Crowdsourcing a Cathedral

CathedralThe theme of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge (for which I’m just scraping in under the wire) is Monuments. I had thought of doing something a little less obvious, but when I saw some news stories this week, I figured I’d go with the obvious monument here in Utrecht: the Domkerk or St. Martin’s Cathedral.

The best example of French Gothic church architecture in the Netherlands, the cathedral is a standout for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the nave of the cathedral was destroyed in a storm in the 1600s and never rebuilt. Various chapels and churches dedicated to St. Martin have stood there since around 700 AD. Construction of the current church began in 1254. As old as it is, and considering what it’s faced over the centuries, conservation and restoration are vital.

Currently, two of the buttresses (luchtbogen in Dutch) need to be repaired and restored. There is no government subsidy to help, so a crowdfunding campaign has begun, with the hopes of raising the €50,000 necessary for the work. If you want to make a donation, go to the Draag de Dom website. As well as doing something good to help maintain this beautiful symbol of Utrecht, you also receive various rewards, depending on the size of the donation.
Inner GlowApse

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street (and Bicycle) Life in Utrecht

Street LifeThis week’s photo challenge theme is street life, which in Utrecht and most of the Netherlands, could easily be called bicycle life. It’s a rare moment that there isn’t a bicycle in sight, whether passing by or parked somewhere.

I decided to focus on one short stretch of street (approximately .2 miles), which is part of the main street that runs east/west through the old city center of Utrecht. Moving from west to east, you pass Janskerkhof, the square surrounding Janskerk (John’s Church), which is the big church-like building in the background. The street is closed to through traffic now, so the only real traffic comes from buses and bicycles. As you can see, there are specific lanes for the bicycles going each way, two lanes for the buses and occasional car, and sidewalks for pedestrians.Street LifeThere may be bicycles everywhere, but that doesn’t mean people don’t share a ride. Hopping on the back of the bike is done by everyone, both children and adults.
Street LifeIn the square in front of the church is the Broodje Mario shop stand. Mario’s is an institution in Utrecht, with the classic Broodje Mario made up of Italian meats and cheese and spicy vegetables, somewhat similar to a muffuletta in New Orleans. During the lunch hour, there’s usually a line of people and others milling about enjoying their sandwich. There’s no drive-through, but you can ride your bike practically right up to the shop.

Our final stop on this brief journey highlighting a small segment of street life in Utrecht takes us to Florin, a bar/restaurant popular with the university students. On Saturday afternoons, they host live music events, so it’s not unusually to see signs, banners, and people standing outside chatting. And of course plenty of bicycles parked outside.Street Life

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Voetiusstraat ReflectionsThis week’s theme is reflections, and though the concept can be more esoteric, reflecting on life, the universe, and everything else, I’m sticking with the more literal sense. Mainly because one of the things I love to photograph are reflections of the city in the surrounding windows. It’s a fun way to look at the city from a slightly different perspective.

The sun was shining brightly yesterday and as I walked down Voetiusstraat to take a peek at the Domplein now that the construction tenting is gone, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the reflection of the classic Dutch buildings in the large window. The name on the window made the image look something like opening credits of a film (or an annoying watermark). I also like how the beams in the ceiling draw the eye into the image. Plus, I just love a good arch, especially with a stand-out keystone.
Voetiusstraat Reflections

Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

I haven’t done one of the Weekly Photo Challenges in a while, but I do have a fondness for windows, which is this week’s theme, so I couldn’t resist. It was an early theme last year, as well, and I did a post about the cathedral’s windows then and I’m doing the cathedral windows again. They’re a regular source of inspiration, thanks to both their Gothic beauty and the light they often catch. They may not feature much stained glass nowadays, but they still glow with the sunlight that courses through them.
Inner GlowInner GlowInner Glow
Inner GlowThe cathedral in Utrecht (Netherlands) is known as the Dom or St. Martin’s Cathedral and construction of its current form was begun in 1254. Previous incarnations of the church (first dating back to 630) were destroyed by fire, Normans, and other typical architectural challenges of the time.

The cathedral is the only one of its kind in the Netherlands to closely resemble the classic Gothic architectural style of France. Other Gothic cathedrals in the Netherlands feature more regional variations. In 1566, statues, reliefs, and other interior decorations were destroyed as a result of the Calvinist austerity that was sweeping through the Low Countries at the time. Although originally a Catholic church, it became a Protestant church in 1580.

