Festive Lights in Utrecht


Despite the foggy weather – I haven’t been able to see the Domtoren for about three days now – there are still the sounds of fireworks and firecrackers going off and I’m sure people will still give it a go at midnight for the usual fireworks extravaganza. On this last day of 2016, I thought I’d share a light show of a different sort. These are some of the decorative lights to be found throughout the city, starting at Neude, then heading over to the Stadhuis, and then back toward Janskerkhof.

May your oliebollen be plentiful, your fireworks be safe, and your 2017 be wonderful!







Foto Friday: Anne Frank

Anne Frank
As is so often the case on Sunday mornings, the day after the large flower market in Janskerkhof, the statue of Anne Frank is awash with flowers placed in remembrance. This particular Sunday saw an extra large display.
Anne Frank
Anne Frank

Time Travel: Janskerkhof and Bikes

janskerkhofhua(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)
This photo from 1959 shows the Janskerkhof during one of the weekly Saturday flower markets. That aspect hasn’t changed at all and it’s a stunningly beautiful spot to hold a flower market. In the shadow of the church and the trees throughout the square, the flowers in the market are just gilding on this historic space.

I love the hustle and bustle and bursts of color that fill the space on Saturdays, but I also love the serenity of the area on a quiet Sunday morning, when the only remains of the market are a few fallen flower petals and a new bouquet at the feet of the Anne Frank statue in front of the church. My present-day photos were taken on one of these quiet Sunday mornings. To be honest, I was interested in the row of bikes and the scooter that day. I only saw the old photo of the spot recently and knew I already had a comparison photo.
Janskerkof Fietsen
The area today looks much as it does in that photo from 1959, though they’ve gotten rid of most car parking in the square in recent years, though you will see the odd scooter. Even the lamp and bicycles look much the same, though the bikes now face the other direction to allow for a separated bicycle lane. Today, you’re just as likely to see people walking away with the same bouquets of flowers as cycling away, with flowers in hand, under the arm, or in bags or baskets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone leaving the market with a small potted tree strapped upright onto the back of their bicycle.
Janskerkof Fietsen
Janskerkof Fietsen

Time Travel: Janskerkhof te Utrecht

JanskerkhofAs you wander through the Utrecht binnenstad, if you look closely, you’ll probably notice a number of painted-tile images throughout the city. All are hanging on walls in public places, although some are easier to spot than others. It is worth keeping an eye out for them, as they are something like the city’s own version of my Time Travel posts. Each tile image is taken from old paintings of the city, depicting various important/well-known spots around town. Sometimes, there’s little change; other times, it is completely different. Either way, it’s fun to stand in the spot and compare then and now.

The tile images are an ongoing project, from what I can tell. One of the latest ones to go up is a depiction of Janskerkhof, as painted by Isaac Ouwater in 1779. The original painting belongs to the Centraal Museum, but if you go around the back (northern side) of Janskerk, you’ll find the tile version on display.Janskerkhof
On Saturdays, it can get lost amid the bloemenmarkt, but all of the flowers for sale also add to the charm of the setting and the flower market wouldn’t seem out of place in the painting. The painting shows a handful of people going about their daily lives and it really doesn’t look much different today.JanskerkhofA few things have changed since the painting, including the addition of the Willibrordkerk (the spire in the background of my photos) and many more trees. As a result, it’s hard to get a clear, full shot of the area, but behind the trees and the flower trucks, it really does look quite similar. Trust me when I say that the Janskerk is there on the left behind the trees, looking much the same as it does in the painting.JanskerkhofJanskerkhofHere’s a winter view of the square from much the same spot.Winter Sunlight
Here’s a view of the Janskerk itself: JanskerkhofAnd here is the building on the right of the painting. The building itself has changed, but the grand entrance is still recognizable.
Open Day [day 328/365]

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street (and Bicycle) Life in Utrecht

Street LifeThis week’s photo challenge theme is street life, which in Utrecht and most of the Netherlands, could easily be called bicycle life. It’s a rare moment that there isn’t a bicycle in sight, whether passing by or parked somewhere.

I decided to focus on one short stretch of street (approximately .2 miles), which is part of the main street that runs east/west through the old city center of Utrecht. Moving from west to east, you pass Janskerkhof, the square surrounding Janskerk (John’s Church), which is the big church-like building in the background. The street is closed to through traffic now, so the only real traffic comes from buses and bicycles. As you can see, there are specific lanes for the bicycles going each way, two lanes for the buses and occasional car, and sidewalks for pedestrians.Street LifeThere may be bicycles everywhere, but that doesn’t mean people don’t share a ride. Hopping on the back of the bike is done by everyone, both children and adults.
Street LifeIn the square in front of the church is the Broodje Mario shop stand. Mario’s is an institution in Utrecht, with the classic Broodje Mario made up of Italian meats and cheese and spicy vegetables, somewhat similar to a muffuletta in New Orleans. During the lunch hour, there’s usually a line of people and others milling about enjoying their sandwich. There’s no drive-through, but you can ride your bike practically right up to the shop.

Our final stop on this brief journey highlighting a small segment of street life in Utrecht takes us to Florin, a bar/restaurant popular with the university students. On Saturday afternoons, they host live music events, so it’s not unusually to see signs, banners, and people standing outside chatting. And of course plenty of bicycles parked outside.Street Life

Time Travel: Janskerk

(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.