2_3_DiscoverBenelux_Issue14_January2015_Scan Magazine 1 26/01/2015 19:14 Page 21
Discover Benelux | Travel Feature | Groningen
Groningen through artefacts and a collection of modernist artworks by local painting collective De Ploeg. Walking through a corridor, with the canal outside at eye-height, I end up in a round hall. Here a collection of porcelain, paintings, silverware and furniture of Jan Albert Sichterman is displayed, who lived 300 years ago. Dubbed the ‘King of Groningen’, he used his wealth not just to collect stunning pieces of Asian art, but also to buy a rhino, Clara, as a pet, of which beautiful, detailed paintings remain. For lunch I walk further into the centre or ‘binnenstad’, the inner city. At ‘t Opstapje, one of the many lunch places where you can have fresh baguettes with a filling of choice, I order a crab salad roll and fresh orange juice. Refuelled, I walk to the Martinitoren, the highest tower in Groningen nicknamed the Olle Grieze, or old grey one.
The old grey Martini Tower The church, named after Groningen’s patron, Saint Martin, has a stirring history. The oldest structure that stood here was a wooden church dating back to the 9th century. By 1040 Groningen became the
northernmost outpost of the diocese of Utrecht, and thereby an important religious hub for the region. The first tower, built in the 13th century, was only a modest 30 metres high. When, two centuries later, a lightning strike had caused it to collapse and the second, partly wooden, tower had burned down, it was decided to build a new, grand tower to represent the growing wealth of the north.
the Schuitendiep, the canal on the east side of the centre. Here lies the Panne koekschip or pancake ship. The 100-yearold clipper, one of the largest ever built in the Netherlands, has been turned into a cosy restaurant that serves large, wonderful pancakes with all the choice of toppings you can dream of – from sweet to savoury. The family-friendly ship is the perfect place for a hearty Dutch dinner.
To emphasise the diocese’s power, the Dom Tower of Utrecht was used as an example – at the time one of the highest churches in Europe. According to tales from around the time of completion of the newly erected Martini Tower (no one knows for sure when this was) it was said to be even higher than the Dom at an incredible 127 metres. Then in 1577, fate hit again. Bonfires were lit on the top of the tower to celebrate the withdrawal of the Spanish forces. The tower caught fire and was largely destroyed. In 1627 it was eventually rebuilt to a height of 97 metres, the structure which currently still stands.
Groningen, university town
Marvelling at the history of the Olle Grieze, I feel it’s time for dinner. I make my way to
The next day I visit the Universiteits museum. Tucked away, round the corner from the main campus building, the free museum goes through the 400-year history of the university in Groningen. On the top floor, it has a collection of scientific items that were used throughout the centuries, ranging from minerals to fossils and intriguing Victorian contraptions, but also examples of the phase contrast microscope that won professor Frits Zernike the Nobel Prize. Next is a room that gives an ode to Aletta Jacobs, the Netherland’s first female graduate, physician and devout suffragette. Lastly I enter a former operating theatre, now full of conserved body parts and some disturbing examples of
LEFT: Nicknamed the Olle Grieze, the Martini Tower is one of Groningen’s main attractions. TOP MIDDLE: The Groninger Museum sits on an island in the middle of a canal. Photos: NBTC. BOTTOM MIDDLE AND RIGHT: The small but fascinating Universiteitsmuseum goes through 400 years of history of the city’s university. Photos: Universiteitsmuseum
Issue 14 | February 2015 | 21
Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and France.