Sputnik in Spring

SpoetnikkijkerIt’s been a spectacular weekend weatherwise. Lots of sunshine, warm temps, and general loveliness. Today, we went for a walk around town with plans to stop over at Ledig Erf for drinks in the sun. Of course, I think everyone else had that idea, because free tables outdoors were very hard to come by. We eventually ended up over at the Domplein. Still a pretty good view!

Our walk took us past the Spoetnikkijker, my beloved statue, and I couldn’t resist another photo of him, this time with a field of flowers spread out beneath him. He may not have been taking in the flowers, but he at least had a beautifully clear blue sky to enjoy.

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!

The Return of Old Friends

I don’t mean the snow that showed up overnight, although we’re getting to know each other much better this winter. I was up early and restless this morning and decided to go for a walk. I’ve been cooped up indoors working so much that I really needed to get out. Despite the snow that was still falling, I set out with no real destination in mind. I ended up walking down Voorstraat, through Neude, over to the Stadhuis, Winkel van Sinkel, more of the Oudegracht, over to Mariaplaats, along Mariastraat, and then ended up on the western side of the city where the canal that rings the city starts up again. At that point, I decided to simply follow the canal all the way back home to the eastern side of the city. In all, I was gone for around two hours and took 147 photos. I do enjoy a nice, long walk.

As I approached the park near the Sonnenborgh Museum (astronomy and such), I realized today would be a great day to get a photo of my favorite statue, the Spoetnik Kijker! That put a spring in my step! After snapping a few photos, I decided to have a bit of fun and pull Orlando out from his hiding place in my bag. My poor little flamingo goes everywhere with me, but never gets to leave the bag. After a bit of wrangling — it was a cold seat, after all — I got them both in place and snapped this shot. Lovely to see two of my favorites together!

First Helicopters, Now F16s

Spoetnik Kijker
My beloved Spoetjik Kijker (Sputnik Watcher) became an F16 Kijker this morning. Around 10:30 this morning, I’m sure many people’s heads suddenly turned to the sky when they heard a loud noise up above. Even inside the house, I was startled by the loud, growling noise outside. It eventually became clear that it was a jet, but it certainly sounded different than the usual jet. We also don’t usually hear normal jets in the city center. Helicopters, sure, but not jets!

It sounded disturbingly close and I had a moment of panic wondering if it was too late to move to safer ground, as visions of crashing planes filled my mind. It soon passed, but then was followed by another. G was upstairs and went outside to look. He was the one who confirmed it was a military jet. I checked Twitter, of course, and saw that a few other people had posted in surprise about the unexpected appearance and very loud noise.

After surely many requests for information as to what was going on, the air force responded by saying that the two F16 jets were doing a reconnaissance flight and were taking urban photos as part of the exercise. There were some complaints as to how low the planes were flying, I think, but while I think the legal limit as to how low the planes can fly is an altitude of 360 meters, these jets were flying at 450, so they were well within the legal limits.

At least there were no sonic booms! I remember quite a few of those as I was growing up in Orlando. I think we were close enough to various military groups and plane-related companies that the occasional sonic boom wasn’t unheard of. When the boom went, I jumped as did everything sitting on my dresser!

Dog Days of Summer

The Thinker
On Sunday morning, I rode over to the park area by the Sonnenborgh Observatory. I wanted to take some more photos of my favourite Spoetnik Kijker (Sputnik Watcher) statue and have another look at the HiĆ«ronymus Gasthuis that I posted about the other day. It was also just a nice day to go for a bike ride. I’m still primarily a walker, but I’m getting more comfortable with biking, as long as I don’t have to deal with the busier streets.

The small park where the statue is located really is a beautiful, peaceful area and somewhat unusual in that it is bordered on one side by a hill. Admittedly, it’s a man-made hill, but it’s still a large mound of earth. It was originally part of the walls that surrounded the old city center. The observatory and a couple of other buildings now stand on the top of the earthen wall, although some of the brick wall still remains.

