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Travel - More Ways to Get There Events

Upcoming events in October, plus special highlights. Page 4 & 5

Montessori Preschool

A look at the Groningen based, English preschool. Page 6

Bourtange Fortress Visit to the Bourtange Fortress. Page 8

Night Drive

Halloween short story. Page 10 & 11

It requires creativity to travel from the north of The Netherlands to other places using public transport. We can’t go to Paris with the same ease as an Amsterdammer. So, I have sought out different ways to get to places people would like to go. We already know about Public Express, a bus service that connects Groningen, Oldenburg, and Bremen. But, did you know that the service is expanded? With one fast connection, we can go to Berlin and Hamburg now. A comfortable return trip to Berlin is 81,00 euros adult fare. Just for fun, Drenthe Tours operates trips and tours from one day to several days. Their changing offers included a day trip to Paris I tried this summer for only 42.50 euros, leaving right from Groningen Station. Maybe they will go to London next time! Their current offers include the Dickens Festival in Deventer, Gouda by Candlelight, a whole array of Christmas markets in Germany, concerts and shopping trips. They have a two-day Christmas Market tour of Hamburg and Bremen for 85,00 euros including hotel and breakfast.

Metro Station in Paris, France

Bremen, Germany

France has a magical draw, so I sought out more ways to get there. By idBus in Amsterdam, there are trips to Lille and Paris for a reasonable price. Travel on these buses includes free Wifi and plug-in at your seat for recharging your devices. They have fares to Paris starting at 39,00 euros each way. You can plan your return train from Groningen to Amsterdam on the same day avoiding an overnight stay enroute. If you travel the whole way by train it is possible to leave Groningen in the morning and be in Paris for lunch. Read further on page 3.

Connect International serves the international community in the provinces Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe and Noord Holland.



Supported by an international staff and Board of Directors, we provide quality relocation services and practical information to help familiarize international residents with all aspects of living, working or studying in the Northern Netherlands, and organize events and activities to facilitate making further connections. Join Us! You can register to become a Connect International member via our website. For a small yearly fee, you can get the Connections e-magazine newsletter delivered directly to your email inbox, join the Connect International community at organized events, access the Connect book libary with many English books and much more. Visit: Welcome New Members! Connect International would like to welcome the following new members: Michalis Zaouras & Styliana Mariou, Milos Ebner & Simona Mac, Kathrin Thedieck & Matthias Brandt, Lara Lobschat, Michael Foley & Kathryn Dale, Diego Ronchetti, Sarah Dougan, Alexandre Avgoustopoulos, Martina Horvath, Katja Furian Melcher, Family van Ittersum, Daniel Catanzaro, Boris Romero Barbosa & Diana Large, Laura McAulay, Sharon Rooker-Gunnery & Janet O'Neill.

Connect’s Partners

Helping to welcome the world



Provincie Groningen Provincie Friesland Provincie Drenthe




N.V. NOM GasTerra


Contact: Connect Head Office: Herestraat 106, Room 1.06, 9711LM Groningen Telephone: 050 7440087 Email: / Website:

Connect Noord Holland (Alkmaar Office): Bovenweg 121, 1834CD Sint Pancras Telephone: 06 25394234 Email:

Everything you need to make yourself at home in the Netherlands Connect International has a full membership

Attention Writers! Enjoy Writing? The Connections Newsletter is seeking volunteer writers who enjoy writing to theme, writing informative articles, or have an opinion and want to voice it! Interested? Contact us at

Publication Team: Editor & Publication Design: Stephanie Fermor Assistant Editor: Margaret Metsala Contributers to this issue: Stephanie Fermor, Karen Prowse, Margaret Metsala, Isabella Boscaro, Anne Bridges, Alexandra van den Doel & Andrea Kullek. Interested in advertising in Connections E-Magazine? Advertising Rates per Issue (10 issues per year) : 1/4 Page (12.5 x 9.5 cm) €25,00 1/2 Page (12.5 x 19 cm) €50,00 1 Page (A4 - 21 x 29.7cm) €100,00 Contact for more details.

