What Do You Get Your City for Its 891st Anniversary?

It’s Stadsdag (City Day) once again, as Utrecht celebrates the day it was officially declared a city 891 years ago. It was 2 June 1122 when keizer Hendrik V (Emperor Henry V) granted official cityhood to Utrecht, although Utrecht’s history certainly goes back much further. Since the anniversary was on a Sunday this year, it was easy to tie in the celebration with the monthly Cultural Sunday events. This month’s theme was Vocal Kabaal, with singing to be heard almost everywhere you went. From small a capella performances to rap battles to thoughtful singer/songwriters, the options were numerous and in multiple languages. Dutch and English were obvious, but there was also a Portuguese fado singer performing at the Winkel van Sinkel.


We stopped first at the Stadhuisplein where an opening ceremony was taking place. The four singers we saw were impressive and I really enjoyed listening to their more operatic performances. As the Stadhuis was the location of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, it’s perhaps no surprise that there were a few people wandering around dressed in period costume.

As the weather was cooperating and the sun was shining, we decided to head over to Mariaplaats and the Pandhof Sinte Marie (a lovely cloistered garden). There, we came across multiple groups of performers. A small group was doing a lively performance of 1950s-60s style classics. Lots of fun and appealing to fans of all sorts!
Just around the corner, another group was performing in front of the conservatory, with numerous international music students watching the performance.
We also stopped in briefly at Flora’s Hof to enjoy yet another performance in a lovely garden area. The weather just seemed perfect for outdoor performances with nature providing a lovely backdrop. In all, it was a great day to celebrate a wonderful city!

Let The Cultural Season Begin!

Het Utrechts Archief
Every year, around the beginning of September, Utrecht holds a big party to kick off the beginning of the cultural season. The Uitfeest, as it’s called, sees a smorgasbord of cultural events taking place all over the city. There are special exhibits, dramatic performances, literary discussions, dance lessons, city tours and much more. This year’s Uitfeest was held this past Sunday and G and I took advantage of the day to go to Het Utrechts Archief (The Utrecht Archives) to finally see their 3D Expo showcasing old photos of the city dating back to the mid 1800s, all in 3D.

They have special viewers set up throughout the exhibit area, with sets of photos dating from the 1850s to the early 1900s. All are beautifully done to give a wonderful 3D effect, making it all seem much more real and immediate. I loved seeing a couple of old photos of my neighbourhood and seeing how little has changed in some ways!

We also got to watch (in regular format) some old pieces of film footage of the city, with clips dating back to the time of Queen Wilhelmina, the current queen’s grandmother. There was also a section showing the Catharijnsingel (canal) being filled in to turn it into a roadway. That same roadway is now being turned back into a canal.

Old Music

After spending a couple of hours at the Archives, we wandered through various other spots around town, enjoying the sights and sounds. The Domplein was filled with people taking special tours that highlighted the city’s 2000 years of history. It’s also one of the locations where the Old Music Festival is also taking place. Each year, they build a different gold/yellow gate (seen above) into the pandhof as part of the festival.

Salsa at the Vismarkt
Walking along the Oudegracht, we saw salsa dance lessons being given at the Vismarkt. The lessons were given by one of the local latin dance groups in town. Anyone could join in.

Next we headed to the Stadhuis (old city hall), because there was a small photo exhibit I wanted to see. It was 30 photos of 30-year-olds in 030 (the area code for Utrecht). The square behind the Stadhuis was packed with different groups. There was a literature display, various dance and drama groups, a bus promoting Utrecht’s bid to be one of the Cultural Cities of 2018, food vendors, and much more.

Red Carpet Festivities

There were also performers on unicycles and acrobats who stopped along the way to perform various feats. They seemed to be heading toward Neude, which is where we were heading, but we lost them somewhere along the way!

Our last stop was in Neude, where there were concerts and fashion shows and other events taking place all day. In all, there were 150 various cultural events/installations and there were more than 55,000 people in town to enjoy them all, up 5,000 from last year. The arts are alive and well in Utrecht! If you’re interested in seeing the 3D Expo at Het Utrechts Archief, the exhibit is open until the end of October.
Concert at Neude

Foto Vrijdag 2.37 Sunday Edition

Rhythm & Balloons
Best laid plans of mice and men and all that …

I had intentions of doing some writing here this week, but somehow it just didn’t materialize. It’s been one of those weeks. I spent all week meaning to upload my photos from last Sunday’s Uitfeest event here in town, but didn’t get that done until this morning. Oh well. Better late than never!

Now that I’ve used up all sorts of clichés and trite expressions, here’s your belated Foto Vrijdag picture. There was a Spanish group performing at the Domplein last Sunday, and I caught this shot of the bass player and the colorful balloons that were all over the Domplein. The Uitfeest is the annual opening celebration of the start of the cultural season. In fact, the Netherlands Film Festival opens this week here in town. Maybe I’ll get to see a celebrity again this year. Is Michiel Huisman in town this year?

