My husband and I lived in Hamburg, Germany, for 4 years and that allowed us to visit our friends in Holland more often than usual. A girl we studied with married a Dutch guy; at first they lived in Brussels (here’s a nice place they showed me, when I visited them there) and later settled down in Holland in a small town called Zwolle, which was about 4 hours drive away from our home in Hamburg. I’m going to write more about Zwolle later on, but this post is about our weekend trip to Groningen, where our friend chose to celebrate his birthday in 2007.
You probably know that Germany has great roads and their Autobahns with no speed limit are just designed for comfortable driving. Although, occasional daredevils rushing by at up to 300km (180miles) per hour do not exactly make you feel all warm and fuzzy, everybody’s really good at abiding the rules, so you’re pretty safe there. When you enter Holland, you suddenly feel like that perfect road you’ve been driving on was just an old ordinary road and now you’re travelling on a magical straight-out-of-a-sci-fi-movie surface, which makes you wanna fly. But there is a speed limit, so there, control yourselves. Basically, this combination of no speed limit and awesome roads made our 4 hour journeys to Holland very enjoyable.
We’ve never been to Groningen before and knowing that cycling is big there is nothing in comparison to actually experiencing it. Did you know that Groningen was called World Cycling City as 57% of all the journeys within the city are made by bicycle? You still feel fine driving a car on the outskirts, but the closer you get to the city centre the more you feel out of place. Cyclists are always right, cyclists have their designated space, while cars are allowed to enter just a few streets in the central Groningen. Our hotel was pretty much in the old town and we had a bit of a hard time finding our way there.
Groningen is a big university city (University of Groningen dates back to 1614), so the streets are filled with young people. Everybody’s extremely tall – did you know that Dutch are officially the tallest people in the world? A land of giants, us feeling like hobbits amongst them. As in many other places in Holland, there’s lots of water around, with various canals winding their way around city quarters. We made some photos over that weekend, but the ones from the evening of the party are pretty blurry and the ones from the morning after mainly contain evidence of our hangover, so I decided to show you professional pictures instead to give you a better idea of how the city looks.
I can’t say I know Holland well, not at all, but I think that Groningen might be one of the best places to come, if you’re planning to party – Dutch students like to party hard, with night life buzzing till the morning (hence our headaches the next day), coffee shops selling legal drugs (ok, we considered ourselves a bit too old for that at this point, even though it was before the tiny expats arrived) and a Red Light district (us being already married, my husband had to skip that one as well). So, if you plan to visit Holland, don’t just restrict your visit to Amsterdam – there’s plenty to see outside that city of sin. And I don’t just mean more sin in other cities – there’re tulip fields somewhere out there as well ;)