Along with the soaring ceiling and the beautiful glazed golden bricks that make the post office in Utrecht so stunning, the totem-like black carvings throughout make the interior something unique. Along both of the long walls are figures representing the continents (minus Antarctica). Each one features an animal at the base that generally matches up with the continent. Europa has horses, Australia has kangaroos, America(s) has bison/buffalo, Asia has elephants, and Africa has camels.
I had various ideas going through my head when I saw the topic for this week’s photo challenge, with none really feeling right. Then, on Saturday, in between Occupying Utrecht and drinking lots of lekker bock beer, I stopped in at the main post office at Neude to take some photos and realized I had a perfect topic.
You see, at the end of the month, all of the post offices in the Netherlands seem to be closing for good, including the stunning central post office here in Utrecht. All postal services will be taken care at other shops, such as certain book stores, grocery stores, etc. It’s sad for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the number of people now out of a job. Additionally, seeing the closing of this stunning building, built in the Amsterdam School style between 1917 and 1921, breaks my heart.
Fortunately, they’re not tearing it down; just repurposing it. That’s where the possibility lies. I think they’re going to turn it into some sort of shopping site, although I’m not positive. I think I’ve read various things over the past year. Regardless, I hope that they maintain some of the beautiful architectural and decorative details. It would be a shame to see this stunning interior get lost in the shuffle. The warm golden glazed bricks, the soaring glass ceiling, and the beautiful carved figurines throughout add a sense of wonder and amazement to a building that has been known to take the breath away from first-time visitors.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting more detail shots of the building, including the carved figures that represent the different continents of the world. Oh, and lots of olifanten (elephants)! No wonder I love this building so much!
I had to go to the post office today, which is over at Neude square. The sun was shining for a change, making the square practically glow. It also looked pretty behind the tree, creating a nice winter silhouette. The square itself is another historic spot, but today, let’s just appreciate it’s beauty. (Yes, I’m feeling too lazy today to look up specific dates and names. ;) )
If you ever find yourself in the Netherlands with snail mail to post, look for one of these red boxes. This is the Dutch version of a mail box. One side will be for a specific postal code, i.e., local mail, and the other side is for everything else. These two boxes are located outside of the main post office here in Utrecht at the Neude, but you’ll find one of these boxes at random places around town. To be honest, it took me about a year to actually pay attention to them and realize what they were. Usually if I mail something, I need to go through the post office, so despite their vivid red color, I tended to be a bit oblivious to their purpose. After all, they do look quite a bit different from what I used to think of when I thought of public mail boxes. As for stamps (zegel), you can buy those at the post office, or more commonly, you can buy them at the grocery store and some other newsagent shops. During the month of December, they sell reduced-price stamps (decemberzegel) that can be used for standard mail for that month. TNT Post is the name of the royal Dutch postal service, so if you see TNT, don’t think dynamite; think mail.
Of course, when you’ve got a postkantoor (post office) like the one we have in Utrecht, why wouldn’t you want to visit it whenever possible! It’s an architectural dream! Look!
The soaring barrel-vault ceiling is truly awe inspiring and beautiful with the glass in between the ribs. It allows some of the natural light to come into the building, assisted with smaller, unobtrusive electrical lights.
Besides the impressively arching ceiling, one of the things most noticeable about the interior design is the series of carved figures located throughout the large room.
The five figures represents the continents, with other figures representing prosperity, commerce, and the postal service itself. There’s even an olifant!
The building was designed by Joseph Crouwel in the Amsterdam School style of architecture. It was completed in 1924. Some of the trademarks of the Amsterdam School that are visible in the Postkantoor include extensive use of brick, organic, rounded shapes, glasswork, and integrated architectural sculptures. If you’re in Utrecht, it’s definitely worth a visit, although if you’re going to take photos, try to be as unobtrusive as possible. They tend to tell you to stop if they notice you, especially if you’re taking photos of the workers themselves.
I’ve recently been the recipient of the Beautiful Blogger Award from both Isabella over at A Touch of Dutch and Dave at Random Walks in the Low Countries, both of which are regular reads for me. It’s always nice to realize others are reading and actually enjoying my pictorial ramblings.
