Groningen is a piece of the Wetlands all to itself.
It has the reputation of being cold and empty (except for potatoes and the occasional seal), and its inhabitants are said to be taciturn.
When I first visited our northernmost province, in 1987, I was happily surprised to find its landscapes wide, with stunning open skies, and its people friendly. A Groninger isn't taciturn, he is cautious, and not inclined to tell a stranger immediately to his face what he thinks of him. Personally, I think this a very good habit! (Compared to, say, a Rotterdammer or Amsterdammer, who will call total strangers klootzak or eikel to their faces, when he simply wishes to acknowledge their existence).
Ever since that first quick visit in 1987, Groningen has had a huge place in my heart, with wide open skies.
No surprise then, that my 6th day of my road trip was a good one.
May I give you a tip? Do not forget to visit Winsum. It is a charming village on the Hogeland (above Groningen City towards the Waddenzee), with one of those typical Groninger churches and three windmills built onto a terp (a man-made hill, to keep the Groninger feet dry when the Waddenzee or one of the numerous rivers flooded the land). Look at that stairway! Even when flooded, this church is accessible. It has a charming bridge that puts the ones in Amsterdam to shame. And good bars, always important to a Dutchman.
I'll let you in on a secret: I wouldn't mind living in Winsum. It has everything a village has to offer, and more...as it has a direct Arriva train to Groningen City only taking 15 minutes to the city centre.
Years ago in the late Eighties we have tried our best to move to Winsum, but then (as now) fear of unemployment kept us in the West. With hindsight I feel we should have taken the plunge. Too late now...our kids do not want to leave their friends. (We'll kick them out in a few years though...never say never!)
Spending at least a couple of days each year there, I have to shamefully admit I forgot to take photos for you... But I'll make it up: we spent the evening having dinner in another (even smaller) village nearby, Garnwerd, and there I did take them.
Garnwerd is cute. People, especially students, come all the way from Groningen City to eat here at Hammingh and the brand new Garnwerd Aan Zee. And no, it has no direct sea access, that is a joke. But if you follow the Reitdiep river you will get to the sea eventually. The Waddenzee, that is, filled with seals these days. In fact, so many of them lose their way and end up in my neck of the woods (so to speak), that they are building a new seal sanctuary in Stellendam, only 14 km away from my home.
But I am drifting...
On the Saturday, one week into my adventure, I left Winsum, again with rain in my face, and cycled in an hour to Groningen City, where I planned on taking the train to Zwolle. Yes, I could have cycled there. But that would have taken me another 2 days, and I was pressed for time by now. I had to be home by the beginning of the week.
Groningen proved yet another knooppunten hitch... there were road works with badly signposted diversions and it took me a while to find my way.
Especially for you, I searched out a song. No, they do not have northern lights over Groningen (well, almost never), but just close your eyes and listen to Nick Drake. Northern Sky
My tip for wanna-be knooppunten cyclists: get into your Zen-mode when attempting to use a knooppunten route in a major city!