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Travel - More Ways to Get There (continued) Eurolines is a stalwart in the bus business covering over 500 destinations in Europe and to Morocco. They offer express buses to Paris and to Lyon, the second largest city in France. Promo tickets are their cheapest offer, and ticket prices can start at unbelievably low rates which seem to depend on how much time you want to sacrifice. Eurolines travels to northern destinations from here. From Groningen Station, you can travel to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. The return fare for Groningen to Oslo is 134,00 euros. The closest German city of Leer is well worth a visit and is reached by a direct train from Groningen. Happy travels! Margaret Metsala Links: :: ::

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Berlin, Germany

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Special & New Upcoming Events for Groningen, Friesland & Drenthe This month a new socializing event is launching in Groningen: Cultural Connect. On 9 October we will be visiting the Martinitoren, and later in the month on 23 October we will be visiting the Groningen Museum. Future events will be located at different places around Groningen. Visit the website for more details and to register. Last month Connect held a beading party and we will be doing it again. This month it will be on Sunday 13 October at the Connect Offices in Groningen. The event is free, bring your own materials. Visit the website to register.

Special & New Upcoming Events for Connect Noord Holland On 9 October come and join Connect Noord Holland for a bread making workshop at a bakery in Groet. This month Connect Noord Holland is hosting an open borrel night at EETpaleis Brasserie, Alkmaar. Everyone is welcome , so please come join us for a wonderful evening! Connect Noord Holland is also holding two Halloween events. One for families, on 25 October, the second for Adults on 26 October.

Other Events On 3 November there will be a handmade market in Groningen, on the Vismarkt. Diezijn Leuk! is a market with all kinds of unique, original and handmade products. You also get the opportunity to be inspired by many stalls selling hobby supplies.

Stephanie from Handmade Cuddles (who hosts the Connect Craft Club) will be at the market so pop by to say hello!

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Next month TANNAHILL WEAVERS will be performing throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. They play traditional Scottish music. 24 Nov 2013 at Cafe de Amer, Amen is the closest to Groningen. You must make a reservation. Call early! It will sell out! Full concert dates can be found on their website.

Montessori Preschool Groningen Cortlyn Schmitz runs her Montessori Preschool, located in Groningen, where children can play and learn in a home-like environment that encourages them to be independent and self-motivated while developing them intellectually, emotionally and socially. I visited Cortlyn to learn more about Montessori teaching methods and why she set up her preschool.

For example in the maths area, a young child can experiment in putting spindles into boxes and developing their fine motor skills. They can also watch the older children practise counting out the correct number of spindles for each number and so the younger children learn from the older ones.

Cortlyn began teaching back in the US in 2000 and has a master's degree in education from Temple University, Pennsylvania. She also holds an early childhood Montessori Certification via the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE). In 2010 she moved to the Netherlands with her husband and young son and a year later she set up her Montessori preschool because she wanted to give her son the same form of education he would have had if they still lived in the U.S. In addition to the classroom environment, the children spend one morning a week at their plot in a community garden not far from the preschool. The garden provides the children with a wonderful learning enviroment where they can have fun and develop key skills. Before the summer the children planted vegetables, herbs and flowers and being in the outdoor environment really sparks interesting conversations and activities, such as listening to the wind, bird song and exploring the wildlife around them.

At the preschool, Cortlyn teaches children from 22 months up to five years. The main language of instruction is English, but she also speaks Dutch and French, in order to make the transition to English easier. The programme follows the academic calendar of the primary schools, with sessions running from 8:30 to 11:30. Children can come two, three or four days a week, and the preschool space accommodates up to five children each day. The small class size gives Cortlyn time to spend individually with each child, as well as group snack and circle time. During my talk with Cortlyn, she walked me through the different areas of study. “The materials allow children to learn things in geography, science and math that they they would not usually learn in an early childhood setting." Each area of study has its own space in the preschool room, filled with different objects and activities that the children can do. Because the preschool caters to a range of ages, each activity will help each age group at a different developmental stage.

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If you are interested in knowing more about Cortlyn’s Montessori preschool, you can visit her website at or email her at

