht) was in the same spot that it is best to go when few people are around, otherwise it’s almost impossible to get a decent shot. There’s always someone on it or in front of it. Fortunately, the people who were on it today were on the other side and don’t show up too much and the nearby tour group was focused on something else.

I managed to get it from a couple of angles, including with the Wilibrordkerk and its spire in the background, and one with a nice bit of shadow on the ground.
Tour de France Utrecht 2015Tour de France Utrecht 2015
I haven’t followed any of the race this year, despite my best intentions, but I really hope to get to see some of it here next year. They will be going down part of Biltstraat, although I think they turn off before they get to Vino Veritas, but I’d love to see them going under the Domtoren. Regardless, best of luck to the racers today. See you in Utrecht next year!
Tour de France Utrecht 2015

Graffiti Tunnel in Utrecht … or Is It Berlin or New York

Graffititunnel WestpleinYesterday, in one of the distance photos of the mosque, you might have noticed a wall of graffiti in the foreground. That wall is actually part of a tunnel — a bike tunnel to be more specific — in the Westplein area. As I mentioned, that whole area is undergoing a lot of transformation and the tunnel is meant to be closed off as work on the Van Sijpesteijnkade moves forward.Graffititunnel WestpleinHowever, it seems that the GroenLinks political party (literally GreenLeft, to give you an idea) is arguing that the tunnel should remain in some form, specifically because of its graffiti. As councilman Pepijn Zwanenberg explained, “This tunnel is known for the graffiti made by Utrecht artists, including KBTR.It is a unique place in the city, where you feel like you are in Berlin or New York.”Graffititunnel WestpleinZwanenberg sees the tunnel as part of the cultural heritage of the neighborhood and doesn’t want it to be lost. Rather than have the tunnel closed off, he suggests turning it into a space for a temporary or permanent gallery, music or exhibition space. To find the best way of transforming the tunnel, GroenLinks is recommending the creation of a design contest to get people directly involved.Graffititunnel WestpleinGraffititunnel Westplein
Source: Graffititunnel Westplein behouden

Warholian Giraffes

Warhol Giraffe
Did you know that giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans? I saw that bit of trivia this afternoon and decided today would be a good day to post this picture of what I like to call Warholian Giraffes. This piece of art caught my eye and I couldn’t resist a quick snap. I may end up creating my own elephant or flamingo version at some point.

As for giraffes, they, like us, have seven vertebrae. The difference is that theirs can be as long as 10 inches and they’re more flexible than ours because theirs aren’t connected in the same way. I bet you weren’t expecting to learn giraffe trivia from an Utrecht blog, but after all, Utrecht is known as the city of “kennis en cultuur” (knowledge and culture) and that’s exactly what you get with this post!

Mapping Street Art

Building Art
Although technically street art is illegal, it has become an art form in itself, to the point that some people are now decorating their own buildings/homes intentionally in this urban art style. The building above is an example of this, I believe. It’s along the northern part of the Oudegracht, outside the city center, just north of the Weerdsluis. I’m pretty sure this building was decorated like this by choice, otherwise, there must have been an impressively large, speedy group doing this!

Of course, not all street art is commissioned, but that doesn’t stop some of it from being truly fantastic. While Banksy is probably the best known street artist these days, there are plenty of people doing thought-provoking and visually interesting pieces. AVRO, a Dutch public broadcasting group that puts a lot of focus on art and culture, is putting together a map of some of the great street art of the Netherlands. So far, only one piece from Utrecht seems to be on the list. Hopefully more will be added, though. I suppose I should send them some photos!

Toot Toot

Blast

Letters of Utrecht

Street of Words
If you walk along the western side of the Oudegracht, around the 300/400 block, you may notice a string of letters along the edge of the street. Look closer and you’ll realize the letters form words and sentences and an ever-growing poem.

One letter at a time, one Saturday at a time, the poem grows. As long as there are patrons to purchase a letter, the poem will continue. Each Saturday afternoon, around 13:00, you can head to Oudegracht 309 (or thereabouts) and see the latest letter being carved and installed.

S

Work in Progress
I’ve been meaning to stop by for a while, so since we were in the neighborhood last weekend anyway for Sinterklaas’ arrival, we headed down to see a bit of the latest letter being carved.

If you’re looking for a gift that’s a little bit different, yet surprisingly permanent, consider purchasing a letter for someone. They cost around €100, but €10 goes toward a charity and the rest mainly goes for costs. Each stone is also marked with a number so that the recipient/donor can easily tell which is their letter. The sponsor can also have their name or initials carved on the side of the stone, although that won’t be visible once the stone is in place.

Installation

The project officially began on June 2, 2012, but they retroactively added letters so that the poem officially began January 1, 2000. Seeing a fair chunk of the poem already in place surely makes it more intriguing and appealing and allows potential sponsors to better understand the project. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s an official website in Dutch and English. It also has information on how to sponsor your own letter. When I have a bit of disposable income someday, I’d love to have a letter of my own. It’s a nice way to leave a cultured mark on the city.

