I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.
When I finally decided that I was going to travel to Europe, I was lucky enough to find a cost effective direct flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. If I could give any piece of travel advice, it would be to fly direct. At first I was a little worried about sitting on a plane for almost 8 hours, I thought a layover would help to break up the time. Plus people thought it was a good idea to tell me that sitting still for too long can cause blood clots which could result in death. But the 8 hours really wasn’t that bad, and I did not get blood clots, or die, so that’s a win. You have a monitor in front of you with an endless supply of movies, TV shows, and podcasts. Plus the flight attendants come around with enough snacks, beverages, and meals that the time actually flies by.
My flight was a Friday afternoon which meant the bulk of my flight was in the dark. I tried so hard to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening. The trip there was very smooth, only a little bit of turbulence, and a great landing. I am a verrrrryyy nervous flier, but with the free booze, and some anxiety meds, I did just fine! We landed in Amsterdam at 6:30am, and I had to wait about an hour to catch a two hour train to Groningen.
You may be asking yourself, why travel to Groningen? Or if you’re like me, you’re wondering how to pronounce Groningen. I had a friend who was there studying abroad for fall semester. And no matter how hard I try I will never, ever be able to correctly pronounce Groningen. So if you’re really curious, I’d recommend googling that pronunciation.
The train ride there was pretty terrible. I was tired, the lights were bright. I wanted to sleep. But traveling by train is definitely the way to go. I wish the US would upgrade their travel systems. When I finally made it to my friend’s house, I laid down for about 20 minutes before being convinced that staying up all day would help beat the jet lag. I was awake for about thirty hours by the end of the day, but the travel adrenaline took over and we set out into the town square of Groningen.
Since it was so close to Christmas, we stumbled upon a Christmas market that was located along the canals. The booths ranged from selling sugary treats, smoked meats, homemade goods, and leather products. Along the canal, some of the boats opened up to serve mulled wine, and other hot beverages.
After we drank our two dollar mulled wine, we headed back into the town square to meet with a friend of Adam’s (the guy who I was traveling with). We decided to buy some beer, hit a pipe store (when in
Rome Holland), and watch some movies at Sahar’s (the friend) place. Nighttime was beautiful, all the cobble stone streets were covered in Christmas lights. At this point I had been awake for far too long. I was ready to go home and pass out. Did we do that? No, of course not. We stopped at a dive bar that was close to Adam’s house. It was great, live music, and cheap beer. I found it so fascinating that everywhere in Europe you heard English sung music. Finally after sharing a few beers it was finally time to pass out.
In the above picture is Sahar walking alongside her huge bike. Seriously she was so small, and her bike was so tall. She was nice enough to borrow me her bike for the next two days I was going to spend in Groningen. Biking is the main mode of transportation in Groningen, and I loved it. All of the stop lights have bike lights that tell you when to stop and go, ya know, like a stop light. Jesus, sorry if some of this seems to common sense.
When I woke up the next morning I felt like a new person. Adam gave me a cup of coffee and a stroopwaffel, which was probably my favorite sweet treat from the whole trip. But maybe don’t hold me to that, because as I write about each country I am sure everything will be my favorite. You set it on top of the coffee to help heat up the middle.I have found stroopwaffel in some stores around Minneapolis, but they’re not as good.
We set out for the day on our bikes, and biked over to the cutest little cafe because they had the best bitterballen. Bitterballen is a dutch delicacy, it’s basically deep fried gravy nuggets, dipped in mustard. We also got an order of goat cheese bitterballen, which was dangerously good.
Coffee pretty much defined my whole trip. Most of our days revolved around touring architecture and finding coffee shops. After we left this cafe, we biked out to Reitdiephaven, which is a neighborhood that sits on the water, and has a much more vibrant feel to it.
This was a houseboat floating on the water, but built into the banks.
After this we biked back into the town square and climbed up the Martinitoren, which is a bell tower in the center of the city. The climb up was quite intense, and not for those who are claustrophobic. The top was super windy, but had some really great views.
After all this unintentional exercise, I decided it was time to consume back some of those calories. We headed to Three Sisters cafe that had a great outdoor patio. It was about 50 degrees, you may think that’s not patio weather but last weekend it was 50 degrees in Minneapolis, and I saw people in shorts! Plus the patio had heater lamps. Here we consumed spiked lattes, and enjoyed having nothing left on the agenda. This was the only part of my trip that actually felt like a vacation. We had what felt like endless hours to just chat, drink, and enjoy the environment.
We ended the evening by sitting in the middle of town square admiring the large Christmas tree while drinking a bottle of gluehwein that we bought for three dollars, it was suppose to be heated, but we just drank straight from the bottle. Class acts.
The following day was my last day in Groningen. We did a final walk around the city, got some coffee, ate some smoked fish, and Chinese food. The Chinese was the worst I have ever, ever had. But the smoked fish was the best! That night we had to catch an overnight bus for Berlin. Prior to getting home we had to return the bike to Sahar, and then walk back to his house to pack. Of course we got caught in the rain on the walk home, so everything was soaked. My shoes, my coat, my hat, my clothes, everything. And in Europe drying machines aren’t really a thing. So I had to pack a bunch of wet stuff into my small backpack, and go sit on a double decker bus for 8 hours.
Favorite Parts of Groningen:
- The bike culture
- The canals
- Getting a cookie with every coffee
- How small yet big it was
- The people are so friendly
- The sense of community
- It wasn’t a tourist location
Would I go there again?