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.

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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]

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Foto (Heavy) Vrijdag: Post Office Carvings

Europa
Along with the soaring ceiling and the beautiful glazed golden bricks that make the post office in Utrecht so stunning, the totem-like black carvings throughout make the interior something unique. Along both of the long walls are figures representing the continents (minus Antarctica). Each one features an animal at the base that generally matches up with the continent. Europa has horses, Australia has kangaroos, America(s) has bison/buffalo, Asia has elephants, and Africa has camels.
Afrika

Azie

Amerika

Australie

Kangaroos

There are additional animal figures at the ends of the buildings, including these Vikingesque creatures:
Vikingesque

And my favorite, olifanten (elephants)!
Olifant

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

That's gotta hurt!
It’s pumpkin season! In the US, I’d buy big pumpkins specifically to carve them up like this for Halloween. It’s tradition! However, I rarely actually cooked the pumpkin. Any pumpkin I needed I got from a can. Libby’s canned pumpkin puree to be exact. The recipe for pumpkin pie (the only way I ate pumpkin) was right there on the can’s label! Easy peasy!

Now I’m in the Netherlands and Halloween isn’t that big a deal. Neither is pumpkin pie. But pumpkin as a food stuff actually is quite common. Still, if you want pumpkin puree, you’ve got to make your own. There’s no canned stuff here. Well, the expat stores tend to carry it, but it’s about €7 a can!

As the weather has started to cool off significantly and the first scents of wood fires could be detected in the air today, I figured it was time to buy a pumpkin. Tis the season, after all! But this time I don’t plan on carving it up. I plan on cooking it up and making my own puree to use in a handful of recipes I’ve come across recently. So while I was at the store today, I picked up a pumpkin. It’s a bit smaller than usual, and I do miss the “pumpkin patch” buying experience (even if the patch was just the front lawn of one of the local churches). Still, just having it in the house makes me feel like autumn is really here. Now, I wonder if I have a knife small enough to do a quick carving.
Pompoen Seizoen