Utrecht, the city, is made up of a number of smaller neighborhoods. Today, they’ve all converged in my neighborhood for a parade, dinner, and party in the park. This is the kickoff to a weekend-long celebration called Vrede in de Buurt (Peace in the Neighborhood). More to come!
If you can get to Utrecht on Sunday afternoon (26 August) and you like mussels, head to Lucasbolwerk (over by the Stadsschouwburg) for the second Mosselfestival. The cafés in the area (De Potdeksel, Tilt, De Stad, and Zocher) are hosting an outdoor festival with Zeeuwse mussels, and local wine and beer. A good-size portion of mussels costs just €3.50.
We went last year and were very impressed with how nicely the mussels were cooked, with a perfect blend of seasoning. De Leckere beer will also be on hand again, so you can probably drink a Wittevrouwen bier next to Wittevrouwenstraat.
The event starts at noon and Utrecht writer Jerry Goossens will officially open the festival at 14:00. The event lasts until approximately 20:00. There will also be a bouncy castle for the kids to play. You can find more information at utrechtsmosselfestival.nl. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!
Yesterday morning, after taking Pippo out first thing, G told me about a building made only of beer crates that some students were constructing in Zocherpark, in front of the Biton and Unitas student associations. Curious, and wanting some photos, I went with G and Pippo during the afternoon outing to witness the festivities — and the completed structure — for myself.
You see, yesterday began UIT2011, the week-long event that welcomes old and new students to Universiteit Utrecht and the high schools. There are events all over the city, including parties, concerts, tours and much more. The city’s population felt like it doubled yesterday, with packs of young students everywhere you looked, spurred on by the rare and beautiful weather we were having. The student associations near us were hosting their annual introductory parties, with all sorts of seating set up outdoors, beer stands everywhere, decorations, and even a mechanical bull!
One of the decorations they had set up was an incredibly long building made up of nothing but plastic beer crates, a tarp and some bungee rope. It was certainly the standout decoration in the park, even more impressive than the large inflatable owl that was there last year and making a return performance this year. I wasn’t clear as to what was actually meant to be going on inside the building, but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.
Imagine my surprise this morning when G came in from taking Pippo out and told me that the whole thing had burned down and that a car had been caught in the inferno! It seems that some time around 5 a.m., a passerby saw the flames. By 8:30 a.m. this morning when G saw it, the fire trucks (brandweer) were gone and all that remained was a small corner of the beer-crate structure. Fortunately, none of the actual buildings on the street were damaged, and it doesn’t sound like any people were injured, although there are suspicions of arson. I suspect idiot arson, rather than truly malicious arson. Hopefully! One car did get caught up in the fire and it’s front end is just a husk.
The area was cordoned off and police and what looked like a fire investigator were there looking over the remains and talking to some of the association’s students. Still, a little fire isn’t going to stop the festivities. As the investigation was going on, set-up for the day’s activities continued. The concert scheduled for this evening will also go on as planned. Lucky us.
Hopefully today is drama-free. Yesterday wasn’t exactly a great start to the introduction period, as three students were injured, one quite seriously, in an accident on an open-top double-decker bus. Added in with the fire, and things have been perhaps not gone quite as smoothly as organizers would want. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured students and hope the rest of UIT2011 is fun, informative and most of all, safe!
As I mentioned Sunday, we were planning on heading out to the first (of many, hopefully) Mosselfestival right here in our own neighborhood. Horeca Lucas Bolwerk (a collection of bars and cafés in the neighborhood) organized this lovely mussels festival. It ran for about seven hours in total and seemed to have a fairly constant stream of attendees. We went shortly after 2 p.m. and were immediately struck by the delicious smells emanating from the pots of cooking mussels.
We soon grabbed a couple of portions, which were quite generous, and picked up a couple of beers from the De Leckere Brewery stall. The mussells were beautifully seasoned and cooked. Just a nice kick of pepper and lots of natural flavor. I was really impressed with just how well they were done for such an event.
The street was closed to traffic, so they were able to set out lots of tables on the street, each table with its own garbage bag to keep things neat and clean. There was an accordion player wandering among the tables, and there was a bouncy castle for kids to play in. Sadly, there were no special play areas for the dogs we saw there. They were kept entertained by the possibility of stray mussels, I guess!
