The Simplicity of the Geertekerk

Last week I met up with a friend in order to take a few photos outside the Geertekerk. That post is still to come, but for now, I’ll share a few — ok, a lot — of photos I took of the church itself. As I’ve mentioned before, for the next few months, the Kerken Kijken event makes it easy to go inside many of the churches throughout the city. They may not all look that impressive outside, but there’s often an inherent and calm beauty inside, even in the simplest of churches.

The Geertekerk looks a bit like a fortress from the outside, to the point that both of us were joking that the small slit windows were surely for the archers to send out flaming arrows down onto the invaders. In reality, I believe the slit windows are to help light the way up the bell tower. Speaking of which, here’s the beginning of the steps that you have to climb to get up the tower. I thought our top-floor “stairs” were bad!
More Stairs of Death

(It was raining that afternoon, so apologies for the water spots on some of these photos.)

The church was originally built around 1255 and was one of four medieval parish churches. It started off as a typical Romanesque hall, with more of a square floor plan. However, work was done to upgrade and expand the church early on, first with the tower, and then in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was expanded into the more common cross floor plan that we typically see nowadays. This was achieved through the addition of aisles on the side, as well as a transept, choir, and chapels. The aisles are currently curtained off, at least the day we were there, perhaps to make it a bit more cosy for the group that was meeting that afternoon.

Geertekerk Interior

Geertekerk Interior

As you can see, it also has a flat, tray-like ceiling that almost gives the building a Scandinavian feel. It actually made me think of a ship’s hull turned upside down. The church began to fall into disrepair by the 19th century, and by 1930, it was no longer in use. In 1954, it was purchased by the Remonstrant Church Council, who is ultimately responsible for the roof, since the original roof was gone by then. Much of the church had sustained various degrees of damage from the elements, so a great deal of work was put into it to restore it. There are a series of photos and prints hanging in one section of the church that show how it looked in the past, as well as some of the restoration work that was done.

When you walk into the main body of the church, there’s a surprisingly large organ overhead, which includes a disc with some of the church’s history explained. The organ itself dates to 1803.

In the transept, there are three stained-glass windows that were made by Johan Dijkstra – of Groningen Artist Circle ‘De Ploeg’ – between 1957 and 1964.
Contemporary Stained Glass

There are regular plain glass lancet windows around the apse, which, when paired with the plain white walls, gives the area a serene and soft glow.
Geertekerk Apse

The church is located in a lovely part of town, with one of the old city ring canals almost right outside the entrance. There’s another church just down the street, as well as the Zeven Steegjes, which I’ve mentioned before. Even if you don’t go inside the church, take a walk past the front door, where you’ll see a stone mosaic of a fish. I suspect that’s one of the recent additions, despite the somewhat medieval appearance, but it’s still a nice decorative touch.

Glam Utrecht

I came across this video today and wanted to share it. It’s a lovely short promotional film highlighting the beauty, charm, and culture of the city. It all looks so glam! I also thought it might be nice for people to see the city in motion, in a sense, if you haven’t been here before and only know my photos. Some of it might even be familiar now!

Windmill Surprise

Molen De Ster
I’ve written before about windmills here in Utrecht, but never about the Molen De Ster (the Star Windmill). Before we moved here, I started following the Utrecht Flickr group and saw the Molen De Ster for the first time in some of the photos. It looked so picturesque and so very Dutch! I looked forward to seeing it in person.

Once I moved here, I didn’t forget the windmill, but I didn’t know where it was located. I never came across it in my wanderings of the city and was starting to think it was further outside the city center. (To be honest, I also didn’t bother to research its location, since I had other locations to explore.) It became one of those things that I thought about in passing, but since we have a windmill right here in easy walking distance, it somehow didn’t seem quite so urgent.

Then, on Saturday, as we were heading out to see the fierljeppen competition, I had one of those lucky moments of serendipity! There, on the very same road we were walking down to get to the competition, was De Molen De Ster! It was even more attractive and idyllic than I had realized. It was also much closer to town than I had ever realized, but it’s also on a side of town I’ve yet to really explore. I’m such an East person. The whole street is really quite interesting and attractive, so I’m determined to go over there again soon. Seeing this reminded me of how much more I’ve got to explore here in my own city!

Foto Vrijdag 2.20

Boot en Bloemen
I had plans for posts this week, but I got sick Tuesday night with an awful stomach bug that’s not quite gone away yet, leaving me with no energy or patience for blogging, despite the ton of Keukenhof photos I have and other thoughts and ideas. Still, I hate to miss a Photo Friday, so here’s one of the photos from our visit to the Keukenhof. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get around to posting more about our trip to the famous gardens.

Different Donderdag: Going Postal

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.

The Post Office

Culturele Zondag

Stunten Op De Miniramp
Originally uploaded by indigo_jones

It’s that time of the month again: Cultural Sunday! Sadly, the weather isn’t really cooperating for parts of it. Fortunately, there are many indoor events, as well. I suspect with the approach of autumn/winter, more of the events will be indoors.