As I was taking photos of the Spoetnik Kijker and his faithful, if somewhat distracted canine friend, I couldn’t help but be distracted myself by the games of chase going on in the other part of the park. There is almost always at least one dog playing fetch every time I go to the park and Sunday morning was no exception. There were at least three dogs running around, chasing each other and the balls being tossed about.


However, as I moved closer to the dogs to get a different angle of the statue, the furriest of the chasers seemed to take issue with my presence. He slowly began walking toward me (although I should point out I was on the other side of the street and nowhere near them!) and began baying. Amused, I couldn’t resist getting a quick shot of him, before deciding to put him at ease and walk back from where I’d come. Fortunately, I was finished taking my photos, because he didn’t seem to want to stop baying and howling! I decided it was time to hop back on my bike and leave him free to focus on his game of fetch.

Guard Dog

Branching Out

Sunday, on my way back from the Centraal Museum, I couldn’t resist visiting my favourite sculpture. That also meant walking through the little park in which the sculpture stands. The weather was amazing and the sky was a stunning, pure blue. Everything was so crisp and I loved the shapes of the still-bare tree branches against the sky. But then I do love a good tree.

As I continued my walk, I went past Lepelenburg Park where I saw a group of young kids learning how to fence. The safety swords they were using reminded me of some of the tree branches. You’ll have to take my word, though, as I didn’t actually take any photos of their training session.

In all, it was a gorgeous spring day in Utrecht. Hopefully, it won’t be the last!
Twee Toren

Twisty to the Right

Weekly Photo Challenge: Peaceful

One of my favorite spots is this little park area at the southern end of the old city center. I’m constantly drawn to it, pulled in by the appeal of what surrounds it: the Nieuwegracht and the ring canal, the old city wall, the towering trees, and most of all, by the Spoetnik Kijker (Sputnik Watcher). I’ve written about him before, and I’ve certainly photographed him numerous times, but he’s always a source of peaceful inspiration to me. I’ve been trying to get a shot of him during different seasons throughout the year. I took some photos this past December to try to capture some of the bare elegance of both the sculpture and the setting. I’m sure I’ll always return to him, with or without camera in hand. He really does make me feel peaceful and that little bit happier.



Foto Vrijdag 2.34

Last Sunday, Pippo and I took a quick walk over toward Lepelenburg Park and then down to revisit the Sputnik Kijker. Along the way, we passed some of my favorite houses in the Museum Quarter. The simplicity of design, with the charming details in the shutters and main entrance, along with all the beautiful flowers always makes me pause and imagine what they’re like inside. Realistically, they’d probably be a bit too dark for my tastes inside, but they’re wonderful to admire from the outside. I’d like to learn more about them. I’ll have to start checking the Utrecht Archives for more information.

Foto Vrijdag 2.15

Last weekend was National Museum Weekend, in which 500+ museums were open free or highly discounted throughout the country. We (finally) went to the Centraal Museum to see the exhibit about the Italian/Caravaggio influence on the Utrecht school of painting, which in turn influenced much of Dutch painting, including Rembrandt.

We took the route to the museum that goes past Lepelenburg and Sonnenborgh in order for me to stop by my favorite sculpture — De Spoetnikkijker — and get a few photos. The sky was a great mix of dark clouds against a bright blue sky, which lead to some interesting photos (see my Flickr feed). I also got to play around with different angles, made easier by the fact that I didn’t have Pippo with me. I love going on photo walks with him, but I can’t spend quite as much time on the shots when I’ve got an 80-pound dog attached to my arm via leash. He’s gotten quite good at waiting patiently, but I feel bad about getting his hopes up that we’re going to move on, when really I’m just moving a few steps to get a different angle.

Foto Vrijdag 1.4

This is a detail from one of my favorite sculptures here in town. It’s such a quiet, solitary setting and the sculpture fits the environment so perfectly. I saw the man quietly contemplating the trees when I first came upon him, during a walk with Pippo. I thought it was lovely. Then I saw the rest of the sculpture and felt a kinship.

With a bit of searching I found some info about the sculpture. It was made in 1957 and is called De Spoetnikkijker (The Sputnik Watcher). It was moved to this location (near the Sonnenborgh Observatory) in October 2007. Old photos show that the dog used to have its back to the man.