Letters of Utrecht

Street of Words
If you walk along the western side of the Oudegracht, around the 300/400 block, you may notice a string of letters along the edge of the street. Look closer and you’ll realize the letters form words and sentences and an ever-growing poem.

One letter at a time, one Saturday at a time, the poem grows. As long as there are patrons to purchase a letter, the poem will continue. Each Saturday afternoon, around 13:00, you can head to Oudegracht 309 (or thereabouts) and see the latest letter being carved and installed.


Work in Progress
I’ve been meaning to stop by for a while, so since we were in the neighborhood last weekend anyway for Sinterklaas’ arrival, we headed down to see a bit of the latest letter being carved.

If you’re looking for a gift that’s a little bit different, yet surprisingly permanent, consider purchasing a letter for someone. They cost around €100, but €10 goes toward a charity and the rest mainly goes for costs. Each stone is also marked with a number so that the recipient/donor can easily tell which is their letter. The sponsor can also have their name or initials carved on the side of the stone, although that won’t be visible once the stone is in place.


The project officially began on June 2, 2012, but they retroactively added letters so that the poem officially began January 1, 2000. Seeing a fair chunk of the poem already in place surely makes it more intriguing and appealing and allows potential sponsors to better understand the project. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s an official website in Dutch and English. It also has information on how to sponsor your own letter. When I have a bit of disposable income someday, I’d love to have a letter of my own. It’s a nice way to leave a cultured mark on the city.

If you’re in town tomorrow afternoon — or any Saturday — don’t forget to go watch the newest letter being put in place. The S that we saw was the end of a word (langs) so a new word will be starting tomorrow. Of course, you can see the poem whenever you want simply by walking down that stretch of the Oudegracht.

If you like this post, or my blog in general, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a nice comment for me over at ExpatsBlog. We’re in the final stretch for the blog competition with only a few days left, so you won’t have to read my begging about it any more. Promise! I’ve been truly amazed by the many many kind comments so many of you have already left and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. [Now closed]

Saturday Show


In Praise of Ceramics

The other week, while reading the wonderful Utrecht-based blog, My Personal Style, I came across one of her postings about some wall art that has recently gone up in the city. I knew I had to go see it for myself, so I took a short break and headed over to a part of the city I haven’t visited that much.

De lof der keramiek

Filling three sections of a wall on the corner of Stroosteeg and Springweg, this colourful art is in praise of the rich ceramic history of Utrecht, including Sint Lukas, a ceramic company once located in the early 1900s in roughly the same spot on Strosteeg. The company produced many influential ceramists and their glazed tiles are still highly appreciated.

Vazen op de muur
The ceramic art was created by a number of different ceramists working together, and also includes a poem by Ingmar Heytze, whose great-grandfather was the creative engine of Sint Lukas. There is both traditional text, as well as Braille in the work. The artists are all part of a long line of gifted ceramic artists working in the city.

Muren, Vazen

De stad is oud, de wereld is ouder.
Nu ben je nog een ademende knipoog
naar de sterren: later, hoeveel later weet
je nooit, een schaduw in de aarde.

Muren – vergaderingen van klei
die ergens in een bedding lag totdat
een hand haar pakte, kneedde, bakte,
het moment in een oven bevroor.

Vazen – schatbewaarders van leegte,
stofmijt, bloemen in brak water, twee
handen vol aan as. Geheugenplaatsen
in glazuur: wat is, wat blijft, wat was.

The city is old, the world is older.
Now are you a breathing wink
to the stars: later, how much later
you don’t know, a shadow in the earth.

Walls – meetings of clay
somewhere in one bed lay until
a hand took it, kneaded, baked,
froze the moment in an oven.

Vases – treasurers of emptiness,
dust mites, flowers in brackish water, two
hands full of ashes. Memory locations
in enamel: what is, what remains, what was.

There’s more information at this website (in Dutch), including a video of the artists working together. The video is interesting to watch, even if you don’t speak Dutch, because it allows you to see both where and how they worked.

I ♥ Utrecht

Street in the Sun

An Overcast Street
Sadly, this particular street wasn’t in the sun the day I took this photo, nor is there any sun to be seen today. Yet that is precisely why I chose this photo for today. It’s the literary hope for things to come. On such a wet, miserable day as it is today, the dream of spring sunshine seems like exactly that: a dream.

This bit of wall art/poetry translates roughly to:
A street in the sun, and from an open window, your favorite music

There was no music at all that day, but the open window was still a nice touch. It’s certainly a lovely thought that brings to mind warm, happy, summer days. There are other buildings in that general block near the Wittevrouwensingel that have further bits of writing.
Hidden Words
This one says:
It was the morning
it was light
The sun rose
and we looked out
over the back gardens
of the city
it was summer

Unfortunately, I can’t make out the last line, but it’s still lovely. Dream on!

A Grey Dawn Breaking

Around the Bend

Sea Fever
by John Masefield

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
All I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trip’s over.



Giovanni and I took Pippo for a walk this morning before the heat and humidity got too bad — and before the storms finally arrived. These are just a few of the many boats we saw tied up as we meandered around the north eastern part of the centruum.