Although the first fortress of Bourtange dates back till 1580, when Prince William of Orange ordered to build the fortress along the road from Groningen to Hannover. It played an important role in the Eighty Years' War between the ‘Netherlands and the Spanish occupiers. Later the fortress was extended till it reached its maximum size in 1742.
The fortress was dismantled in 1851and became more or less a normal rural village, but around 1960 people left, shops were closed and there was almost nothing left of the fortress. On that moment the municipality of Vlagtwedde decided to rebuild the fortress to its state of 1742.
Next to the car park is the Information Centre, which provides general information about Bourtange. We bought a map of the fortress (€ 1,50) and got also a brochure. If you are interested to visit one or more museums you have to buy your ticket in this centre.
Visitors have to walk to the village and on our way we had the first views of the impressive fortifications, moats and earthen walls. Through a wooden bridge and a gate we entered ‘the year 1742’. The village is really well restored and it is nice to walk between houses, barracks, cannons, old horse mill, to take look at the mill’s bastion or to see the ‘secreets’ (more or less open air toilets above the moats). The five museums tell more about the history, restoration and life in Bourtange.
Bourtange is also a normal village with people who have their houses here. The central square is lined with (tourist) shops and two restaurants. It is nice to sit in the shadow of old trees and having a coffee or lunch.
Fortress: every day and free of admission
March 15 - October 31, every day: 10.00 - 17.00 hours
November 1 - March 15, Saturday and Sunday: 12.00 - 17.00 hours
Admission € 5,50 (2009)
(see website for exact dates)
In the south eastern part of Groningen, nearby the Dutch-German border.
In the Netherlands the name of the village of Pieterburen is (almost) synonymous with seals, or even better with the ‘Zeehondencrèche Pieterburen’. Nowadays this Seal Rehabilition and Research Centre is renamed ‘Zeehondencrèche Lenie ‘t Hart’, as a tribute to the founder (and perhaps with a view to a coming move to another village).
In this centre sick, weakened or injured seals are taken care of and treated till they can be brought back to the sea. Beside this the people of the SRRC do a lot of research about the common and grey seals and their environment.
In the main building we saw the exhibition about the seals and the risk these animals encounter in the nearby Waddenzee. Here we also could take a look at several baby seals, which lost their mothers. They were sleeping and so nice to see.
Outside are several pools with groups of seals, which are recovering from their illness or injuries. These mammals were playing together or just resting and were so cute, just staring at you like a dog. Now understand why we Dutchies call them ‘zeehonden’ (= seadogs).
When walking around visitors have to stay rather far away from the pools and it is not easy to shoot a nice photo. Therefore we were very lucky when one of the SRRC workers made some nice shots of them.
The information centre has a shop with lots of ‘seal souvenirs’ and you can have a drink or a snack in ‘Paviljoen Zeehondenzicht’
The Seal Centre is open every day of the year from 9 AM until 6 PM.
Admission fee is € 4,50 (November 2010) per person.
Their site offers also very good information 'how to get' to Pieterburen.
After our first visit to New Zealand and Abel Tasman National Park we became interested in the history of this Dutch explorer. One day we decided to visit the village of Lutjegast where Abel Tasman was born in the year of 1603.
In this small village in the province of Groningen (in the north of the Netherlands) are several memorials, which remind of this important inhabitant. First of all there is a small museum called "Abel Tasman Kabinet". Here we saw maps, books, among them a copy of Abel's ship's journal from 1642-1643. There are also pictures and paintings about the journeys Abel Tasman made and an interesting stamp collection.
Before we could visit the museum the local grocery owner had to phone a volunteer to open the museum. We were the only visitors that day and so we had a more or less private tour. One can notice the people of Lutjegast are still proud of their 'son'.
In the museum we got a leaflet with a short walk through Lutjegast to see the several Abel Tasman memorials: plaques given by the New Zealand and Australian governments and a modern memorial in which a part of the coast of New Zealand has been represented.
All together we had a very interesting day and we do know a lot more about Abel Tasman.
Check the openinghours before your visit: www.abeltasman.org
Directions: www.viamichelin.com (more or less you need a car to visit Lutjegast)
In the Dutch province of Groningen ‘wierde’ is the name for an artificial dwelling hill. These man made hills gave the people a dry shelter during high tides and floods. The ‘wierde’ of Niehove is inhabited for more than 2200 years. Its original name was Suxwort (which means ‘Zuidwierde’ – South’wierde’) and it was an island for many years. Nowadays Niehove is located in the rural part of northwest Groningen.
To be honest we had never heard of Niehove before our visit to Groningen. But we saw some aerial photo’s and did read an article about the village. So we decided to take a look at this really ‘off the beaten path’ sight.
