Monday, March 17, 2014

John does Groningen:

This past weekend I spent time in the fine city of Groningen, at the very northern tip of the Netherlands, just a quick two hour and ten minute train ride north. This was my first time to that city, and what a tiny place it is. Yet it is larger than both Leiden and Maastricht. And this is mainly because of its student population, which numbers somewhere around 50,000. I have been all over the Netherlands–really all over. Most corners of this country I have visited. And as I recently applied to become Dutch–passport and all–I find it essential that I visit the major cities of this fabulous country. All that’s left is Nijmegen, in the east. Leeuwarden is one of my favorites; I’ve even managed to travel all throughout Friesland. It’s flat as a pancake, and distinct from the rest of the Netherlands in its architecture. Groningen and its immediate surrounding are quite flat, too. Though its architecture lacks the whimsicality of the gables that adorn the façades of houses in North Holland. Historically, the reason for this is that Amsterdam was the center of power and money in the Dutch Republic in the seventeen century. And so the gables are just a bit less fabulous outside of North Holland, in my opinion. Yet the city is anything but unfabulous. Because of all those students, it’s teeming with life. Even on a lazy weekend in March, when the trees are not yet in bloom and the clouds are ever present. Groningen’s surrounded by water; its center, when viewed from above, resembles the layout of other once fortified European cities. North Hollandish at heart, I’m happy to be back home, in romantically delightful Amsterdam.