Stephanie Fermor

What Connect did for me and can do for you! There I was, sitting in my Dutch house (oh those stairs!), drinking my tea the Dutch way (really weak, no milk), after having fetched my children from their Dutch school (by bike of course!), waiting for my Dutch husband to come home for his evening meal (promptly at 5.30 p.m. – the Dutch way!), feeling very integrated. And yet…. Wouldn’t it be lovely to meet some other expats, speak English again, not feel so foreign, even just now and then? Separately I had been wanting to join a book club for ages, but was apprehensive about doing it all in Dutch, I much (much!) prefer to read in English. Time to do a search on the internet. Lo and behold there was something for expats and I didn’t even have to travel to Amsterdam – it was right here on my doorstep! Connect International is here! After a few false starts, I made it to a Connect Coffee Morning in Groningen. [Every second Friday V&D La Place restaurant on the 4th floor – big table by the escalator and elevator.] I received a warm welcome and an enthusiastic Andrea immediately asked me what my interests were – books, wine, walking, DVDs? [See the weblink for all these groups below.] She had me at books, of course. Yep, to my delight there is a book club. We discuss the books in English, but you are of course free to read the book in the language of your choice. The discussions can become lively and are always interesting and it is a good place to share our expat experiences too. The meetings are roughly every 6 weeks and the host (we rotate) picks the book. This year’s writers include : Rafik Schami, Gillian Flynn, Eben Alexander, Markus Zusak, Amos Oz and Jorge Amado and Deborah Levy and Toni Morrison.

The Connect Library has a wide selection of paperback novels in English. Visit the Office to have a browse of the collection.

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In addition to the groups mentioned above, you may find something you are interested in here: or e-mail: (Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe) or (Noord Holland) Please note that in order to become a member of any of these groups you must be a member of Connect International. To subscribe (Euro 16.50/annum), please register on the website: Most groups are free or require a small cost towards materials (craft supplies, book etc.). And last, but by no means least: do you have any questions on life in the Netherlands, from how to deal with the IND to knowing where to buy stuff (and WHAT is it called in Dutch)? You can always e-mail Connect: . They endeavour to answer all queries within 24 hours. Alexandra van den Doel

Back in 1742 in the Bourtange Fortress! The beautiful fortress of Bourtange is located just a few kilometers from the German border to the south east of Groningen. Its distinctive star shaped ramparts enclose a charming village whose old-fashioned atmosphere will take you back centuries.

Walking along the narrow streets paved with cobblestones, you are immersed in a quiet and still atmosphere, that takes you back to a past, now lost. The old buildings, once used as housing for soldiers and as military equipment warehouses, were retained and transformed in to quaint shops. The captain's house, that offers an accurate picture of life in the fortress of earlier times, is worth a visit. In the museum "The Baracquen" as well as in the museum of the former synagogue and in the Protestant church (the first Protestant church in the province of Groningen) you can find detailed information about the history of the fortress. In the Market square, which is at the center of the village, surrounded by 16 350 year-old lime trees, you find picturesque craft shops that sell souvenirs and gifts as well as local products. Also on the square are the only two restaurants in the town where you can relax enjoying a hot beverage and good food in a delightful location.

Image Credit:

The history of Bourtange begins in 1580 with its foundation ordered by William of Orange (head of the Dutch during the War of Independence against Spain) as a strategic point of control of the path through the impassable sandy marshes, that linked Germany with the city of Groningen then controlled by Spain. Its name derives from the union of two Dutch words, "boer", farmer and “tange", sandy ridge. The decline of the settlement began in 1851 when it lost its defensive function and became a simple farming village. In the ‘60s of the last century, in attempt to arrest the depopulation, a series of renovations was begun in order to restore the fortress to 1742, the year of its maximum expansion. Since then, the fortress of Bourtange became a destination for tourists coming from all over the world to visit this real open-air museum. Indeed, 11 of its buildings have been classified as "Rijksmonument", national heritage sites. Upon arrival at the fortress, you cannot help but notice the mill that stands out from the bastion to the right of the main entrance. This ancient corn and hulling mill is actually a copy of the original one that was sold to the village of Ter Haar in 1832.

We must not, however, think that nothing happens in Bourtange! During the year, indeed, numerous cultural, gastronomic, sport and music events are organized. Among the most characteristic, the historical enactment of the “Battle of Bourtange” takes place every year, usually in the month of May. Everything is recreated with extreme precision: clothing, weapons, kitchen utensils, tents, camp life and eating habits are exact copies of those from around 1814. Visitors can also enjoy the so called “Burgervermaak” (“Citizens amusement”) with skirmishes taking place everywhere and with characteristic life from around 1800 on display.

Image Credit: SPiCE Fire Shop,

Every year, at the end of October, hundreds of people take part in the Magisch Samhain, a traditional Celtic festival. Street artists, music, good food, market stands and magic! All this crowned by an extraordinary fire show. And don’t miss the Christmas markets that take place on the weekends of December with a warm and welcoming vibe. The fortress can be easily reached by car or public transport (not in the weekend!). For more information visit the website . Are you ready for a trip back in time?

