Stroke of Midnight

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
Last night, about a quarter to midnight, we headed out toward the Oudegracht to watch the fireworks that would be going off all over the city. Taking a somewhat circuitous route, despite the rain, we made it to the Stadhuis just in time for midnight, hearing crowds of people counting down the last few seconds. New Year’s Eve is rarely my favourite celebration, but it gained appeal last night as we stood there with the Stadhuis next to us, the Oudegracht running beneath us, and the Domtoren rising up above us. The fireworks were the icing on the cake, or the sparklers in the ice cream, as I’ve seen restaurants do here for special birthday treats.

We saw some great fireworks over by the Visbrug. I was staring up at the sky with a huge grin on my face, despite the frequent rain drops in the eye! We then went over to the Domplein to watch some of the smaller rockets being set off right in front of the Domtoren. Looking back the other way we could see more fireworks rising up over Mariaplaats.
Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Some of the best views came from the Maartensbrug, which gave us multiple views, both north to the Stadhuis and south toward the Donkere Gaard. While we were there, we were even offered oliebollen by someone going around with a big bowl of them. He may have been trying to get rid of them before they got too soggy from the rain.
Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar 1:365
Despite staying out until after 1 am and not getting to bed until after 2 am, I was still up early this morning at 8:30. So much for my hopes of sleeping in. The day was dark and rainy, but surprised us with sunshine this afternoon. We decided to take advantage of the nice shift in the weather and went out to take a little walk around town. We were one of many couples and families out for a promenade. I forgot to check if the Bacchus fountain at Janskerkhof was sporting a wine bottle again, but we did see the remains of the many fireworks. Empty containers and spent casings were everywhere.
Remains of the Night

Tonight we’re sticking with the Southern tradition of some sort of pork, some greens, and black-eye peas, all meant to bring luck, wealth, and general prosperity. Let’s hope it works this year; we could use some!

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Title inspiration via The Daily Post at WordPress.

Sounds of NYE in Utrecht

As I’ve said before, New Year’s Eve is the big time for fireworks in the Netherlands. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only at night or at midnight. Officially, they can be set off between 10 pm and 2 am, but in reality, they started going off about 7 am today. They’ve been pretty consistent ever since. They’re also getting louder as the day goes on. We’ve had a few close ones that sounded like major explosions in the past couple of hours. Pippo is getting tenser by the hour.

Around 11:45 am, as the bells were ringing and the fireworks were exploding, I thought I’d record it to give you a hint of what it sounds like all day here today. All the cracks and bangs you hear in the background are fireworks. My camera isn’t the best for recording sound, but you get the idea, especially after the 45-second mark when it gets particularly consistent and especially at the one-minute mark. At the very end, you’ll see why we have a hard time fully enjoying the fireworks.

As the bangs and booms continue, we’ve got ragu cooking on the stove ready to be made into lasagne for our dinner tonight. It’s become a tradition for us. We’re having a quiet night in and hopefully we’ll be able to stay awake until midnight. I hope you have a fun, injury-free evening, whatever your plans!

War Zone or Celebration?

Fireworks Display
It’s that time of year again. Today begins the official day when fireworks are legally for sale across the Netherlands. In theory, they’re to be saved until December 31/January 1, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. In reality, they’ve been going off sporadically for the past couple of weeks.

We were on Nachtegaalstraat this week and passed one of the bicycle shops, which seems to also serve as a licensed fireworks vendor. They had an impressive display in one of their front windows. Unlike the US, where fireworks are usually limited mainly to officially organized set events, here they are set off by your average Nederlander anywhere there’s space (or not) to set them off. And we’re not talking small firecrackers and the occasional Roman candle. We’re talking major starbursts and rockets and the kind of stuff I was only used to seeing at the official Fourth of July fireworks displays on the edge of town in the US. Here, I can see the same kind of display from my bedroom window.

Noise

The Dutch spend a lot of money on it all, too. It’s estimated that this year’s sales will be around €65 million. In a country with a population of 16 million. Sadly, the population does go down in numbers every year as a result of fireworks-related accidents. They’re trying to cut down on the number of illegal fireworks sold and there’s certainly a lot of reminders to be careful, but in the heat of the moment, things go a bit crazy. With all of the smoke from the fireworks, it truly does look like footage from a war zone.

I love watching fireworks, but sadly, our dog does not. As a result, some of my enjoyment of them is lessened, because it’s hard to enjoy them when your 70-pound dog is quivering and panting in fear. We try to distract him, but sadly there’s nowhere to go in the house where he won’t hear them. No mercy is right, unfortunately.

