Musings on Minor Dutch Differences

Pretty Clouds [Day 109/365]
After living here for four years, I’ve gotten fairly used to life here and don’t really notice some of the little differences any more. But every once in a while something catches my attention and makes me smile.

For example, the molen (windmill) in the photo is here in town in an urban area. It’s also where we went to buy some special cuts of meat, because the base of it is now a butchery. How many people get to go to a butcher housed in a windmill?

On the other hand, while visiting the kerstmarkt (Christmas market) the other week, we got to try a BBQ pulled pork wrap. The guy making the food had a large BBQ grill/smoker like the ones you see in the US at BBQ competitions, etc. Pulled pork isn’t common here, so as he was serving it up to us, he asked if we’d ever eaten something like this before. I had to laugh. Actually, I thought I had misunderstood what he’d said, since we had been ordering in Dutch. It turns out I did understand him, but the question threw me for a loop. Growing up in the South, there’s no shortage of pulled pork. In fact, there are whole regional differences in how you cook and dress your pulled pork. For example, vinegar sauce vs tomato-based sauce.

The funny thing is, it’s not the first time someone has asked me that about a food I take for granted. While visiting a local baking supply shop that also sells some treats, they were giving away cheesecake samples and they asked if I’d ever tried it before. That one surprised me even more, but I guess it was new to enough people to warrant the question! I know my friends at American Baking Company have had fun introducing some American desserts to a Dutch audience, but they seem to be winning them over!

To finish off this look at small differences, I’m going to move away from food. This one isn’t particularly Dutch, but the constant wet weather makes it somewhat typically Dutch. We’ve had rain (more drizzles than heavy rain) for more than a week now. Every time I look out the window, if it’s not actually raining, the streets are still obviously wet. Every time I went out in the past two weeks, I’ve gotten rained on, except for the past two days. That just means I’ve gotten lucky.

The part that makes this somewhat amusing is the fact that our house, which dates to the late 1800s, gets temperamental with this much moisture. More specifically, our front door gets temperamental. It getting a bit sodden, I suppose, and doesn’t want to close properly. Once it is closed, it doesn’t want to open, at least not from the inside. Our front door also is a bit curious in that it doesn’t have a typical handle on the inside. There’s a latch on the lock that we usually use to pull the door open. However, when the door decides to stick, it’s hard to get a good grip on the latch.

For the past two days, when someone has come to the door (mainly delivering/picking up packages for neighbours), I’ve been physically incapable of getting the door open! I’ve been pulling on the latch with one hand and using the other hand to get an awkward grip on the mail slot in the door in an attempt to get enough leverage to open the door. In the meantime I was also calling to G for his help and was tempted to yell through the door to have the other person push!

If the rain isn’t going to stop, I’m going to need some rope to fashion a handle so I can pull more easily. At least we have a back door that works, although even the garden door is starting to get a bit sticky now!

Windmill Day

Dutch Scenery
Just your average Dutch city skyline …

It’s Nationale Molendag (national windmill day) here in the NL, and the Molen de Ster (Star Windmill) here in Utrecht is participating. Basically, there are tours and music and various activities, all for free. This particular windmill is usually open to the public in one form or another, since there’s a small petting zoo next to it.

The event is mainly for kids, and as the weather keeps changing from sun to clouds to sun to clouds, I didn’t feel like chancing a visit. Really, this post is little more than a chance to post some photos I took of the windmill in January. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!
Molen de Ster


Almost Wordless Wednesday

Molen de Ster
Last year, I started to do an Utrecht Daily Photo theme, but quickly slacked off, since I felt like I should add a bit more text to the photos if they were going to be on this blog. This year, I’ve been trying again, but this time on a separate blog, in fact, on Tumblr, which doesn’t make me feel like I should add much text. Anyway, if you want random photos of Utrecht on a daily basis and don’t want all my rambling thoughts, feel free to check out Trajectum Trajectories for a daily photo. There’s no rhyme nor reason to the photos I’ll be posting, other than I kind of like them and they’re taken in Utrecht.

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!