Niehove is located in the middle of the rural countryside of Groningen, completely flat and more or less empty.
But as many villages Niehove itself has also trees and is a green island in the landscape. We just walked around through the narrow streets to the ‘top’ of the hill in the middle of this settlement with its completely round shape. The church dates from the 13th century and now houses the information centre of Niehove.
Along the road around the church lies the ‘famous’ café ‘Eisseshof’, dating back to the 17th century.
Niehove is located northwest of the city of Groningen and north of the town of Zuidhorn.
The best way to visit Niehove is by car (or bicycle). See for directions: www.viamichelin.com
Zuidhorn is accessible by train (Groningen - leeuwarden), from there you have to take a bus and taxibus to reach Niehove. See www.9292ov.nl
The first thing we noticed just after entering the village of Ezinge was the local pub (‘bruine kroeg’ as we say in Dutch), Café De Brug. It is a typical Dutch pub with a billiard table and outside a big terrace for visitors. Very pleasant service and a damned good home made apple pie.
At the pub the main street of Ezinge - de Torenstraat - starts and has some shops, a small Tourist Information Centre and ‘Museum Wierdenland’. This street is climbing bit by bit to the church, located on the highest point of the ‘wierde’. A ‘wierde’ is an artificial man made dwelling hill, which gave the people of Ezinge a dry shelter during high tides and floods in the former days. The whole village was built on this largest ‘wierde’ of the province of Groningen. For a nice aerial view of Ezinge take a look at: http://www.bouwman.com/bouwman/Family5/Ezinge.html
This church is another gem in the rural countryside of Groningen. It dates back to the 13th century and has a detached tower. The interior is sober and simple, but impressive with a beautiful decorated pulpit. From the entrance of the church we had a great view of the meadows and fields and we got a very good impression of the height of the ‘wierde’.
Ezinge is located about 15 km's northwest of Groningen.
In 1464 Jacobus Wilthingh donated his rural estate ‘Apell’ to the Order of the Holy Cross. To build the monastery of Ter Apel, they used almost 100 years till 1561. After the reformation in the Netherlands (1594) the latest prior of the monastery of the Holy Cross Brothers became the first Protestant clergyman.
Between 1600 and 1930 the monastery deteriorated more and more and the remaining parts were restored by the city of Groningen. Since 1992 it is one of ‘the top 100 Unesco monumental buildings’ in the Netherlands. It houses nowadays a museum of religious art and the history of the monastery.
We had to drive a long way to Ter Apel to visit the Monastery, but it was worth the effort. The building stands in the middle of lawns and is surrounded by old trees and woods. It is fantastic to walk around and just to look at this impressive building, to indulge the serenity of this peaceful place.
Of course we did take a look at the interior, walked through the cloister and looked and smelled the herbs in the garden. The church is divided by the ‘Doksaal’ in two parts; the ‘Kanunniken Church’, which still has the original priest seats and wooden choir stalls and a part which was used by the average citizens.
Other rooms provide information about the history or do have expositions of religious art. There was just one fireplace in the monastery; it must have been cold for the Brothers in that days.
The monastery has a small shop (in the reception room) and a restaurant located in the former dining room for the Brothers of the Holy Cross.
We loved this visit to a (for us) completely unknown hidden gem of the Netherlands very much.
Address: Boslaan 3-5, Ter Apel
Tuesday - Saturday: 10.00 - 17.00 hours
Sunday and public holidays: 13.00 - 17.00 hours
Summerholidays: open till 18.00 hours
Admission fee: € 5,-
Public transportation: by train till Emmen and then further by bus.
Car: for directions www.viamichelin.com
The Hamsterborg or Piloersmaborg is one of the monuments in the northwest of the province of Groningen. There are more so called ‘borgen’ (a kind of fortified house surrounded by a moat), but this one is the only ‘farmhouse borg’ which is left.
Coming from Aduard there is a turn off to the left just after the village of Den Ham. A tree lined drive way brought us to the carpark. This ‘borg’ is surrounded by woods and of course a moat and dominates the flat landscape of Groningen. It was just a pity we couldn’t visit the house itself, because on the moment it is used as a B&B and conference centre. But we walked along the moat and could see the impressive building.
Hamsterborg is located just north of Aduard. There is a turn off at Den Ham on road N983.
See also: www.viamichelin.com
During our short stay in Aduard we walked around this pleasant village. Of course we had to visit the ‘only’ touristy sight: Sint Bernardushof, the museum about the monastery of Aduard, located in the oldest house of the village (ca. 1600).
We had never heard of it, but we learned a lot about the history of this once very famous Cistercian abbey, which was founded already in the year of 1192 !! It became one of the most important and powerful monasteries of the Netherlands and was well known in the whole of Europe.
