Travel Blog – Northern Germany to Holland

9 09 2009

After a late start we hit the road again with the plan of ending the day in Groningen, Holland (at least that is where we had booked the accommodation).

The first stop of the journey was Bremen, most well known for it’s beer ‘Becks’. Well, to be honest no one outside of Germany probably realizes that this is where it is from but it is.

It is also the town in one of the Grimm fairytales where a bunch of animals are heading to try their luck as a band and on the way manage to foil a robbery. There is a statue of the four friends in one of the squares where we happened to stop for a beer. The legend goes that if you grab the donkey’s legs and make a wish that it will come true. We tried it and I was lucky that Alyona knew how it was supposed to work as all the other tourists were only grabbing one leg, not both…. fools!

Becks in Bremen (f8.0 1/320 24mm)

Becks in Bremen (f8.0 1/320 24mm)

After that we were heading north to the small town of Aurich where our mutual friend Holger was then living (he has since found a job in southern Germany :-) ). Didn’t really know anything about the town or the region but it was a nice drive and you could tell that the land must be getting more suitable for wind generation given how the number of generators increased.

Anyway, we arrived in the late afternoon and Holger treated us to a tour of the town and showed off the barracks and old palace. We then stopped for a beer (notice a trend) and tried something I had never heard of before: Banana Weissen. It is literally wheat beer with added banana juice and surprisingly tastes way better than it sounds. Very refreshing and sweet but with the added benefit that it is a beer. Holger was drinking strawberry beer which was unusual from the other varieties I have tried in that there were real, whole strawberries in the bottom so had a much more realistic taste than those I’ve tried at Belgian beer cafés.

Strawberry and Banana Beer (f7.1 1/50 24mm)

Strawberry and Banana Beer (f7.1 1/50 24mm)

In the meantime I had managed to get the lonely planet e-books for both Germany and Holland on my iPhone and had been reading up a bit. Turns out there is an old fort called Bourtange near the border of Germany and Holland that is supposed to be really pretty and Holger agreed that it would be a good stop and not far off our original route.

So traveling south a bit and definitely off the beaten path we arrived at this star-fort in the middle of nowhere. You can still see the start shaped embankments and regular angles everywhere and to get into the center is a bit of a mission as it is designed such that you have to traverse a lot of the star to get inside. Once there it is a reasonably preserved example of a 19th century fort and while we arrived too late for there to be anything open it was obviously set up as a tourist attraction.

Holland! (f7.1 1/125 24mm)

Holland! (f7.1 1/125 24mm)

We also had fun investigating the long-drop style toilets which were really just a hut jutting out over the moat with a trough to squat over. I did try to use them but it turns out to be quite difficult. Especially when your girlfriend is outside with a camera pointed at the building and the water below…

So after finishing up in Bourtange we hit the road again and headed to Groningen in Northern Holland. As we drove west it was obvious that there was a big storm coming and it broke as we entered the town. Now unfortunately it turned out that the GPS only had the major roads for Holland and so didn’t have either the hotel or the hotel’s road on it … and we didn’t have a map.

Driving into the center of the city trying to look for something that looked like it might be the hotel proved a little fruitless so we ended up stopping outside a video rental store to ask for directions. The guy was really helpful and showed the map on google maps but because of the one-way street system it was quite a confusing route to get there. We managed to get most of the way but I was kind of doubtful that it was the right way but luckily we saw a local street map on the side of a bus shelter and stopped to check. Turns out we were only a couple of blocks off and we managed to get to the hotel in short order. Turns out it was a fair way out of town and there was no way in hell that we would have found it without directions.

After checking in it was already after 9:30 and we were very, very hungry. The reception recommended one place as being the only one open in the area so we walked the km or so and got there at 9:55. Despite saying they close at 10 the place recommended were dicks and refused to do a takeaway order (they were a restaurant/takeaway place). Can’t remember their name but don’t go there ;-)

Walking around the corner it turns out there was a small fish-and-chip-esque takeaways who were also shutting up shop but agreed to do an order anyway so we dined on frites and tiny Heinekens from the bar next door. A fitting meal for our first night in Holland!

The next morning after eating some sandwiches for breakfast that had been prepared back in Tiefenbruch by Alyona and her Mum we went out to see a little of Groningen. We drove in and parked and walked around a bit. Marveled at the sheer number of bikes and got smiles from the locals when I posed in front of a juge number of bikes that had had a bit of a tumble. It wasn’t me though I swear!

Bike Accident (f8.0 1/320 28mm)

Bike Accident (f8.0 1/320 28mm)

We went up the belltower of the Groningen Cathedral and while the view was amazing the spoiled it all with a stupid wire mesh. So instead you can marvel at it over my shoulder.

Belltower of the Cathedral (f8.0 1/200 28mm)

Belltower of the Cathedral (f8.0 1/200 28mm)

After that serious effort we stopped for a beer in the square below at a quaint building that we could see from the tower. It was built in the 1600’s and was very cool as a café environment. And you can see that over her shoulder :-)

Cafe in Groningen (f8.0 1/50 28mm)

Cafe in Groningen (f8.0 1/50 28mm)

The route for those who are interested:

Travel Route




3 responses

11 09 2009

Beer !

11 09 2009

How was the Strawberry and Banana Beer really ? :)

17 09 2009

There’s the same type of star shaped fort in Le Vieux Quebec – from the 18th century. Must have worked for them then!

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