Weekend in Groningen

Even though I live in the Netherlands for so many years, there are still a lot of beautiful places here that I haven’t visited yet. One of those places was the Groningen, the largest city in the north of the Netherlands. I visited Groningen for the first time together with my boyfriend a few weeks ago. Even we both work a lot we always find a time for a small romantic escapes. We went there by intercity train from Schiphol airport direct to Groningen. It took us just two hours. I like to travel by train. When you travel by train you can watch beautiful landscapes from the window, they serve coffee, tea and snacks inside, it is nice experience and the time passes by very fast.

The Groningen train station is one of the most beautiful I have seen. It is very old and  with very interesting architecture.

The main building even is very old  is very well preserved  and there are plenty of choices for food and drinks at the station. You would not guess but the old doors are actually automatic. Waiting area is very clean and warm.

The ceilings of the waiting area are amazing. According to Wikipedia the first station building was completed in 1865 and demolished in 1894.

The second and current station building was designed by Izaak Gosschalk , completed in 1896, and most recently restored in 2000.

We booked a very nice hotel in the center of the city located just behind  the Martini Tower. De Prinsenhof, five star hotel placed in a beautiful historical building, with all comforts, luxury and facilities of the modern world. The hotel is actually placed on the edge of the nice park behind the Martini tower. As usual we booked through Booking.com website, if you wish press the link to check the price and availability that will take you direct to the property.

Our room was big and cosy, 35 square meters, with a beautiful view over the Martini tower and the hotel front garden.

The room had two floors on the first floor was a sitting area and the desk, toilet and the bedroom with a large and comfortable bed.

On the second floor in the attic was a spacious bathroom with huge bath tub and separate rain shower and sink area.

The building of De Prinsenhof was built and owned by Brothers of the Common Life, a religious group that arose at the end of the 14th century. Where the Grand Café and breakfast area are now, it was a church from the early 15th century. Other parts have been built later on.

From the end of the 16th century the building was used as hotel/residence for the ‘Princes of Naussau’, a Dutch title for ‘city governors’. That is where the name Prinsenhof (Court of the Princes) comes from. During the same period, they also landscaped the Prinsentuin (the Garden of the Princes) which is located behind the hotel.

The only think I did not like regarding the hotel is that in order to be able to get to the elevators and to go into our room we had to pass trough the crowded Grand Cafe between the guests who were eating and drinking there, and there were no other ways to the room, this was the only one. At least our room was very clean, with a nice view as I already mentioned and the bed was big and comfortable.

One more strange think was that to be able to use the elevator we had to place our room key on the elevator door, but just next to the elevator there were the stairs that anybody could use to go upstairs to the rooms without having the room key.

The Martini tower is the icon of Groningen. With it’s 96,8 meters it’s the highest tower of the city, and connected to the Martini Church. You can visit the tower and climb on the top from where you can have a beautiful view over the city of Groningen.

You can consider Groningen as a university city with more than 55,000 of students who live and study here. Around 30,000 at the University of Groningen and around 25,000 at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. The city was busy and crowded in the evenings. Even the advent season is way behind us they still have Christmas lighting everywhere it was so cool and I liked very much. It almost felt like a Christmas time.

Although Groningen is not a very large city, it does have an important role as the main urban center of this part of the country, particularly in the fields of music and other arts, education, and business. The large number of students living in Groningen also contributes to a diverse cultural scene for a city of its size.

We were so lucky to be there during the Eurosonic Noorderslag, an annual music showcase event with over a hundred bands from all over the Europe. We were there at the last day of the festival when Eurosonic Noorderslag features only Dutch artists.

The festival is taking place at the different places all over the city. Simultaneously free concerts are organized in the city center in pubs, bars squares and art galleries.

The north-eastern corner of the Grote Markt  was all covered by a tend so no bad weather or cold can ruin the great atmosphere.

From all the performances we watched on Saturday the one we really enjoyed the most was the last one of Michelle David & The Gospel Sessions. There were some really great vibes under the tend that evening. The video I took was not so clear therefore I will share one of their YouTube videos so you can take a small glimpse of how they perform on the stage.

