American Influence in Utrecht

Bolwerk Shore
In honor of the Fourth of July — America’s Independence Day — I thought I’d post a couple of photos of things with a touch of the US in them that I’ve seen recently around town. Some have made me laugh, while others have stood out simply for being here.

The first is the photo above. You may not be surprised to find out that this building belongs to one of the university student associations. The large Bavaria banner and flag isn’t referring to the German state. It’s the name of a common beer brand. Although the beer banners, bird statue in the window, and bicycles out front make it look like many a student domicile, the sign saying Bolwerk Shore made me laugh. The cringe-inducing show Jersey Shore has made it to Europe, and the students seem to have created their own version, although hopefully just as a joke for the end-of-year party they had had the night before. (Bolwerk refers to the street name, for what it’s worth.)

Not a typical sight ...
On the same street, but different day, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of this yellow school bus. In the US, I wouldn’t have looked at it twice. It was a common enough sight throughout the school year and I’ve ridden my share of them as well. Yet here in the Netherlands, they stand out the way a double-decker bus would stand out in the US. They just don’t exist here. Students use regular buses to get to and from school, if they use the bus at all.

However, it’s not the first time I’ve seen one here in Utrecht, but that one was being used as a children’s mobile book store. I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same bus, though. After all, it’s been two years since I saw the bus the first time.

Happy Fourth of July to all of my fellow Americans, wherever they are in the world, and to everyone else, Happy Thursday!

America Where You Least Expect It

American Bear
Yes, more talk of the carnival from last week. It has served me well with fodder, especially considering the rain we’ve had this week that has kept us indoors. I was surprised to see the American flag popping up in spots I least expected it. There were a lot of very nice stuffed animal toys to be won at the games, and many were more typically Dutch, such as the cows and of course, Nijntje. But I also saw these teddy bears sporting an American flag on their shirt.
International
Later in the day, we saw this pink caravan flying both the Dutch and American flags. It was a candy van of sorts, although the only American treat seemed to be popcorn. Still, I did hear one little boy catch sight of the caravan and exclaim, “Popcorn!”, so I guess there’s some demand for it.

The US wasn’t the only foreign nation represented. We also saw a couple of stands offering verse Spaanse Churros (fresh Spanish churros). I was tempted by the churros, but in the end decided to make the most of the olibollenkraam to get a mid-year olibollen treat. They’re usually only available around the winter holidays, and they’ve become one of my favorite Dutch treats.
Spanish Churros ... in Utrecht
Keeping with the foreigners in the Netherlands theme, I headed out yesterday to meet up with a large group of expat ladies. In all, there were 12 or 13 of us, with some coming and going at different times. The US was represented by a few of us, but Canada, the UK, Australia and Peru were all represented, as well. It was a truly fun day spent indoors at the Muntkelder pannenkoek restaurant on the Oudegracht. The frequent rain and the friendly staff that didn’t seem to mind us taking up the back room meant we spent four hours talking and laughing and having a good time.

El Camino

An American in Utrecht
There are certain things you just don’t expect to see in the Netherlands — or Europe, in general — and big, old, American cars are one of those things. To be honest, I’m even a bit surprised when I see contemporary SUVs. With petrol/gas prices as high as they are here (I think someone recently mentioned it working out to $8 a gallon), you can imagine that more fuel-efficient cars are in high demand here.

So as we were out walking yesterday morning, enjoying the good weather and just wandering through some of the smaller side streets, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this El Camino. An El Camino! In Utrecht! Growing up in the 1970s, I do remember these cars; I think some neighbors that lived on Harrington Street had one. (I had to Google that street name, and in the process just spent a ton of time revisiting the old neighborhood using Google Street View.) So yeah, a real-life El Camino in the historic city center of Utrecht. I think this may even be a third-generation version, which could well have been built the year I was born.
El Camino
An Unexpected Sight
The funny thing is that I hated these cars back in the day. I thought they were ugly and kind of redneckish. Now, I don’t seem to mind them as much; they’re retro/classic cars now! It’s amazing what a bit of nostalgia and a few thousand miles can make a person overlook.
One of These Things Does Not Belong