Image Credit:

Isabella Boscaro

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Night Drive by Andrea Kullek Hunched over, I grabbed the steering wheel tightly. I had to concentrate hard on the narrow road ahead. A multitude of road signs warned of dangerously precipitous road edges. Dark shadows of trees rushed past my window. The sky was a deep blue. In just a little while utter blackness would engulf the road and blend the shadows into the night. It had been a while since I had last seen a car. The provincial road was deserted. I switched on the full beam headlights. In a flash the black surroundings lit up. The dense forest to my right became visible. I also could clearly see what the left side had to offer. One small row of low bushes and beyond the bushes nothing but a big void. In daylight it was a scenic route with beautiful views over the valley. I wished I was already home, sitting in my cosy kitchen, a mug of hot chocolate with a crown of whipped cream cupped in my hands, the steam rising up and fogging my glasses. I could almost smell the delicious waft. I looked at the dashboard clock. It read 21.25 pm. Still 80 km to go. There! Had I heard something? Not the engine, I strained my ears and listened intently. Luckily, all I heard was the familiar sound of the old engine rattling along. I switched on the radio and changed stations until I heard a soft ballad playing. Humming along, I soon felt the soothing effect music had on me. I looked in the rear view mirror. Still no car to be seen. Not even the faintest sign of headlights in the far distance. Nothing. It was as if humanity had moved to outer space and I had been left behind. Time went by and kilometre after kilometre passed. I drove on. Just a little while now and I would leave the provincial road and re-enter civilization. I screamed! My foot hit the brakes. My grip on the steering wheel tightened even further. The car skidded on the asphalt. The engine died and the car came to a sudden halt. Aghast, I stared at the street in front of me. A branch was lying across the road. At a perfect 90˚ angle. Too perfect. With a start, I came back to life. With the back of my hand I hit the window knob and closed the doors shut. The palm of my other hand slapped the radio and the ballad died. The night was dead silent, and the full beam headlights were fixed on the branch. I held my breath. And sat. Motionless. After what seemed like hours, I willed my head to slowly turn left. With my eyes narrowed to slits, I screened the surroundings. No movement. Nothing. Haltingly, millimetre by millimetre, I turned my head to my right, and willed my eyes to pierce beyond the trees. Not a single thing. My eyes moved over to the rear view mirror. Blackness. In a sudden movement, I swivelled around. My neck cracked. Out of the rear window, I only saw the faint red glow of my rear lights, too weak to penetrate the night. I turned back ahead, puzzled. Then I looked quickly to my left and then back to my right again. Nothingness.

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But somewhere, somebody was waiting for me. I knew it. I could feel it. I held my breath and waited. Nothing happened. Did I have it all wrong? Could the branch have fallen off the trees, dislodged by a gust of wind? Unlikely. It had been virtually windless, I knew that for sure. From my desk at work I look right across at a chimney, emitting the smoke from the factory. That day the column had been rising straight up. Could the branch have become dislodged during a storm earlier this year and only now it had fallen off? Vaguely possible. Again I looked around. I couldn’t see anything. I took a closer look at the branch. It was the size of my thigh, split into a side branch that rose into the air. It was this part that prevented me from just driving over it. The branch lay squarely over the road, spreading from one side to the other. I could not just drive around it either. It had to be removed. Somehow. The breakdown service. Of course! I reached over to the passenger seat and fumbled inside my handbag for my mobile phone. The lack of bars however, quickly crashed my hopes. No reception. I was in a dead zone. Did I have to go back all the way? With a mutter of curses, I started the engine. Then I paused. How would I manage to reverse my car on that narrow road? Again I stared at the branch. Fresh air. I needed fresh air to think. Hesitantly, I pushed the window button. Slowly, very slowly, a tiny slit opened. A cool breeze of deliciously clean air blew inside the car. I kept my finger hovering over the button, ready to close it at any given moment. I inhaled deeply and felt my body come back to life. Maybe I didn’t have to do anything. I could just wait for another car. I certainly would not get out of the car and remove the branch myself.