There is plenty of choices for eat and drink in Groningen. We had some nice experiences but also some not so nice. For sure I would recommend you to not choose the Italian restaurant Napoli for dinner in any case. First of all the place was very dark inside. We went there for dinner and we expected to eat some nice Italian dishes but the antipasti they served to us was not Italian at all, it was kind of cheap salami and cheese that you usually can find in the Lidl supermarket. I ordered Pasta Carbonara. The pasta was not “al dente”,  it was completely over-cooked or over boiled, covered with some pink sauce with milk cream also it smelled like burned, definitely it was not Carbonara. I couldn’t eat it or smell it and I sent the dish back. Waitress came with apologies telling me that this is the way they prepare pasta in the restaurant Napoli. They boil the pasta around the noon this is how she said and then when somebody order the pasta, they are boiling the pasta for a second time to warm it up, then they put the ready sauce over the pasta and then warm up all together again in the microwave oven. I told her that I order a very simple dish that requires maximum 8 to 9 minutes to be prepared fresh and that I really wonder why they use this technique for a such a simple dish, that can very easy and fast to be prepared fresh for their costumers. She said I know but my boss said that this is the way we do it here. She asked if I want a pizza or Lasagna (frozen) but she never even considered to offer me a new fresh Pasta Carbonara as I expected. Therefore I told her that I don’t want anything else since I can not eat what I ordered. My boyfriend ordered pizza presutto with mozzarella. The pizza was not well baked in the middle, the dough was raw and there were a no any sign of presutto but was covered with ready tomato sauce, small amount of unknown greasy yellow cheese (not mozzarella for sure) and ham. As for the drinks my boyfriend ordered for us white wine, but the waitress brought us red one. When we told her that we ordered vino bianco, she said that this is vino bianco that we ordered even it was obviously red. I explained to her that bianco means white and rosso red in Italian language, she looked at me with astonishment in her eyes like I was an alien. Anyway she brought the right white wine later on, with no apologies at all. But the white wine we finally got was not served at the right temperature it was ice cold, but we just gave up, we did not turn the wine back again.

The next waitress that came near of our table was so sweating, she was bringing along with her a very strong smell of sweat all over the place, I was almost ready to puke. That smell was really awful. The only nice thing and the only thing we actually ate and enjoyed there was the fresh made small bread from the pizza dough with butter, they brought to us with antipasti. The bread was warm and well baked. In general we had a bad experience in restaurant Napoli, therefore I will advice you to avoid it.

There are plenty of other places where you can enjoy nice dinner in Groningen, this place is not one of them for sure.

In general you can see many nice and well preserved historical buildings in Groningen. The center is surrounded by the canals. There you can also find some boat hotels and boat restaurants.

The city market is very nice with all the famous store chains. I was surprised to see so many shops that we do not have in Amsterdam and a lot of nice local stores with local products.

Besides many multinational students we saw a lot of German tourists in Groningen.

If you visit Groningen this time of year you can enjoy one very interesting exhibition  in the  Groninger Museum – Romanticism in the North, from Friedrich to Turner, the first international overview of northern European Romantic landscape paintings. Dramatic landscapes with raging seas, majestic mountains and volcanic eruptions alternate with silent moon-lit nights and serene fields. Be amazed by more than 95 beautiful works from the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and Great Britain. If you are lovers of contemporary Romanticism, fantasy and illusion, and the adjacent ‘ Romanticism you will find this exhibition unforgettable.

There is one more very interesting exhibition going on until the 11 March 2018, the exhibition ‘Christmas Flood 1717-Groningen’s greatest natural disaster of the past 300 years’ will be on at the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum (Northern Maritime Museum).The exhibition shows what happened before, during and after this calamitous flood 300 years ago. Eyewitness accounts of the Christmas Flood play a central role. It starts with an urgent warning by provincial clerk Van Seeratt in 1716, which was ignored by the City and Surroundings. Then visitors get to experience the catastrophic effects of the storm, visualized using gripping eyewitness accounts, kept stored in archives for centuries. The Christmas Flood had enormous consequences. In the countryside around Groningen, as many as 1,430 houses were destroyed, and 2,091 people, 11,441 horned beasts, 3,064 horses, 1,277 pigs and 20,923 sheep drowned. The Christmas Flood 1717 marks the moment at which Thomas van Seeratt created the foundations of today’s dikes; higher, wider and less steep. We must never underestimate the power of water, not even today! This exhibition doesn’t just show exactly what occurred during this major natural disaster, it also shows what was changed afterwards to prevent it from ever happening again! It is worth visiting for sure.

In general we really enjoyed our weekend in Groningen I will highly recommend you to visit this beautiful city yourself. I am sure there is much more to see and do in this city, but we were there only for two days so I could write only about the things I saw.

Traveling in general make us very happy. It is nice to be able to make a small escapes from our own reality and every day routine. It could be anywhere, near or far deepens of time and money we have. Even our reality and every day routine is not so bad, the overdose of reality can be stressful sometimes.

A small escapes can help you build new perspectives in your life they can shift you to a different dimension where you are just a spectator. By the time they end up, you got a feeling that one part of your life has been completed, and it is nice feeling, trust me on this. Memories is something that nobody can take away from you.

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