That wasn’t to be the end of the drama. In 1674, the nave of the cathedral collapses during a massive storm and was never rebuilt. Fortunately, the transept and apse remain and are still in use.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturation

Natural Saturation
This was taken at the historic Mendenhall Home in Jamestown, North Carolina. My parents volunteer with the site and my dad gave me a private tour of it last week. Many more photos to come of the various structures on the grounds of this old Quaker homestead.

As for this week’s photo challenge theme of saturation, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a pure blue, the grass and trees were jeweled shades of green, and the old barn was a rich, earthy shade of red. I had just walked out of the dark interior of the barn and was dazzled by the view above me.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus


It’s been a while since I’ve posted any photos of my beloved Spoetnikkijker (Sputnik Watcher), although I continue to take photos of him on a fairly regular basis. One of my recent batches fit this week’s photo challenge of focus so I thought I’d share some of them.

My own personal focus on this statue changes, depending on my mood, available lighting, and happy accidents. Sometimes I “focus” on a detail, other times I alternate between having the sculpture and the surrounding nature in focus. On this particular day, I was taking advantage of the dappled light and the canopy of trees to help draw the focus onto the sculpture itself. In some instances, with the focus on the sculpture, the light and leaves combine to create an organic, abstract background. (Although I wish the sculpture itself was a bit sharper.)

In this photo, because of the side from which I chose to photograph the sculpture, I ended up with a relatively bright image that creates a sense of thoughtfulness. However, by changing sides, with the light now behind me, the same blurred nature background suddenly creates a much more dramatic and eerie atmosphere. Suddenly the daydream quality of the first picture becomes more reminiscent of an Expressionist nightmare.
These many sides of the statue — brought out by a change in focus and season — are one of the many reasons it’s one of my favorite things to photograph anywhere here in Utrecht.


For those who are waiting for my next instalment about the godskameren, appropriately enough, I realized today that I need one more photo, which I’ll go get tomorrow morning. I should have the Agnietenstraat housing post for you by the afternoon. Promise!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

The Devil Is in the Details
I’m a fan of details, although looking at them more than doing them myself! This week’s photo challenge is “lost in the details” and is a bit more about getting up closer and looking at things from a new angle. I decided to have a bit of fun with the theme and include the “devil is in the details” theme, as well.

Today, after my stop at the Pandhof to photograph another gargoyle, I decided to stop in at Flora’s Hof (the garden next to the Domtoren) and get a detailed photo or three of this particular bas relief image depicting a moment in the life of a saint (Willibrord?). The sculpture is triangular in shape, but I decided to focus just on the devilish creature about to whack someone over the head. There’s some great detail just in the demon and his outfit. Chomping mouths everywhere!

The Devil Is in the Details

Then I moved in for a different and lower angle, which I like even more, because the person on the ground suddenly seems much more real. The whole image comes to life. So then I focused even closer on the demon.
The Devil Is in the Details

You can practically hear him — and his sleeve — cackling with glee as his sinewy claw is about to whoosh down upon us all!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

A surprisingly hard theme this week to choose a photo for, since my whole blog is about learning about a foreign city that has now become my home. As an American living in the Netherlands, I’m gradually finding it harder to pinpoint what is foreign any more, as I get more used to the country.

Italy is both foreign and familiar to me. I studied its art at university and I’ve shared my life with an Italian for 11 years, but there’s enough that is still foreign and fascinating. I have a number of photos from my trips to Italy, but the first batches are actual photos and negatives. The last batch is saved on a disc, but my laptop won’t read it. Fortunately, I had one photo already saved on my laptop, so this is my last-minute foreign photo submission.

The architecture of Italy isn’t foreign to me. In fact, when I stumbled across this church (Sant’Andrea by Leon Battista Alberti) on a trip to Mantova (Mantua), it was like running into an old friend in an unexpected place. I had gone to Mantova to see the Palazzo Té, completely forgetting that this church was also in the city. You can read more about it (and see the full facade) here. My photo is just a detail of the central arch of the facade.

Another expat recently wrote about her own visit to Mantova, which is something of a hidden jewel.

You can see other interpretations of “foreign” at the week’s weekly photo challenge page.