There are a few vague rules associated with this award; rules which are quite open to interpretation. Here are the original rules and requirements:
Beautiful Blogger rules (change to fit your mood)
As many have done, I figured I’d change the “7 interesting things about me” to something a bit different. In this case, I’m going to go with seven interesting things about Utrecht.
- The Domtoren. An obvious choice, but it really is pretty fantastic. It’s the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, standing at 112.5 meters/368 feet. I love that almost anywhere I go in town, I can see it rising up over the rooftops. I find it impossible not to get at least one shot of it whenever I take my camera out on the town. I’ve got a whole set devoted to it over on Flickr.
- Binnenstad. I love that the city center of Utrecht is relatively small. It’s easy to walk from one side of town to the other. Every time I look up a location on Google Maps, I find myself thinking, “Oh, that looks kind of far.” Then I actually walk it and it’s incredibly close! I like a walkable city!
- Cultural Sunday. Every month, there’s a Cultural Sunday event here in the city center. The theme changes every month, so you’re bound to find a topic that will interest you throughout the year. Music is a frequent theme, but done in all sorts of styles and presentations. This Sunday the theme is jazz. Past events have included the musical boat parade, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the annual Uitfeest, just to name a few.
- The Post Office. Really! It’s interesting from the outside, but it’s unbelievable on the inside! I keep forgetting to take my camera with me when I go, which isn’t all that often, so I need to plan to go specifically just to take photos. It’s a fantastic interior that anyone visiting the city should see.
- The History. This one’s a bit esoteric, but I truly do love living in a city that had its start around 47 CE (AD). That was when the Romans arrived and set up shop where the Domtoren and cathedral now stand. As I’ve mentioned before, there are markers in some of the roads, showing the outlines of that first Roman fortress. One of the other great things about so many of the historic buildings in town is that they are still used and not just turned into sterile museums. They’re living history, still a vital part of everyday life here.
- Maliebaan. A beautiful, tree-lined street, with statue-lined walkways. Even with traffic going past, it’s surprisingly calm and peaceful. I love strolling down the path with Pippo at my side, enjoying the combination of nature and art. Interestingly, it seems that Louis XIV, the Sun King himself, was quite taken with the Maliebaan when he was here in 1672.
- The Cathedral. It’s kind of hard not to love the only cathedral in the Netherlands closest to the French Gothic style. It’s even harder not to love it when you realize that more than half of the cathedral is no more. The nave of the cathedral collapsed during a hurricane in 1674, and it was never rebuilt. It’s still an impressive structure with its buttressed apse and the area where the nave once stood is now a charming square where all sorts of events and festivals take place throughout the year.
- I figured I’d throw in one last, extra tidbit. Utrecht is trying to start a new campaign promoting the city and province. The official campaign begins 1 March, I believe. In the lead-up to the campaign, there’s a song written by Utrecht’s own Colin Benders, more famously known as Kyteman of the Kyteman Hip Hop Orkest. Here’s a video of Kyteman conducting an orchestra performing his composition Ode aan Utrecht.
And now for something completely different (from what I’ve been writing about) … Here are a few blogs I enjoy and recommend — and nominate if they’re so inclined. Since many of the ones I read have been nominated by others already, I thought I’d go with a cooking/food theme for my recommendations.
- Kayotic Kitchen: I’ve mentioned her quite often, but I truly do love her recipes and have never been disappointed with any of them. She also takes beautiful photos.
- The Misadventures of Mub: She tries out lots of different recipes each week and then posts her reactions to them and suggestions for making them better, if necessary. I love that kind of real-world approach.
- Lizzy Goes Dutch: If you’re one of the people who think vegetarian food is nothing more than leaves and twigs, Lizzy will make you think twice. She makes all sorts of vegetarian recipes that are appealing, satisfying and downright tasty!
- Home Cooking with Sonya: This is one of the newest blogs I’ve started reading. As an American expat, it’s handy to see what she comes up with for substitutions or variations on American recipes that require ingredients that aren’t so easy to find here in the Netherlands.