There’s a fun shop that has opened recently on the Oudegracht. It’s called Tiger and it sells a variety of odds and ends, all cheaply. I bought toothpicks and religious-icon candles, and want to go back for a bowler hat. They also have hair brushes, clocks, toys, cooking utensils, and yodeling flamingos. Yeah, that last one threw me, too, but it was one of the first things I saw in the store. Of course, when I think yodeling, I think flamingos, don’t you?
One of the frequent search terms people use that lead them to my blog is “beesie”. A beesie is one of the little toy thingies that the Albert Heijn grocery store was giving away during the World Cup period in 2010. The things showed up everywhere and we certainly had fun with them, using them as bracelets and hair ties, as well as home decorations. I still have a bowl full of them. Still, I’m always surprised when I find people still looking them up online. But then I see sights like this and think maybe it’s not so odd that people are still looking them up. After all, they’re still showing up in strange places, even after more than a year!
The other night, while cooking dinner, I suddenly heard this loud noise that seemed to be getting louder and nearer. The next thing I know, I spot two large horses out the front window, and they were pulling an old-fashioned beer cart. In fact, it looked a lot like this, at least from the quick, half-view that I had.
What struck me was just how loud it was! Between the clomping of the horses and the rattle and weight of the cart, it was surprisingly loud, especially echoing off the walls of our relatively narrow street flanked with tall buildings. We complain about modern noise levels, but if you stop and think about how loud it must have been here in the old city center when horses and carts were standard forms of transport, the modern noise levels seem downright quiet! That scooter that just went past as I was typing was kind of noisy, but it’s also faster, so the noise is quickly gone. Those horses take a bit longer. We could hear them as soon as they turned onto the street, and probably heard them most of the way down the street. Imagine if there were multiple carts, I think we’d have to yell to carry on a conversation in the house!
When you stop and think about the fact that cars, streetcars and horse-drawn carts were all in use at the same time, at least through the mid 1900s, it must have been madness! The past is an interesting place, but I don’t think I’d want to live there.
We stumbled across what may be Utrecht’s most unusual and fantastic store while out on Sunday. Those are, indeed, anatomical models of eyeballs and other body parts that you see in the photo. Van Leest Antiques (Mariaplaats 45) specializes in scientific and medical instruments, along with other related items. As you can see, they have plenty of anatomical models of various flora and fauna, but they also have scientific machines, including a Faraday cage and a “Leyden jar for a Tesla preparation”. They also have some wonderful medicine chests and apothecary jars and even skeletons and fluid-preserved specimens. It’s historic, informative, fascinating, creepy and so much more!
I had no idea this shop was here, but I’m thrilled to know it exists! In a world of chain retail outlets taking over, and smaller independent shops like the lovely Koek & Chocolade closing its doors here in Utrecht, it’s wonderful to know that something to unusual and niche is still here. Even if you can’t visit the shop yourself, do check out the website. It’s in both Dutch and English and is fantastic to click through all the amazing offerings. There are also better photos of the inside of the store. Unfortunately, I was limited to a few photos of the front window heavy with reflections of the surrounding area.
This morning, I knew snow had been predicted as a possibility, so when I saw tweets from friends mentioning snow on rooftops, I took a look out our window to see if we’d received any. No snow (fortunately), but I did see something rather unusual. If you look closely in that photo, you’ll see that there’s a small shrub sitting on the roof of the car.
At first I thought maybe someone had simply put it up there and forgotten to move it, as happens when you have your hands full when you’re getting in or out of the car, but then I realized that with the lack of a pot and the other clumps of dirt I saw on the sidewalk, it’s perhaps a Saturday evening prank of some sort. There’s no accounting for what seems funny when some people are drunk.
I was particularly taken with the reflections of the other trees on the car’s back window. In this shot, because of the angle, the little shrub on the rooftop seems to be looking toward its own future and seeing what it will look like when it’s all grown up.
I love shoes. Clichéd, perhaps, but true. I particularly love shoes with pointy toes and high, thin heels. Sadly, I don’t get to wear them as often here, because the brick sidewalks and streets like to grab on to those thin heels and not let go. It ruins the look to be strutting along and suddenly walk right out of your shoe.
But I might give it another try just to be able to wear these shoes! Hilarious and gorgeous, all at once! I do like the platform stilettos that are all the rage these days, so I already like the silhouette of these shoes. When you add in that they’ve been made to look like the traditional Dutch klompen (clogs), they become irresistible in a kitschy, sexy kind of way!
The annual Nederlands Film Festival has returned. Every year, for a week and a half, Utrecht is overrun with film makers and film buffs as a variety of films are shown at cinemas and theaters around the city. I’ve not gone to see any of the films yet, but I always look forward to the arrival of the huge Gouden Kalf (golden calf) statue’s arrival in the grounds in front of the Stadsschouwburg. The golden calf is the symbol of the film festival and a miniature version is given out to award recipients. It’s essentially the Dutch version of the Oscar.
