A Hill

A Hill
Utrecht — and much of the Netherlands — is a flat place. Not a lot of hills or mountains, so sometimes I feel like I can tell you exactly where to find any hills or slight inclines that may exist in the city center. Most, if not all, are man-made.

One of the interesting things about most of these hills, though, is that they represent the location of some of the old city walls that protected the old city. In fact, this particular hill really is a leftover from the old walls. A small segment of the wall still exists just behind where I was standing when I took this photo.

Birds of a Feather

Bird Talk 16.365
The historic buildings along the Drift canal are going to have to wait another day, but since I am supposed to be offering daily photos of Utrecht, here’s one I took of a couple of pigeons yesterday. Just a chat between buurmannen (neighbors) or is that buurvogelen? 😉 They were perched on the railing of the small private bridge of sorts that connects the building to the street across a small canal.

Crooks and Action Heroes

There’s some renovation going on along some of the (historical) buildings along the Drift canal with some interesting and artistic artwork along the plywood panels. Many of the buildings along the canal are part of the university’s “campus” and I think the artwork may be done by students.
Action Hero
This part kills the editor in me, though, because I want to fix it every time I see it. It should be “coming outta nothing” for the slang version or “coming out of nothing” for the more appropriate English version. If they could just add in one more T, I would be happy.
I don’t know what BURNRS is.
Action and Ethics
From A to Z
It’s a fun and interesting decoration for what would otherwise be plain ol’ plywood and plastic sheets. I look forward to seeing the final product, even if it’s just cleaned up. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be showing a few more of the historic buildings along this canal.

Foto Vrijdag 2.50 Golden Arch

The snow they’ve been predicting off and on all week has arrived with a vengeance, it seems. Transportation seems to have ground to a standstill across the country. I’m glad we’re snug at home. Still, I think it’s warmer than it was Sunday when we went to the Christmas market (kerstmarkt). It was a cold but pretty day, with some beautiful golden sunlight toward the later part of the afternoon. I particularly liked the golden reflection on this bridge, which is at the very southern end of the old city center of Utrecht.

Unexpected Sights

Broken on the Oudegracht
I went over to the Oudegracht area today for a couple of reasons. First off, my main goal was to go to the Stadhuis to see the Trekhaak Gezocht exhibit. They have some photos and bits and bobs showing one man (and his dog) on a hitchhiking trip from Utrecht to the three European Cultural Capital Cities of 2010. The kicker is that he was hitchhiking with a caravan. As he headed from city to city, he had to rely upon the kindness of strangers to help tow his caravan from place to place. The website has a lot of info in English, so I do recommend checking it out. And if you’re in Utrecht, head to the Stadhuis before 1 November to see the exhibit. Plus, on 31 October, there will be a free showing of the documentary that was made along the way.

My second goal of the day was to head to Hema to get their infamous (and delicious) rooktworst. We’re having hutspot tonight! Yum! Lekker! *drool*

As I was wandering through the city (with camera phone, rather than full-on camera), I saw a few unusual sights. First was that broken umbrella hanging from a branch out over the Oudegracht, as seen above. I’m not sure if it blew away and happened to get caught, or if someone decided to toss it and managed to catch it on a branch. Either way, it was kind of pretty amid the few yellow leaves and against the reflection in the canal.

Yet I think the most unexpected sight I saw was the arrival of the holiday lights that are strung up over many of the streets here in town. Echt? Already? It’s not even November! I know the pepernoten has been out for a while, as have the chocolate letters, but somehow I thought the lights might wait a little bit longer.

Holiday Lights

Xtreme Dutch Sport

Top Jump
A few years ago, while watching The Amazing Race (at 4:09), I saw fierljeppen for the first time, although I didn’t know that name at the time, nor did I understand how big a sport it is here. Fierljeppen is an ancient Dutch sport in which competitors using a long pole jump from one side of a canal to the other. The origin stems from farmers doing this to get from one field to another.

Historically, the practice dates back to at least the 1200s, when the first written mention appears. The first major organized competition was in the 1700s. It’s particularly popular up in Friesland, which is where the term fierljeppen comes from; in other parts of the country, the sport is known as polsstokverspringen. Before you start imagining current competitors dressing in traditional costumes and everything being quiet and quaint, think again.
Finish Line
Nowadays, there are competitions sponsored by Red Bull, with massive crowds (I didn’t get any photos that truly give you the scope of how many people were there, but according to the Red Bull website, there were 13,000 spectators and G and I were two of those. We got there about an hour after it started and stayed to see the top eight jumpers go twice, including the setting of a new world record.

The basic idea behind the sport is to take a running jump, leaping and then climbing up a really tall pole (14 meters long in this case), before eventually (hopefully) landing on the other side of the canal. We saw a few competitors who managed to climb all the way to the top of the pole, some with better luck than others once they got up there. You’ve got to control the forward and lateral movement of the pole while you’re up there and it’s definitely much harder than it looks from all accounts.
Rising High

In the Air

Before they jump, they get to arrange the pole, first adjusting it to arm’s length out and then with an added distance achieve with some sort of measuring stick. To be honest, I don’t know the details on this, other than having watched all the competitors do it.
Setting Up

Final Adjustment

There are also divers in the water to help position the pole after each jump and to provide help to any jumpers who don’t actually land on the ground. We saw a few splashes yesterday, but fortunately, no one was hurt.
Diver Assistance

The whole event was filmed and televised, with interviewers on hand after jumps to talk to the competitors. There were also big screens on hand to show the crowd some of the different angles. I got some more photos and videos, but ultimately chose just to watch and enjoy. If the Red Bull website’s video of the event ever starts working, I’ll add a link to it. It was a beautiful day and the event was a lot of fun. I definitely recommend going to a competition if you ever get the chance. I’ll leave the jumping to the professionals, though.
Big Jumper
And the Red Bull video is finally up and working.

Foto Vrijdag 2.20

Boot en Bloemen
I had plans for posts this week, but I got sick Tuesday night with an awful stomach bug that’s not quite gone away yet, leaving me with no energy or patience for blogging, despite the ton of Keukenhof photos I have and other thoughts and ideas. Still, I hate to miss a Photo Friday, so here’s one of the photos from our visit to the Keukenhof. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get around to posting more about our trip to the famous gardens.

Foto Vrijdag 2.19

Along the Canal
We went to Oudewater last weekend to visit friends and take my parents on a little tour of the city. Unfortunately, it was overcast, but it was still nice to see some of the old architecture. Many of the buildings are registered historic sites. One of the things I love is how so many of the buildings lean one way or another. It’s like something out of a fairy tale.

Today we’re finally off to the Keukenhof, weather be damned. I’m sure I’ll have a ton of flower shots soon.