Friendly Promotion

Lovely Birdie [Day 143/365]
As I mentioned previously, the Utrechtse Fabriek, an indie craft show took place this weekend (well, Sunday and Monday, but Monday was a holiday) and I stopped by on Monday to see what was on offer and to see Kerryanne’s display. I’ve always admired her work on her blog and her website, so it was nice to finally see it in person. Over the holidays, she had posted some photos of little crocheted birds that I thought were adorable. Fortunately for me, she had some for sale at the Fabriek and I was able to pick one up. Isn’t he/she cute? I need a name (and a gender), though. Any suggestions?

Later on that day, we did head over to the Domplein to see the UDans that I posted about, even though I never did get around to attempting to learn the choreography. Unfortunately, the big dance wasn’t happening until later, it seems. We stuck around for a while to watch some of the other dance performances, but I had spent the day lounging in the sun and was quite sleepy as a result, so we soon headed home. There was a pretty large crowd there, though, so I’m sure it was quite a sight when everyone got their chance to shake what their momma gave ’em!
Waiting to Dance

Cultural Monday

We have a monthly Cultural Sunday event here in Utrecht that changes themes each month. This month, the theme is dance. This month, the event is also taking place on a Monday, instead of Sunday. Must be due to the Pinksterdag holidays. If you like to dance, you really may want to come to town tomorrow if possible. At 17:00, there’s going to be a big group dance at the Domplein, with participants — and that can be anyone — doing a choreographed dance. It’s kind of a fun idea. There’s even an instructional video so you can (try to) learn the choreography. I think I may try to talk G into going over with me tomorrow. I’m awful at learning choreography, but I still think this could be a fun thing to see!

Some Win and Some Fail

Yesterday, or perhaps this morning, I had a great idea for a blog post. Now? I have no idea what it was, nor even when I had the idea. Fail.

The sun is shining, the temperature is 17C, and it’s Culturele Zondag (Cultural Sunday, a monthly Utrecht event). Win!

Pippo and I went for a long walk today around the Nieuwegracht, Nieuwestraat, Oudegracht, and lots of smaller side streets. Win!

We were originally aiming for Twijnstraat, so I could get a photo of a building that has “De Olifant” painted on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up going the route I had originally planned and it got too busy with people and dogs, so that Pippo was getting overexcited. Fail.

We did get to the Domplein, which was my other goal for the walk, since I knew that there were some Culturele Zondag events going on there. Win!

I thought there was supposed to be some sort of sculpture installed for the day, but either it wasn’t up yet, or it was just a bunch of doors lying flat or propped against some stuff. Fail.

There was some music being played, though, by some people singing and playing guitar. Quite pleasant. We also came across some at Pieterskerkhof, which we passed on our way home. Win!

I didn’t get any photos of any of this, because toward the end of the walk, realizing I hadn’t taken any photos at all, I decided to at least get a shot of one of the side doors of the cathedral. When I turned on my camera, I suddenly found out that I had forgotten my memory card at home. Along with my brain, it would seem. Fail.

Pippo and I still had fun and he got a few compliments along the way and we generally had a gezellig time. That outweighs any minor failings. Win!

I hope your weekend is full of win!

Cultural Sunday

For the first time in days, we had sunshine today. A nice break from the rain we’ve been having for the past week, and the rain it looks like we’re expecting next week. Today also happens to be the monthly Cultural Sunday, which has a changing theme each month. This month the focus is on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We took advantage of the sunshine and headed over to the Stadhuis (the old city hall) by the Oudegracht to see the temporary wall that is being built on the square. Many of the blocks making up this wall feature comments from people in regard to the Berlin Wall and the lack of freedom many experienced as a result. One comment that I saw was from someone whose parents were Hungarian and who didn’t have the freedom to travel at will. This person, however, does have that freedom and says to appreciate the freedoms we have now.

We also went into the Stadhuis to see if there was anything that we could look at/take part in, that didn’t require an understanding of Dutch. Not much luck, but we did get to see some animation stills that are on display as part of the Holland Animation Film Festival also going on this week.

After wandering around for a while, we decided to stop at the Winkel van Sinkel and have a coffee on the terrace before heading over to Albert Heijn for a bit of grocery shopping. It’s that time of year again when a few more shops — especially grocery stores — are open (or open earlier) on Sundays. It seems to last through the holiday season. Just long enough to get you used to it to make you than miss it when everything goes back to the closed-on-Sunday hours in the new year.

Election Coverage

Strange Finds in the Netherlands

Today, while at the theater, we made a surprising discovery. On the landing outside of the room we were in was a postcard stand with a variety of free postcards. These were some of the ones on offer. Imagine my surprise. A pleasant one, to be sure. I’d meant to get one of these Obama posters or tees before moving, but never got around to it. I love the design. The Bush card took us a moment to decipher — the Arabic style of text is more distracting when first seeing the card — but then we got a laugh.

There are at least two places here in Utrecht where we can go to watch the election coverage if we so choose. Tivoli (one of the big music clubs in town) is doing a huge, all-night event, as is Mick O’Connell’s, the Irish pub nearby. We may go to Mick’s for a little while that night, or we may just stay home and watch the coverage — for a while, at least — and then go to Café de Potdeksel the next night either to celebrate or to drown our sorrows.