Different Donderdag: Highways

A highway is a highway is a highway. There probably aren’t that many differences from one highway to another, from one country to another, at least in the standard western world. Aside from the license plate shape, the picture above really doesn’t look much different from any similar highway scene I remember from the US. Still, there are a few differences you’ll notice on Dutch highways compared to American highways (and I use highway interchangeably with interstates).

First up, the Exit sign is now an Uit sign.

Speed signs are posted above the road in electronic form that can change as needed.

We’ve got electronic information signs too, of course, but they’re in Dutch!
Information Highway

There are the big blue signs providing direction to various cities, and information about ring roads.
Ring Around the Rosie

There are even signs directing you toward cheese! Yum! Gouda!
Say Cheese
OK, no, it’s not actually directing you toward cheese, just the city for which the cheese is named.

As you can see, it’s all pretty similar to anywhere else. One thing that is a bit different here is the fact that there aren’t the same huge, ugly billboards everywhere. This is the only one I saw that even remotely came close to the ones I was so used to in America (I saw these South of the Border billboards a lot in North Carolina).
Euro Menu

There are also a lot of wind turbines near the highway here, at least on the stretch we drove from Utrecht toward Rotterdam.
More Molen
You’ll also see lots of fields divided up by canals like these, often with cows, horses and/or sheep hanging around.
But it’s always going to be flat.


Pretty Clouds [Day 109/365]
So, yes, if you’re trying to get in or out of Europe, you’re probably not having much luck unless you’re going by boat, as my parents wisely decided to do (for unrelated reasons). There seems to be an unpronounceable volcano spewing masses of ash (es in Dutch) all over Europe. I must say, though, the name of that volcano suddenly makes Dutch seem downright makkelijk (easy)!

One of the jokes is that this is Iceland’s revenge for the UK and Netherlands trying to get their money back after the IceSave disaster. I’m sure all the people stranded aren’t really seeing the humor in the situation at the moment. For the rest of us not effected, the only immediate impact is that the skies are now free of airplane vapor trails, leaving the clouds to flit and feather their way across the sky unimpeded. With the bonus of the beautiful weather we’ve been having, it’s really quite gorgeous outside.

There might have been a very thin coat of ash on the car when we went out today, but it could also just be normal grime. Hard to tell, since we don’t use the car much. We headed out to Gamma to pick up some materials to fix the holes in our living room wall and ceiling. On our way there, we passed the windmill in town, so I decided to get a shot, especially since they seem to have rotated the twirly bit around to the opposite side. With the feathery clouds in the background and the beautiful blue sky, it was an easy choice as my photo for today in the Project 365.

Picture Perfect

It’s such a beautiful day here in Utrecht. See? Look at those fluffy white clouds and that beautiful blue sky. Doesn’t that make you want to come into the city center this evening and listen to some lovely music by Ryan Prebble? U Rock! Café is located just off the main street running through the city center, so it’s easy to get to from the train station or by bus or by bike or by foot. It’s right there by the Neude. And it’s only €5.

They Do Exist!


Perhaps one of the most iconic images of the Netherlands is the windmill (de molen). I know other countries have them, too, but they still just seem so very Dutch.

We saw both the old-fashioned ones, as well as the new wind turbines when we first arrived here and drove from Schipol to Utrecht. I’ve seen others when taking the train to Amsterdam or even driving to Oudewater. I knew that there was at least one here near the center of the city, but didn’t actually know where it was, until we drove to Oudewater last Friday and there it was, not far away at all!

I saw it again from a distance on Monday when I went for my inburgering meeting — it’s just down the street from the offices I visited. I’ve been wanting to go back all week to take some photos, but it’s been horribly cold and a bit icy and just not the kind of weather that inspires long walks.

The weather is no different today, but I was feeling inspired, despite the fog and cold. Pippo and I set out to go tilt at some windmills. Along the way, we passed one of the bigger canals and saw just how much of it was already freezing over. You can see some of those photos on my Flickr stream. For now, I leave you with a few more shots of de molen.

Let's Go Tilt!