If you’re in town tomorrow afternoon — or any Saturday — don’t forget to go watch the newest letter being put in place. The S that we saw was the end of a word (langs) so a new word will be starting tomorrow. Of course, you can see the poem whenever you want simply by walking down that stretch of the Oudegracht.

*****
If you like this post, or my blog in general, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a nice comment for me over at ExpatsBlog. We’re in the final stretch for the blog competition with only a few days left, so you won’t have to read my begging about it any more. Promise! I’ve been truly amazed by the many many kind comments so many of you have already left and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. [Now closed]

Saturday Show

Save

An Illustrated Home

Elegant Architecture
Last weekend when we wandered around the city, visiting the various locations specially opened for Open Monuments Day, the first stop we made was at Achter Sint Pieter 4. This building was once part of the enclosed area that was part of the St. Peter church properties. I’m not sure how old the original building would have been, but part of the roof structure does date back to the 15th century. The building underwent renovation in the 17th and 18th centuries creating a complex of wings to building, surrounding a courtyard. It also features a staircase tower, with the staircase dating to the 17th century.

Elegant Architecture
The building is now a mix of offices and private residences, one or two of which are currently on the market. What a beautiful building to call your home! It’s also literally just around the corner from the cathedral. These first two photos show the entrance foyer. They are very much in the Italian Renaissance style, particularly reminding me of the Pazzi Chapel in Florence, which is decorated with the grey pietra serena against white walls, with inset paintings. I’m unclear as to the date of this particular painting, though. The facade of the building was redone in the 18th century.

The doorway on the right leads to a 14-meter hallway that leads to the courtyard garden area. The hallway is topped with a decorated barrel vault ceiling. The paintings on the ceiling supposedly date back to the 17th century, although I’m not sure if they are original or simply reproductions of what may have originally been there. Regardless, they certainly have a certain similarity to many of the simple decorative ceiling paintings of that period.
Ceiling Art

Ceiling Art

Ceiling Art

At the end of the hallway is the door to the garden courtyard. While we were out there, looking around, we were joined by a dog who belongs to one of the residents, I believe. He was a friendly, handsome little fellow who was more than happy to have some attention and scritches from both G and me. He perfectly capped off our visit to the first of the monuments that day.
Brave Hond

Dog Days of Summer

The Thinker
On Sunday morning, I rode over to the park area by the Sonnenborgh Observatory. I wanted to take some more photos of my favourite Spoetnik Kijker (Sputnik Watcher) statue and have another look at the Hiëronymus Gasthuis that I posted about the other day. It was also just a nice day to go for a bike ride. I’m still primarily a walker, but I’m getting more comfortable with biking, as long as I don’t have to deal with the busier streets.

The small park where the statue is located really is a beautiful, peaceful area and somewhat unusual in that it is bordered on one side by a hill. Admittedly, it’s a man-made hill, but it’s still a large mound of earth. It was originally part of the walls that surrounded the old city center. The observatory and a couple of other buildings now stand on the top of the earthen wall, although some of the brick wall still remains.

As I was taking photos of the Spoetnik Kijker and his faithful, if somewhat distracted canine friend, I couldn’t help but be distracted myself by the games of chase going on in the other part of the park. There is almost always at least one dog playing fetch every time I go to the park and Sunday morning was no exception. There were at least three dogs running around, chasing each other and the balls being tossed about.

Playtime

However, as I moved closer to the dogs to get a different angle of the statue, the furriest of the chasers seemed to take issue with my presence. He slowly began walking toward me (although I should point out I was on the other side of the street and nowhere near them!) and began baying. Amused, I couldn’t resist getting a quick shot of him, before deciding to put him at ease and walk back from where I’d come. Fortunately, I was finished taking my photos, because he didn’t seem to want to stop baying and howling! I decided it was time to hop back on my bike and leave him free to focus on his game of fetch.

Guard Dog

Close Encounters of the Silly Kind

Urban Invasion
Utrecht seems to attract UFOs. First there was the one that landed on the Inktpot back in 2000. Sure, they say it’s just an art installation by Marc Ruygrok for Panorama 2000, but I’m pretty sure* it was a real alien landing along the lines of Area 51, and they’ve simply chosen to hide it in plain sight.

In fact, there’s even a special Area 51 exhibit over at the Stadhuis going on right now that I’ve tried to see, but was prevented from investigating more closely.**

And now, there was a sighting last night of UFOs over Voorstraat/Biltstraat, right in my neighbourhood! I’m pretty sure the cats were signalling to their fellow aliens. Luna was behaving particularly weird last night. Of course, everyone knows cats are from outer space.***

I hope they’re not coming for me! After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen alien spacecrafts. They keep trying to hide them in plain sight, such as on a mountain in Tennessee.
DSC00952

I’m onto them, though. I’ve got my tin foil and my towels ready. Boy Scouts weren’t the only ones taught to be prepared!

*I’m joking.
**I forgot they’re closed on Saturdays.
***This is completely true. Cats really are from outer space.