Jojanne van Andel
Groningen: a town in the north of the Netherlands, far away from good old Amsterdam and the ‘West’. “Far away”, indeed, because that’s what a two-hour train ride means in this country! Groningen is very lively; there is always something going on. During the days, the omnipresent bike riders keep you alert as you make your way to the historical academy building. In the evenings, there is always a cosy pub to be found, and then, in the early hours, students and other night animals stroll the streets back home under the stars as market men are already setting up their business.
There is a Groningen anthem in which the locals sing of their city being a ”gem in the golden edge” that consists of the province Groningen. Like a jewel in a crown. And yes, the province has the same name. Well, I could start a story here about regional identities that could be interesting to Euroculture students – believe me, you will hear the word ‘identity’ several times this year. Yet indeed, I can agree that Groningen is a nice place that has loads to offer. And I can say so, because after living there for about five years, I can call myself a ‘Groningen veteran’. That is why I would like to introduce you here to some of the town’s little “gems”; nice places to go to enjoy your free time after a ‘demanding’ workweek. These are some of the hidden treasures I discovered that are now for you to enjoy. Hopefully you will like them.
It would be a lie to say that the weather is always good in the Low Countries. In fact, cats and dogs fall out of the sky every once in a while. Nevertheless, be there a nice sunny afternoon I recommend the Prinsentuin. It is a historical Renaissance-style garden, including herbs (don’t pick them!), roses and a lot of hedges. To be honest, I do not know who created it, why and exactly how long ago, but it has been a while probably. In any case, you will enjoy it when you are there! Just sit down on one of the benches and let the rare sun warm your face. If you are lucky, you may find the teahouse to be open. There is a lady who owns it and opens it only if she feels like it. If this is the case, you are very lucky because, in the five years I have tried, she never did. Yet friends tell me they have been there several times and really liked it, so why not give it a try?
Address: corner of the Sint Walburgstraat and the Turfsingel in the city centre.
Café de Minnaar in the Rosenstraat
I just have to tell you about this café annex bar. You can find it within a five-minute walk from the city centre and it’s just lovely. What else would you expect from a place called “Café the Lover”, located in a historical building in the “Streets of Roses”? The staff are nice, the atmosphere is great and you may even find some real local Groningers there. Just wait until it gets dark and they put on the little lights outside. A perfect place for a romantic night…
Address: Kleine Rozenstraat 64, http://www.deminnaar.nl
ORKZ Filmhuisje (cinema)
This is a wonderful little art house cinema in the South of Groningen town. Every week they show interesting films in a cosy room known for its ‘luxurious seats’, as they say themselves on their website. It is such an experience, since the cinema is located in the ORKZ, an old hospital that has been squatted since the 1970s. It is still a bit of a hippie community, but it’s really nice, relaxed and open. Apart from the cinema, you will find a bar and a little restaurant where you can have some vegan and organic meals for a cheap price. Well worth the 20-minute cycle!
Address: Emmastraat 15-S101, www.rkzbios.nl
Every year in January, there are two festivals organised that all of a sudden cause Groningen to be the centre of the Netherlands. Yes, that’s correct: two festivals. Noorderslag is a yearly contest for the best Dutch pop artist and it always takes place in the big concert hall, Oosterpoort. Eurosonic, then, is an international showcase festival where all the important people in the European music industry come together for a conference and decide which bands will make it this year. In the evenings, these bands perform in pubs and concert venues all over the city. Yes, this happens in Groningen. Why? I don’t know!
There are some free gigs, for example in the music shop Plato in the Ebbingestraat and on the Grote Markt. Nevertheless, if you really want to feel some good atmosphere and brag to your friends afterwards that “you saw this band when nobody knew them yet”, you should get yourself a Eurosonic ticket. You should get it as early as possible, because for the last few years they sold out in just one day.
Jojanne got her undergraduate degree in International Relations from the University of Groningen before starting MA Euroculture there. She studies also in the University of Strasbourg, and is currently completing a research track and eating good food in Osaka, Japan. Her interests are European politics, history and intercultural communication.