The best place to start a tour of the city is at the Central Station in Groningen. But before we start of a round tour, let's take a look at the station itself. This is not 'just' a station. It is a beautiful building.
The station dates back to 1895 and it is a beautiful building. But if you think this station looks great on the outside, you really have to see the inside! Come, walk with me through these doors and have a look....
The most famous building of Groningen is the Martinitoren. This tower and the Martinichurch next to it are named after Saint Martin.
The medieval Martin of Tours (316-397) who was the patron of the diocese of Utrecht to which Groningen belonged for a long period.
According to the legend, St Martin shared his cloak with a beggar suffering from cold. Several paintings in the Church show St Martin as a horseman. He cuts his cloak in two and gives one half to the beggar. His saint's day is 11 November.
"Paintings in tiles"
On the opposite wall, above the old entrance to the luggage depot, you can see three more of these "paintings in tiles". These were made by F.H. Bach. In the middle you can see the "stadsmaagd of Groningen", with on the left side an image symbolising the telegraph and on the right side symbolising the mail.
Peerd van Ome Loeks (Uncle Luke's Horse)
Okay, I know whe only have walked a few metres, but we have to make a stop here to see the "Peerd van Ome Loeks" (Uncle Luke's Horse). It is right in front of the station. Everyone in Groningen knows the "Peerd van Ome Loeks", although the story is always a bit harder to remember :-)
Loeks was the Groninger Lucas van Hemmen, who was born in the Slingerij (tavern) on the A-straat in Groningen. This tavern also served as a stable. On market days, farmers came from far afield and stalled their horses there. Lucas became a jockey when he grew up. At the turn of the century he had made a name as a participant in (inter)national horse trotting.
When he was 25 years old, he was already known as 'Ome Loeks' (Uncle Luke). In 1910, one of his last horses died. The animal had attacked one of the stable lads and, coming to his aid, Hemmen grabbed a pitchfork and stabbed the horse in the nostril. The wound was not large but the animal caught convulsive gripes and died three days later.
A few boys who saw Hemmen grieving with his horse, started to tease him and started to sing this song :
---------------------------------------------'t Peerd van Ome Loeks is dood, Loeks is dood, Loeks is dood .
't Peerd van Ome Loeks is dood,
Guster nog goud gezond
Sluig e mit steert in't rond.
't Peerd van Ome Loeks is dood ....'
(It is sung to the tune of an old German song called "oh mein kleiner Augustin ")
It didn't stay with this one time, the song was sang until his death in 1955. Four years earlier the song got so famous that they made a statue for it.
I wish I could translate the text for you, but it sounds not even close when I try that. It The song is in local dialect, and it starts like this...
"The horse of Uncle Luke is dead, Luke is dead, Luke is dead.
The horse of Uncle Luke is dead,
very much dead....."'
Hahaha, now I have this song in my head!!! ;-))
It is time to walk to the downtown area of Groningen. You can either turn right in front of the museum, follow the canal (called the "Winschoter Diep") and cross the bridge there to walk into the city centre. Or do like we did, cross the little bridge at the museum. Either way you will get to an area that is called "The Singels".
Although we are in the middle of the city, this is such a quiet part of town. In this street you can feel the history. The houses have great 'grandeur' and are wonderful to see. These houses are so expensive that they are not in use anymore as normal houses, but now often transformed into lawyer offices, dentist practices, etc, etc. They did do all this without ruining the look of the houses though.