As our Dutch is still limited to discussion of broken heels and zippers and the occasional elephant, it’s a bit difficult to follow the Cultural Sunday website, but I managed to find out that there was some dancing going on at the Stadsschouwburg (the theater on the next street over from us). We headed over around noon and got to see some local students performing various routines of poppin’ and lockin’ and breakdancing and freestyle, along with a bit of rapping and singing. It was pretty fun, actually. They’re offering workshops throughout the day, as well, if you want to learn to do some of the dance styles, including krumping. As hilarious as it would have been for G and I to try, we decided not to. We’ll save the dancing for Pippo.

We came home and had lunch and then it was Pippo’s turn for a bit of culture. He and I headed over to the Neude to see the skateboarding that was scheduled. Sadly, as you can see from the photo, there wasn’t much action. Actually, there was none at all. The rain wasn’t playing nice. Pippo and I got a bit damp and didn’t get to see any skating, but Pippo didn’t seem to mind. He’ll take any excuse for an outing.

There are other concerts going on around the city, as well as art exhibits, stand-up comedy and more, but I think we’ve had our fill for the day. Next month’s event is coming soon. It’s 9 November and the theme is kinderkunstdag (children’s art day). That might be closer to our language level!

Party Time

In On The Act
(More photos of Saturday evening at Flickr.)
Saturday was a colorful day.

Colorful language dotted the air as we put the bed together, although ultimately it went fairly smoothly. Certainly easier than putting together the dining room chairs. It’s nice to finally be off the floor. Now if only the sofa would arrive so we could completely move off the floor.

The European Cup began Saturday, with Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Portugal and Turkey playing the first round of matches. We watched the first match at home and then went over to Cafe Podeskel to watch the second match. The bar was decked out in lots of orange in preparation for Holland’s first match of the cup — against Italy. Tonight. Despite the conflict of interest, we’ve been invited to the bar tonight to watch the match. They’ve promised no aggression through the first group round. 😉

Saturday was also night two of Night Fever, a city-wide party with bands and DJs performing at various locations throughout the city. Fortunately for us, one of those locations was on Lucas Bolwerk, the next street over from our house, and the street that runs in front of the bar. That was the reason for the pink wigs and other costumes on the bar staff that night (see above photo). A band called Sonic Groove played, covering a variety of songs. It was mostly soul, R&B and disco, so inevitably, there was much dancing in the streets.

Toward the end of the evening, as we were standing outside in the street watching the band, a man came up to us and introduced himself, explaining that he was a previous owner of our house! It turns out he and his wife were the owners before the people we got the house from. So now we’ve met the last two generations of house owners! We met his wife a little bit later when we had gone back inside the bar. They were very kind and friendly and said they were sorry to have to leave the house, because they loved it so much, but they had three kids and needed more space. They’re the ones who finished off the upstairs portion of the house and who built the kitchen addition. We thanked them for their remodeling, particularly the kitchen add-on!

Today we took a walk along the Oudegracht (Old Canal) and passed by the Neuwegracht (New Canal, built in the late 1390s), and now we’re trying to sort out our power and gas provider. It’s a bit confusing and complicated with choosing energy providers, who are separate from the companies that actually manage the service — or something like that.

Our stuff that we shipped over is still stuck in customs. They seem to think it’s too much to be simply household items, which is silly. It should hopefully be resolved soon. It’s not a major issue and our shipper is working on it. I find myself thinking now that I could probably live without half of the stuff I packed, but it’s much easier to think that way on this end than it is on the other end. Oh well.

Should Have Bought an Umbrella

Today, we went to Gamma, a major hardware store, in search of paint for the bedroom. We ended up finding — with the help of someone in the store — a basic white paint and what will hopefully be a nice green paint for the accent wall. It’s surprising just how difficult it can be to buy paint when you don’t know the language. Despite the many many gallons of paint I’ve bought in the past, when you miss a few key words, it becomes incredibly difficult. Luck was with us once again and we had a friendly, helpful, English-speaking store employee helping.

As we stood in line to get our paint mixed up, it turned out that the woman next to us was getting a very similar color. In fact, our color was one of the two to which she had narrowed her choice down, and her color was one that we had considered. Perhaps a sagey green is popular right now.

It has been raining on and off since last night, but when we left the house, we decided against taking the umbrella. Perhaps not the wisest choice. Within moments of leaving Gamma, paint cans in hand, it started to rain. It’s wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was a consistent rain and within minutes, I was drenched. Drowned rat, to be precise. Suddenly what we had referred to yesterday as being not much more than a leisurely walk turned into a long, wet, chafing slog. Still, there was quite a bit of laughter about it all.

On the plus side, I got to see Nijntje Pleintje and walk across one of the canal locks, and I found a record shop I had seen photographed on Flickr, and also saw the house that we almost bought on Breedstraat. Quite a lot of sight-seeing in one relatively short journey.