A friend of mine who used to share a flat with me in Jakarta invited me to her new home in Groningen. She was studying there and since I haven’t since her in awhile I decided that it would be a great opportunity for me to give her a visit.
Whenever I’m in Europe, visiting the Netherlands is a must. Any Indonesian knows that the Netherlands is heaven for Indonesians residing in this side of the world. There are Indonesians everywhere, you can hear Indonesian being spoken in every corner and most importantly it is so easy to find Indonesian food!
So yes, a visit to the Netherlands is almost mandatory for me when in Europe, especially when I start to feel homesick.
When I was a kid living in the UK, I visited the Netherlands almost every summer and so I slightly remember times I spent in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Gouda, Rotterdam and a few other places that I can’t even remember. However, this visit was the first time I have ever returned to Dutch soil after 10 years or so, on my own and also to a new place: Groningen.
When I arrived at the train station, my friend picked me up, her in a bike. Not really surprising as everyone uses a bike in the Netherlands. As it was already dark, she and her husband immediately took me to an Asian restaurant. I can’t remember the name but the food was SO GOOD, it was way better than the Asian food I had in France. I gulped down the refreshing mint tea and happily finished the meal set in front of me. For Spring, the weather in Groningen was quite cold that I was glad that I decided to bring my winter jacket with me.
The next thing my friend told me was that Groningen is a small city and though there are buses, the best way to go around was with a bike and she asked me if I could ride a bike, in which I said yes to. I didn’t know why she was telling me this, she only had 2 bikes, one for her and the other for her husband. So there really was not much choice for me but to take the bus, right?
Turns out that people living in the Netherlands always has a way out when it comes to bike. She told me that a friend of hers agreed to lend me her bike, so that night, my friend shared a bike with her husband while I took her bike and the three of us biked along the streets of Groningen on our way to pick my bike.
Groningen is pretty. I remember the streets being equipped with bike lanes, just like in any other Dutch cities. I felt safe riding my bike though the few “small” hills left me quite breathless. My friends flawlessly rode their bikes like the hills were nothing, I felt like I’ve been spoiled too much with the trams and buses in Nantes!
The next morning, ready to explore the city with my own bike, my friend decided to take me to the town centre. She had to finish off an errand so I told her that I would be fine wandering by myself. We parked our bikes at the city centre and we parted ways for a while.
I didn’t realise that Spring would be this cold in the Netherlands! I don’t think I have ever spent a Spring in the Netherlands as my family and I always came in Summer. However, with the help of a little bit of sunshine and blue sky, I decided to take the most of Groningen.
The scene in Groningen is lively and vibrant, maybe it’s because the city is known to be a university town. Many of its residents are students and so you can expect a lot of hustle and bustle here. One of the buildings that attracted me the first time was the university’s building or Academiegebouw. It is said the building was built in northern Dutch renaissance style. The first building laid its first stone back in 1614. Through a series of events, including a fire, finally the current building stood in 1909. I was told that the exterior of this building has some meanings. It is made out of three façades, the left is Prudentia, the right is Mathematica while the middle façade Minerva, the goddess of science. She is accompanied to her left, Scientia and to her right, Historia.
As I walked some more, I saw Der Aa-kerk, a beautiful church from the Middle Ages. It always fascinates me how buildings as majestic as this church could withstand time and carry with it important history.
For me, Groningen’s was quite accessible by foot and it was not really a big central. And yet still I almost lost track of time. My friend had finished her errand and we were to meet at Grote Markt, one of the town’s central market. As I made my way there, I noticed a high tower reaching the sky. This was Martinitoren, St. Martin’s Tower in which apparently you could see Groningen from above. However I didn’t have time for that.
As I met up again with my friend, we decided to have a bite of, what else if not the famous patat or chips. I had mine with curry sauce, which was undoubtedly delicious while my friend put mayonnaise in her, something that the Dutch love to do. We basked in the sun while chomping down our patat at Grote Markt, like nothing else mattered.
The next day I was heading to Keukenhof with my friend and her friends. We went to the train station with our bikes and I asked her where we would leave our bikes. She told me that the station had a parking lot for bikes. I was curious, and was about to be blown away. As she took me to this “bike parking lot”, I saw so many bikes stacked up in a neat pile. I have never seen so many bikes so neatly coordinated in one place!!
I really enjoyed my time in Groningen, and I was really happy to have enjoyed the city with my own bike, just like the locals!
This week’s theme: Spring Travel