Utrecht is Open for Business (and Merriment)

What's a [arty without cheese?

What’s a party without cheese?

Sundays in Utrecht used to be rather quiet. Except for the “Koopzondag” (sale Sunday) when many stores would open just the first Sunday of each month, most shops — even grocery stores — closed down Sunday and half of Mondays. Most apoteks (pharmacies) closed on Saturday as well, although usually they would take turns staying open on the the weekends in case of medicinal emergencies. Then, last year, local businesses began a direct advertising campaign to allow the shops to stay open. I woke one Sunday to find every single bicycle seat in our area had been adorned with a gratis water-proof seat cover — with a message:

A plea for stores to stay open on Sundays in downtown Utrecht.

Loosely translated: “Utrecht wants to be open on Sundays.”

And so it now Utrecht is open for business on Sundays. Well, maybe not all the shops are open on every Sunday.  But I have noticed several shops around town have signs posted or painted in their windows, announcing their Sunday availability:

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So the streets of Utrecht are bustling nearly every day.

This  window is advertising gifts, Father's Day, and that it's open Sundays (lower right).

This window is advertising gifts, Father’s Day, and that it’s open Sundays (lower right).

And, of course, Utrecht has always gotten around the Dutch version of “blue laws” by having many weekend  events. It comes down to any excuse to have a party, and what better way to make money then having a party along with stoking your cash drawer?

This past weekend was a cultural weekend, I was told, so there were crowds, music venues and street fairs all over the binnestad, or inner city. The “main street” just steps from our front door was closed off and most of the local shopkeepers and other entrpreneurs had stalls displaying their wares.

Twijnstraat, just a few steps from our front door, is a major commercial leg in the historic part of Utrecht. For the fair, stalls lined the street with wares from both local businessmen and other entrepreneurs.

Twijnstraat, just a few steps from our front door, is a major commercial leg in the historic part of Utrecht. For the fair, stalls lined the street with wares from both local businessmen and other entrepreneurs.

Strawberries are in season and are delicious!

Strawberries are in season and are delicious.

Sausages for sale.

Sausages for sale.

The sign says "Fish and chips," but I saw no frites. Kind of an interesting way to consume fish -- whole -- scales, eyes and all.

The sign says “Fish and chips,” but I saw no frites. Kind of an interesting way to consume fish — whole and smoked, not fried — scales, eyes and all.

Who knew there were so many flavors of live oil?

Who knew there were so many flavors of live oil?

Sausage and meats.

Sausage and meats.

Jams and jellies for brood (bread) toppings. I've never seen people eat so much bread, not even the French.

Jams and jellies for brood (bread) toppings. I’ve never seen people eat so much bread, not even the French.

Dutch women wear tights a LOT, under tees, tunics and even dresses. Considering how much biking they do -- and how cold it can be on a bike in winter -- it's no wonder tights are popular.

Dutch women wear tights a LOT, under tees, tunics and even dresses. Considering how much biking they do — and how cold it can be on a bike in winter — it’s no wonder tights are popular.

Colorful displays are a norm in Utrecht markets and shopping areas.

Colorful displays are a norm in Utrecht markets and shopping areas.

Not sure I get the fashion sense with these ankle boots, but chaqu'un, son gout.

Not sure I get the fashion sense with these ankle boots, but chaqu’un, son gout.

Stroopwaffels are a national delicacy. They are round, flat, thin waffle-like cookies but both crisp and chewy. They are loaded with butter, sugar and cinammon and are totally addictive.

Stroopwaffels are a national delicacy. They are round, flat, thin waffle-like cookies but both crisp and chewy. They are loaded with butter, sugar and cinnamon and are totally addictive.

Michael is thinking of retiring. Part of his dilemma is, "What's next?" Corinne and I persuaded him to pose with a calliope busker, to demonstrate  his next possible job. These guys stand on the busiest streets, blaring there music (alas, no monkeys wearing bell-cap hats!), shaking brass dishes and "encouraging" passers-by to drop coins into them. Michael looks a natural, no?

Michael is thinking of retiring. Part of his dilemma is, “What’s next?” Corinne and I persuaded him to pose with a calliope busker, to demonstrate his next possible job. These guys stand on the busiest streets, blaring their music (alas, no monkeys wearing bell-cap hats!), shaking brass dishes and “encouraging” passers-by to drop coins into them. Michael looks a natural, no?

And, of course, when you’re tired of people-watching and food-sampling, there’s always a nearby cafe where you can indulge in whatever suits your fancy.

Michael and Corinne outside the "Beer Church," aka Cafe Olivier. (See the 2011 blog)

Michael and Corinne outside the “Beer Church,” aka Cafe Olivier. (See the 2011 blog)

Dooie!

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