Today is Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) in the Netherlands. It marks the 69th anniversary since the Germans surrendered at the end of World War II and signed the capitulation documents in Wageningen. There are various celebrations held throughout the country today, including here in Utrecht. Today is also one of the official days when the flag is flown and there are flags fluttering in the sunshine across the city and on most streets. Our neighbor is flying the flag and it looks lovely against the bright blue sky.
Although today marks the liberation of the Netherlands, the full component of allied forces didn’t arrive in Utrecht until 7 May (and later in other areas). However, in the days leading up to their arrival, food began to make its way into the city as part of Operation Faust. Food had been dropped by airplane in various cities in the country and then was gradually distributed to help feed the starving citizens of the Netherlands.
The Utrecht Archives has some photos of the early arrival of these important food deliveries, which I found particularly fascinating and poignant, as many were taken here in my neighborhood. This first one shows some of the trucks arriving on the eastern edge of the city center, having driven up Biltstraat (in the background) and then crossing over to Wittevrouwenstraat. On the right is the turn to Lucas Bolwerk.
In fact, in this next photo, you can see the trucks lined up along Lucas Bolwerk. There’s a narrow park that runs along this street, with the city ring canal on the other side. It’s where we used to take our dog Pippo every day, so it’s an area I know very well. That makes it seem that much more real and not just a historic photo.
The final photo is of an allied motorcyclist riding up Voorstraat in the last few days leading up to the liberation of Utrecht. From the waves of the hats, he was surely a wonderful sight to see. And once again, it’s a street I know so incredibly well — in fact, we walked along there on King’s Night last week — which makes it more personal and yet still so hard to imagine.After the liberation of Utrecht, a tree was planted on the south-eastern side of the city, in the park area at the end of the Nieuwegracht. It’s where my beloved Spoetnikkijker statue now stands. The Bevrijdingsboom (Liberation Tree) has a painted, ironwork sign in front of it to mark its commemoration of the liberation of Utrecht and the country in May 1945.Direct links to the photos:Wittevrouwenstraat
(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)
While looking through the online version of Het Utrechts Archief, I came across this 1730 image of Janskerk (St. John’s Church). The church itself was first founded in 1040 by Bishop Bernold and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In the early-mid 1500s, the church was expanded, and in the 1970s, it was heavily restored. Yet when you look at this image, it’s fascinating to see how little really has changed, at least since this drawing was done.
I tried to get as similar a view as possible, but it’s a surprisingly large church and because of the buildings across the street from the church, I wasn’t able to step back any further to show the surrounding area. In the original drawing, there are just trees, although I’m not sure that isn’t just a bit of artistic license. Yet it’s not that different from how it is now. The square that surrounds the church, known as Janskerkhof, is quite large. In fact, that’s where the weekly flower market is held and the area to the right, behind the apse, is where the Christmas trees are for sale each year.
The church is still used for services every Sunday, but it is also used for a variety of events, both public and private. It can be rented for special programs and is also the usual home of the World Press Photo Exhibit when it comes to Utrecht. It is also a part of the Trajectum Lumen light art installations, with multiple designs in place, both on the grounds, and special changing lights inside the church.
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.
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.
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.
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.