I joked with G that I guess this was a bit like a Dutch version of a crawfish boil or a New England clam bake. The women working at the mussels stall were all wearing old-fashioned lace caps — along with t-shirts and jeans! It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and a nice breeze, and by the end of the day, all the trash was cleaned up and neatly piled away for the garbage collectors the next morning. All in all, it seemed like a success.
This would have been more useful if I’d posted it before today, but hey, if you’re in Utrecht today and want some mussels and tasty beer (De Leckere brouwerij) and wine, come on over to the eastern edge of town today for the Mosselfeest, organized by some of the cafés and restaurants on Lucas Bolwerk. The festival started at noon, but the official opening is at 2 p.m. and the event runs until 7 p.m. The street is blocked off to traffic, so you can wander around and enjoy the food and the scenery along the Wittevrouwensingel and you can stop in at Café de Potdeksel, Café de Stad, Tilt Café or Brasserie Zocher throughout it all. We’re heading over in half an hour or so (we’ll be recording Wimbledon to watch later). Oh, and kids are welcome. They’ve got a bouncy castle, too.
Today’s the day of the wine tasting, and if you’re coming in from out of town, the easiest way to get to the Café de Potdeksel if you’re coming in by train is to take the bus. You can take Bus 4 (destination Burg Fockema Andreaelaan), Bus 11 (destination Uithof UMC WKZ) or Bus 53 (destination Zeist) and get off at the Stadsschouwburg stop. It’s a short ride, only five minutes or so. You could walk (about a 15 minute walk or so), and see a bit of the city, but with the rain today, the bus may be the drier option.
In the photo above, the far right is where the bus stops for the Stadsschouwburg. Be careful crossing the street, since that section has seen a few accidents in the past months. In the middle is the Stadsschouwburg itself, and on the left, between the bicycles is Lucasbolwerk, the street you need to walk down. The Café de Potdeksel is at the end of the street. The main entrance is at the terrace end.
If you click on either of the photos posted, they each have notes on them that may help clarify directions. We look forward to seeing those of you who are coming!
I went to Den Haag yesterday to meet up with friends, and in the process forgot that it was Friday and that I should post a photo. So here’s one last Film Festival photo, a day late. I didn’t take a ton of photos yesterday, but hopefully a few turned out decently. I’ll post them if they’re worth it.
Unfortunately, Sunday was a rainy day here in Utrecht, so despite the fact that it was koopzondag (shopping Sunday), there were few people about. I had gone out earlier to try to scout a good location, but wasn’t having much luck, other than in getting myself soaked in the rain. I really wanted to include some sort of clock in the image, to emphasize the particular moment in time element, but also wanted something at least somewhat attractive. I would have loved to include the domtoren somehow, but it was just too wet to go traipsing about any further. I originally tried a photo at one of the bus stops, but it just didn’t turn out very pretty, so I quickly rushed over to Lucasbolwerk to get this shot. I do like the building and I often hear the chiming of the bells at the hour and half hour, so it was relevant to me. You could say that I got lucky in getting the cyclists, since one of my other goals was to get people moving about in the image. Really, though, this is the Netherlands; how hard is it to get a shot with some cyclists. 😉
In the end, I was fairly happy with the image. It could have been much better and a bit sharper, but I figure it’s not bad considering I was also juggling an umbrella to try to keep the camera from getting wet! There’s a piece here in the New York Times Lens blog about the project and they should have more links up eventually with more photos from the project.
The mini park over on Lucasbolwerk, next to Wittevrouwensingel, is awash with flowers these days. Even the trees have got buds bursting forth from their bare branches. However, the tree buds look more like creepy aliens than beautiful flowers, at least at the moment! Thank goodness for the zoom lens. I didn’t want to get that close! It’s like something out of Alien or Little Shop of Horrors!
These are just a few of the trees on the hill by the Stadsschouwburg (city theater) that have these buds. Does anyone know what kind of tree it is that creates these creepy monsters? Still, it could be worse. They could smell as awful as Bradford pear trees. They’re beautiful when they bloom, but they smell horrendous!