Tuesday, 4 March 2014

This Little Piggy Went to Market...

I managed to pick up some sort of Belgian sniffle on my travels, and was feeling very sorry for myself this morning after a rotten night's sleep. The sun was shining insistently through my skylights, however, drawing me out into the day. Deciding a bit of sun would be just the ticket, I packed my Doctor Who Tardis travel mug with strong tea and set off with my camera. Who says you can't have an adventure on a Tuesday morning?

Vismarkt Groningen
Knowing the markets would be up and bustling by this hour, I went straight to the Grote Markt, suddenly ravenous (feeling better, obviously!). There are Belgian waffle stands, fresh fish and patat stands, even a German kurryworst stand, which may seem like an odd thing for ten o'clock in the morning. There is everything imaginable at the markets available for purchase: long, flowing scarves, sheep skins, trousers, slippers, batteries, flowers, some rather dodgy looking make-up, jewellery; at the Vismarkt you can find all sorts of fruits and veg, fresh fish, meats, cheese by the tonne, and what I was after: baked goods.

I had a craving for anything apple and cake-like. (Which I explained in Dutch to the young baker, who I think found the request amusing...) Anyway, for 2 Euros I walked away with a massive Dutch pastry called Appelflap and an apple tart. At the bottom of the Grote Markt is the Tourist Information building. It's one of those horrible, modern design things that I usually can't stand. On one side of the building are what I would describe as wooden bleachers, where you can sit enjoying the sun and people watching. (I saw plenty of red trousers, but had my hands full of pastry and couldn't snap a photo...)

Grote Markt food stalls
 The morning was glorious. The sun was warm and there was mercifully no cold wind like yesterday. Groningen seems to blossom under the sun, streets bustling and people standing about enjoying coffee's and cigarettes. I felt so lucky to be sitting enjoying a spot of morning sunshine, stuffing myself chock full of delicious goodies in a city quickly becoming spring like.

You know spring is on the way when the cafes begin setting out small tables and chairs on the pavement. The place suddenly looks like Paris!


Spring in the Martinikerkhof
 After enjoying myself immensely for nearly an hour, I headed back home (only a five minute walk!) via the Martinikerkhof. It's a sort of courtyard behind the spire and great bulk of the Martini church, full of lovely paths to wander. Here, spring was in evidence through the many flowers. Crocuses, Snowdrops, Daffodils...really pretty. It was very quiet, even on such a beautiful morning.

Next to this garden of sorts, is the Provinciehuis (Province House). Groningen is the capital of the Groningen Province, so all the top brass come here to make decisions. What I later read was that Groningen is only Province in the Netherlands to have used the same building since the 1600s! Inside, apparently, are loads of paintings and beautiful architecture. The oldest part of the building was built in the 15th Century and was used as a Latin School.

It is fairly impressive. They even have their own turret! I get to walk past this building everyday to go in to town, and I love walking under the archway. It reminds me of my old town of Cambridge, and on some days has a very Harry Potter look about it.

Provinciehuis Groningen
 That being said, even though I walk past it everyday, I realised I've missed things. I had my eyes open today, seeing Groningen in a new light. There was a plaque on the wall of the Province House that I've missed consistently for a month.  It said "Thank you Canada", and coming closer I saw there was a message underneath. Translated, it says, "This former State Archive Building was, during heavy fighting on April 18, 1945, surrendered by the German occupiers to the Canadian Army."

Such history on just one street! I'm very glad I took an hour out of my morning to have a wander. Pastries aside, I did actually learn something. Only five minutes from my front door is a teeming city full of a history I'm only just discovering.