A New Perspective on the Domtoren

De Utrechtse DomtorenThis week’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “perspective”. Sitting at one of the terraces beneath the Domtoren yesterday, enjoying the sunshine, I couldn’t resist this photo of the tower, specifically because of the perspective. Some of the building and some of the perspective gets lost in the photo. You need to be sitting there, craning your neck back to see the top of the tower, 112 meters up in the sky, to really understand the immense size. It remains awe inspiring.

But I also have another new perspective on the Domtoren, in a more personal sense. Saturday, a new book was published about the history of the Domtoren and its building process. The book weighs in around 2.5 kilos, and features a variety of illustrations showing some of the building (and renovation) processes, along with other related historic pictures. I had known for some time now that the book was being worked on and had been debating whether or not to pick up a copy of my own.
De Utrechtse Domtoren
Saturday, we stopped at the VVV offices (tourist info offices), because I wanted to see the book in person. (They had specifically mentioned having the book there.) Yet when I got there, it was no where to be found! Unless I missed it among the crowds, the only reference to it I saw was a picture of the cover in a display of other Domtoren related paraphernalia. Looking closer, it seemed as if the book wouldn’t be presented until later that afternoon. Disappointed, I figured I’d look for it another day. But then, just around the corner (and still in the shadow of the Domtoren), I saw a big display for the book at Libris book store.
Domtoren Book Display at LibrisObviously, I had to go in. I heaved up a copy and opened it. There, on the first inside pages, was a collection of various photos of the Domtoren, taken from different perspectives. I had seen this collage before in a promotional post about the book, but hadn’t been sure that it would actually be included. As soon as I saw it was, I knew then and there I had to buy a copy. You see, one of my very own photos of the Domtoren was included!De Utrechtse DomtorenMine is the view through the archway beneath the tower. I had sent in the photo during a request last year for photos of the Domtoren, but hadn’t necessarily expected to have any of my photos included. I then flipped to the back of the book to check the index and yes, indeed, all of the participating photographers were mentioned. In fact, I was right there at the beginning!That's me in the index ...And in a bit of serendipity, that particular photo is the one I chose to use on some contact cards I recently had printed.

I managed to restrain myself from pointing all of this out to the person at the register or the people in line around me. But that didn’t stop me from being rather giddy about it all for the rest of the day. After all of my blogging about the city and the Domtoren, by having my photo included in this important book, I feel a little bit more like I truly belong here in this city I’ve chosen to call home. I’ve become a miniscule part of the tower’s hundreds of years of history. This thrills me in the same way I still get a thrill every time I see the Domtoren, whether it’s up close or from a distance over the rooftops.

I should also add that Saturday was my birthday. How’s that for a birthday present!
De Utrechtse Domtoren

Murder Capitals

Balcony in Bloom
Scrolling through Twitter this afternoon, I saw a headline reading, “Amsterdam is one of Europe’s murder capitals, says Eurostat”. Of course I clicked through. It turns out that between 2007 and 2009, Amsterdam ranked fourth on the European murder rate table, with 3.65 murders per 100,000 people during that time period. First through third were Vilnius in Lithuania (7.9), Tallin in Estonia (6) and Luxemburg (4.24). For what it’s worth, Brussels is in fifth place at 3.09. Another way of looking at it all is that there were 19 murders in Amsterdam in 2008 and 31 in 2009, with five of those being related to Albanian gang violence.

One murder is too many, but seeing numbers like that helps to put things in perspective, one way or another. The year I graduated from university in New Orleans, Louisiana, the murder rate in the city reached record levels. In 1994, 421 people were killed (85.8 per 100,000 people). That averaged out to more than a person a day, every day, for a whole year. To date, no other major city in the US has had that high a level. In fact, New Orleans has held the unfortunate title of murder capital of the nation over a number of years since the 1990s.

I still love New Orleans and never let the crime and corruption get me down, even when I lived there. In fact, I generally felt quite safe living there. As always, you take appropriate precautions, be sensible, and try to avoid known trouble areas. I was a fortunate university student, though. The problem is that a lot of people living there find it much harder to avoid the dangerous parts of life in the city. My time there was a lifetime ago when you factor in Katrina. One can only hope that there are more and better opportunities for everyone to avoid the kind of lifestyle that leads to those kind of murder numbers.

As I said, even one murder is too many, but I’d much rather see Amsterdam’s numbers than New Orleans. I’m not sure if I’m really trying to say anything with this post. It’s simply that reading the article today took me back to my time in New Orleans when the growing murder rate was discussed daily. If you were in New Orleans in 1994, I’m pretty sure you understand why my mind goes back to that time. On the plus side, I do know that a fellow Tulane alum is now working nationally to reduce gun crime.

ETA: In a vaguely relevant way, I was also amused when I saw the headline today that said, “One of Britain’s most wanted is arrested in Amsterdam”. Why is this amusing? Well, because police in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, and Den Haag were all on strike today for a few hours. I was impressed that they managed to arrest Britain’s most wanted even while on strike. However, it turns out the guy was caught yesterday. So I guess they tidied up their desk, so to speak, before heading out on strike. How considerate!

A Matter of Perspective

Looking at my blog stats today, I saw that someone got here after doing a search for “utrecht living depressing”. How sad! I’m pretty sure they didn’t find what they were looking for here, at least I hope not. I love Utrecht and don’t find it depressing at all. Quite the opposite!

I know some people who move here (the Netherlands in general, not just Utrecht) have trouble adjusting and end up sad and frustrated and unhappy. So far, I’m not one of those people. I suspect that someone who hates it here isn’t truly hating Utrecht or the Netherlands; they’re just unhappy with something in their personal life and taking out their unhappiness on the city/country. I’m lucky, in that I had a say in which country we moved to when we moved. (Although I didn’t actually visit and took G at his word when he said it was a great place.) Maybe I’m just very easy going. I’ve ultimately settled in well no matter where I’ve moved, even when the move wasn’t something I wanted or was expecting.

So to anyone who might be thinking of moving to Utrecht or the Netherlands, I want to be an alternative, optimistic, happy voice, a different perspective to what I see so many of my fellow expat/immigrants expressing. Some of us are quite happy here and have no regrets! That said, everyone is going to have their own reactions and experiences and I’m not trying to belittle the unhappiness of those who aren’t happy here. Just don’t blame it all on the country.