They literally roll out the red carpet at many of the theaters around town, and this year they’ve rolled out the red bikes, as well. At various spots around town, you’ll see a bicycle painted red and with theater names and directional arrows — along with the calf symbol — to direct visitors to the event locations. As you’ll see in the next photo, this bike is directing visitors to the City Theater on Voorstraat, and to the Stadsschouwburg off Lucasbolwerk.
This evening, as we were relaxing on the sofa, watching the news about the austerity protests taking place in cities around Europe, we suddenly saw large groups of people walking past our own window. Was there an austerity protest going on right in front of us? An ironic one, considering the marchers seemed to be wearing golden cloaks? Nope! It was some sort of parade related to the film festival!
I’m not exactly sure what the parade was for, but it might have something to do with the Jubilee Evening festivities taking place tonight. I found a mention of a parade of fashion artist Aziz Bekkaoui, but I’m not sure they literally meant a parade. Either way, there are music, art and film celebrations at the Stadsschouwburg tonight, and that seemed to be the direction in which they were heading.
They were also singing as they walked along, and I realized that I knew the song! It’s a Dutch classic, although I admit that I know best the version that was performed at the first Nacht Van Het Vieze Lied (night of the dirty song) I attended. The song was Zing, Vecht, Huil, Bid, Lach, Werk en Bewonder (Sing, fight, cry, pray, laugh, work and admire) by Ramses Shaffy. I really do like this song, so for your listening pleasure, here it is!
“You’re travelling through another dimension. A dimension, not only of sign and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Next stop, The Twilight Zone.” – Rod Serling
That intro used for one of the seasons of The Twilight Zone seems appropriate for this unusual scene facing anyone going through the center of Utrecht today. Thanks to Kerryanne, I was made aware of this bus stop on the journey to wonder or madness and knew I had to head over and see for myself.
There are some amusing details throughout, including the uneven dresser, the bottles of beer, and the pictures of the Dutch national football team. You may find yourself thinking of classic student dorm rooms, and if you look more closely to the advert on the side of the bus stop, you’ll start to get the idea that this is just some elaborate advertising on the part of Rabobank, trying to get new students arriving in town to open accounts with them. Still, as far as advertising goes, it’s certainly entertaining and eye-catching.
Sorry, didn’t mean to go all War of the Worlds on you. Don’t worry. I may be an alien, but I’m a legal one and I come from Florida, not outer space. Still, that is a UFO you see on the roof of that building. However, it didn’t come from outer space either; it’s from an art project back in 2000. It was popular enough that they left it there after the exhibit was over. It’s on top of the building known as De Inkpot (because of its shape). The building, which used to be the headquarters of the Dutch Railway, is the largest brick building in the Netherlands.
I saw photos of the UFO before I moved here, but somehow, I never got around to checking out where exactly De Inkpot was located. Obviously, I don’t spend much time on that side of town! I’ve been thinking about it recently and kept meaning to look it up, but never got around to it. Yesterday, while out shopping with my mother, we left one of the shops where I get my favorite Marimekko tins and suddenly, there it was! It’s hardly the first time I’ve been in that spot (as it’s hardly the first time I’ve been in that shop on the Oudegracht), but this was the first time I noticed that I had a view of De Inkpot and the UFO! It’s almost embarrassing how oblivious I’ve been!
Speaking of my mother, my parents are here until Tuesday, but after that, hopefully my posts will be a bit more regular and not quite so poorly written. My mother just asked me if I was drunk when I wrote the post about the Giro D’Italia. I wasn’t, but I keep getting interrupted when I try to write a post, so it ends up a complete mess. Sorry for any confusion and headaches my writing may have caused recently.
This bit of news that happened today seems like it should be something from a Monty Python sketch. I follow Utrecht_City on Twitter and they had a few tweets about sirens and fire and police somewhere near the Neude. I had heard a lot of sirens shortly before that, so I was curious as to what was going on. They soon followed up with the following tweet:
brandweer rukt groot uit nabij hardebollenstraat, utrecht. (Het werd er iets te heet!!;-)
This is where things get funny. If you put that into Google translation you get the following translation, which breaks down some of the words a bit too much:
Fire ripped off big hard balls around the streets, Utrecht. (It was a little too hot !!;-)
Hardebollenstraat is a street name, which does translate to Hard Balls Street, but obviously, something got a little lost in translation. I think a slightly better translation is something along the lines of “fire tears through nearby Hardebollenstraat.” (Anyone who has a better grasp of Dutch should feel free to leave a better translation in the comments.)
It all gets a bit funnier — and the parenthetical aside about it being a little too hot makes a bit more sense — when you realize Hardebollenstraat is the small red-light district street here in the city center. A hilariously appropriate street name, it seems! (And now all of you who find my blog while searching for the red light district in Utrecht know where to go.)