Or would I dare? I concentrated, visualizing all the moves such action required. It could be done in a matter of seconds. I looked around me again. No movements. I had been sitting here for an eternity. Still, nobody had attacked me. I could do it. My heartbeat started to accelerate and sweat broke out again. My mind was set. I would do it. Now! With a piercing battle cry, I jerked the door open. Jumped out. Grabbed the branch. Hauled it around. Dived back inside the car. Locked it shut. There was an odd crunching noise and a soft thud but in my panic I did not ponder its meaning. I put the car into gear and with a screeching start, my little car bounced past the branch into the night. I felt nauseous. My whole body was shaking and I was drenched in sweat. Cold sweat. Hunched over the steering wheel, I stared at the road ahead, my eyes wide open, my face still frozen in horror. Minutes passed. The ordeal was over. However, this did not calm me down. I was gasping in spasms. My right hand was continuously brushing something invisible off my left shoulder. Again and again. Finally, in the far distance I could see the first lights of civilization. The sensation from my left shoulder spread and now covered my left upper arm and neck. I kept brushing frantically. At last, I reached my neighbourhood. The parking spot right in front of my little house was free and I shot into the space. My front wheel hit the pavement and the car stalled. I yanked the keys out of the ignition. As if chased by hordes of gigantic spiders, I stormed towards the door of my house and somehow got inside. I wheeled around and with my whole body, I slammed the door shut. With a loud cry I sank down to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably. I woke with a start. It was still dark. All was quiet and peaceful. The curtains in my bedroom were not drawn. A faint pink orange coloured band on the eastern horizon announced the new morning. The memory of my ordeal the previous evening came back in a flash. So was the odd sensation of my left shoulder. Restlessly I turned in my bed and finally jumped out. After a lengthy shower, I quickly got dressed. When I did my final check-up in the mirror, I saw that I had put on a thick scarf even though it was not that cold. I didn’t feel like having breakfast this morning. In the hallway, I grabbed my jacket and reached out for the keys. I had to get out of the house, be with people. The cold morning air felt pleasant on my face. My neighbour from across the street was just an early bird as me. He stood next to my car and gave me one of his stern looks. This time he had a point, I had to admit. In my hurry yesterday, I had parked the car almost in a right angle to the pavement. I looked back at my neighbour. But he kept

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staring at my car. My eyes followed his gaze to the driver’s door. And my heart stopped clean. Three bloody streaks went across the side of the car. Wordlessly, my neighbour took the keys out of my trembling hand and opened the door. Our eyes were drawn down to the little space between the door and the back of the driver’s seat. Right where the seatbelt hung limply, I saw three odd little red lumpy things. We both bent lower to see more closely. And clearly saw the bloody fingertips.

Andrea Kullek

Tall and beautiful How is the air up there? Have you always been that tall? Do you play basketball? If you are tall, people often feel compelled to make useless remarks. For Diana Smith it was not a laughing matter and going to school was not a walk in the park. Apart from the relentless teasing, there was something Diana dreaded even more: shopping for clothes. Every shopping spree was an expedition into hostile territory. “It was awful. All I could find were pants at half-mast and no boots in the world to cover up the gap,” Diana remembers. From early on, Diana felt awkward and perceived her body height as a disability. Aged only 12 years old, she already measured 1,89 m and only fitted into adult clothes. And then the day came when she outgrew these too, leaving her to wear boys’ clothes. A living nightmare for any teenage girl. “I was so desperate that I ended up knitting my own sweaters and even attempted to sew a pair of trousers. It was a disaster,” Diana laughs at her recollection.

And her efforts paid off. “It is a wonderful feeling to see my customers happily go through the racks of clothes. ‘It’s like a sweet shop’ ,” they often say. Everything they try on, miraculously fits. A whole new shopping experience. They appreciate the personal attention and the cosy atmosphere of the boutique and quickly get talking to each other, comparing their experiences of being tall. In hindsight they can finally see the funny side.

Later, she was often reminded of her childhood whenever she saw other tall women wearing trousers with legs too short. Even though the Dutch are the tallest people in the world, there were surprisingly few shops that sold clothes for tall women.

Now, one of her daughters follows in her mother’s footsteps. Lengthwise. Diana tells her to stand tall and see how she really is. Beautiful!

Eventually Diana decided to take the plunge. In 2011, she left her teaching career behind and dived headfirst into the world of fashion. She opened ‘Lange Dame’, a fashion boutique exclusively for ladies with beautiful long limbs and the only one in the north of the Netherlands.

You can find out more by visiting the website (, or pop into the store to have a look at the wonderful fashions; Bosstraat 6, 9671 GG Winschoten.

Instead of standing in front of a classroom, she is now a regular visitor in Amsterdam to the Modefabriek (fashion factory) and the World Fashion Centre, choosing beautiful, fashionable and feminine garments and having them tailored to fit her specific customers.

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Andrea Kullek

43 connections oct2013  
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