Groningen’s Surrounding Countryside
Groningen, in the north-east of the Netherlands, is the name of both the city of Groningen & the lands around it, the Ommelaand in the vernacular. From the west via the A7 motorway, your first stop should be the Adelskerk in Midwolde, a 13th-century church with an imposing tomb representing a late squire of Nienoord & his mourning wife. Other churches that are open to the public are St Mary’s in Krewerd, St Hippolytus’ in Middelstum, and St Peter’s in Pieterburen. Close to the German border is Bourtange, a fortress dating from the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648), meant to safeguard the road to the city of Groningen. It has the look & feel of an open-air museum that transports you back to 1742, but Bourtange is a normal village where my friend Jochem plays the church organ on Sunday mornings. The real open-air museum, Het Hoogeland in Warffum, takes you back only a century, and shows what rural Groningen looked like in bygone days — my favourite here is the prototype of a zelfzwichter windmill with spring sails, from 1890.
Just north of Warffum is the hamlet of Noordpolderzijl, where you will find an archetypal living-room café, and the smallest seaport in the country, accessible only at high tide via a fairway through the Wadden Sea salt marsh. Rural Groningen is seen at its best from its windy country roads, and a perfect stopping place on your way from A to B is Café Hammingh at the Reitdiep canal in Garnwerd. When journeying westward from there, be sure to call at the picturesque Aduarderzijl hamlet & the charming villages of Ezinge & Niehove — the latter is your quintessential radial mound village, and was proclaimed the most beautiful village in the Netherlands in 2019. Groningen had no nobility and therefore no castles, but its country gentlemen lived in manor houses called borgen. Three of these are open to visitors: Borg Verhildersum in Leens, the Fraeylemaborg in Slochteren & the Menkemaborg in Uithuizen. If I had time to visit only one of them, I would go for the last one, but the other two are really nice too.pinnable.eu/groningen