No Mercy

Thor

Spare a thought for Pippo this December 31. He’s not a fan of this holiday and a scarf over his ears doesn’t help dampen the noise. Trust me, we tried.
Poor Pathetic Puppy

New Year’s Leftovers (UDP)

Remains of the Day
I’m afraid the weather today isn’t really encouraging me to get out and photograph anything. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be more inspired. Instead, I present a photo from Sunday, showing some of the carcasses of the fireworks that went off at midnight. The street cleaners were quick this year and got a lot of the mess cleaned up before I got out to take a few photos, but they obviously hadn’t gotten this small side street yet. There were empty boxes of numerous fireworks, and of course, these paper leftovers from the firecrackers that they set off in the hundreds (thousands?). Still there’s something vaguely pretty about the reddish-pink paper. It’s a bit like confetti!

New Year’s Detritus

New Year's Detritus
I’m going to attempt Project365 this year, in which I take a photo every day. There are some groups where you take a photo of the same object every day, but I couldn’t decide on one item that I would want to photograph every single day. I’m hoping to at least get out and photograph something around the city every day, but for those days when I know I just won’t be able to, at least I can get a photo around the house.

I had a couple of nice shots of the cathedral today (maybe those will show up in future Foto Vrijdag entries), but in the end, I decided to go with this one, which seemed appropriate somehow. It was taken in the walkway beneath the Domtoren and shows one of the many piles of the wrappers leftover from the fireworks that went off all over the city last night. Plus, there’s the ubiquitous bicycle in the background. It’s not a Dutch photo without a bicycle!

I would have liked to have gotten a slightly different angle — lower perhaps — or a bit more focus on the wrappers themselves, but I had Pippo with me, as always, and he was restless. Plus, to be honest, it was quite breezy there, and the day was cold enough as it was!

Just Another Year

I just don’t like the New Year celebration. Never have. I don’t like the forced pressure of it, whether looking back, looking forward, or simply celebrating. So no end-of-year lists from me or resolutions.

Have fun, eat, drink and simply enjoy the moment. Our oliebollen are purchased, champagne is chilling and the ragú for the lasagna is bubbling away. If you’re in the Netherlands, try not to get blown up by all the fireworks! We’ve got mini ones going off in the street outside our house as I type. At least it’s keeping the dog and cats entertained! They’ve been staring intently out the window at the action below.

Happy Hogmanay and I’ll wish you a gelukkig nieuwjaar tomorrow!

Nieuwjaar

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

I hope everyone spent a pleasant evening saying goodbye to 2008 and welcoming 2009. So far, the year is going very well. Yesterday was a quiet, enjoyable day of doing little, finished off by a lucky meal of pork chops, hoppin’ john and sproutjes (I think they have collards or some sort of greens at the outdoor market and I’ll try to get some tomorrow, just because). At least the sproutjes (brussels sprouts) were green and tasty and surely a sign of some sort of luck or wealth! Today, we’re going to Oudewater for dinner with M and R — always a guarantee of a good time!

As for New Year’s Eve itself, we had our delicious traditional (for us) lasagna before heading over to the Potdeksel. It was a somewhat private celebration there, with roughly 40 people in all. It was one of the more low-key new year’s, in that there was no big noisy countdown, just people keeping an eye on the clock and then wishing each other happy new year at the appropriate time — and with Sjarrel en Sjaan’s video coming on, of course! (See one of my previous posts for the video.) I’ve never been that fond of the whole New Year celebration, but I enjoyed this one — no real pressure to be extra frolicy, just fun.

One of my favorite parts of the evening was probably the fireworks. I’m quite fond of fireworks in general and enjoyed the massive show I saw in Italy as 2002 was welcomed in. I knew there were going to be lots of fireworks here, but still wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of fireworks! They weren’t just the little ones  you get in South Carolina or other roadside stands in various places in the US. These were big, spectacular blossoms of fireworks like the “official” ones cities put on for the Fourth of July! And just done by individuals! Ridiculously dangerous, I’m sure, but at least there were no injuries in our immediate area that we knew of, and the police — although they were right there — didn’t interfere. In fact, I believe at least one of them got the traditional three-kiss greeting!

Which reminds me … In Italy, you do one kiss on each cheek when greeting someone, but here, it’s three kisses total: left, right, left again. At midnight, there were many handshakes and kisses exchanged by everyone and I remember one woman jokng with us that you could go outside and continue the practice all through the city if you wanted.

By the time we left the Potdeksel to head home it was close to 2 a.m., but the air was still heavy with all the smoke and smell from the fireworks. Luna, Lola and Pippo seemed ok when we got home. I’m sure they were a bit unhappy at midnight, but we weren’t too concerned, as various fireworks had been set off occasionally for the past week and they rarely paid attention. Thank goodness!