The buildings of the monastery took up the whole area of the present village of Aduard. But in the year of 1594, after the Reformation in the Netherlands, all monasteries were closed and the buildings were demolished.
The only remaining building is the so called ‘Abdijkerk’ (abbey church), which still dominates the centre of the village. This was originally the monastery's refectory and nowadays still in use as a Protestant church.
The special bricks of the monastery (so called ‘kloostermoppen’) were used to build other houses and churches in Groningen.
Sint Bernardushof is just a small museum, but with very friendly and helpful volunteers, who showed us around in the museum and the ‘Abdijkerk’. The museum has a shop and you can have a drink inside or on the terrace behind the building.
Once in Aduard - 10 km's west from the city of Groningen - you can not miss the museum and ‘Abdijkerk’.
Check the opening hours on their website ("Algemene Informatie").
Fransum is one of the smallest villages we ever have seen. This ‘wierde’ (an artificial dwelling hill, which gave the people a dry shelter during high tides and floods) has just three buildings: a farmhouse, a house and a small Roman Church. It is surrounded just by meadows and agricultural grounds.
This church dates back from the beginning of the 13th century; in the 16th century the choir with its renaissance windows was added. Austerity and simplicity dominate the inside of the church. It has a pulpit made of brick and white plaster; his is unique for the Netherlands.
Old tombstones can be found on the floor.
In the last century the church has been restored a couple of times. Nowadays it is used for music performances.
I think this is one of the most quiet places where I ever found a church.
Fransum is located just north of Aduard. There is a turn off at Den Ham on road N983.
See also: www.viamichelin.com
In my opinion biking is the best way to explore the countryside of Groningen. Of course you can do it on your own, but there are a lot of signposted routes like De Marne, Reitdiep and Waarden Route. Ask at your hotel or in one of the Tourist Information Centres and I'm sure they will help you.
We followed the Marneroute, signposted by the ANWB and it was easily to find our way. This bicycle route is 32 km’s long and can be started from every point along the route. Perhaps the most convenient point to start is the village of Eenrum. It is possible to rent bikes in Winsum, 5 km’s from Eenrum, at ‘Tweewielerhuis Poort’ - Lombok 17, (tel. 0595-441662).
The Marne area is situated in the north western part of the province of Groningen and called after a former island. It is now dotted with small villages, meandering streams and some beautiful ‘borgen’ (fortified mansions). Most of the villages are built on a so called ‘wierde’; a man made hill to protect the inhabitants from the sea.
Highlights along the route are;
- the village of Eenrum;
- Borg Verhildersum;
- Seal Centre/hospital in Pieterburen;
- the impressive scenery of rural Groningen.
Eenrum is one of the ‘wierde’ villages in this part of the province of Groningen. A ‘wierde’ is an artificial man made dwelling hill, which gave the people a shelter during high tides and floods in the past. As usual the church lies on the highest point of the ‘wierde’.
During our bike trip we could see the high tower, the landmark of Eenrum, from quite a distance. It is an old church from the 13th century with a remarkable octagonal tower. We were too late to visit the interior of the church. Around the church are three water pumps, the red one with potable water.
Windmill ‘De Lelie’ (The Lily) is another remarkable building in Eenrum. It is located close to the ‘harbour’ of Eenrum. Next to the mill is a small mustard factory/museum.
Eenrum is located 15 km’s north of Groningen.
We approached the ‘borg’ Verhildersum as it should be, which means we used the long stately drive way, lined with lime trees. It felt if we were visiting ‘our’ 19th century rich and wealthy uncle and aunt, who were living in their ‘borg’.
A ‘borg’ is a kind of fortified mansion, surrounded by one or more moats, to defence the inhabitants from intruders. Borg Verhildersum is one of the 15 remaining ‘borgen’ in the province of Groningen from the 110 which existed in the older days. It was inhabited till 1953 when it became a museum.
Verhildersum is located in an almost perfect setting with lots of old trees, two moats around the house and gardens. The mansion itself is surrounded by beautiful gardens with some bronze statues. The main house is decorated with 19th century furniture and looking around we felt stepping back in time.
In the former coach house is a shop with items about Verhildersum, but also jams, soft drinks, apple spread made from fruit from the ‘borg’. Here is also a small museum with varying expositions.
On walking distance (along the orchard and some old cattle and horse breeds) is a Farmhouse Museum, which belongs also to the ‘borg’.
Verhildersum was an absolutely unexpected gem and one of the most beautiful sights in the Netherlands we have ever seen; a perfect combination of nature, history and culture.
For opening hours and admission fee: see website.
Directions: just east of the village of Leens in northwest Groningen; see: www.viamichelin.com
Of course Pieterburen is famous (at least in the Netherlands) for its Seal Centre. But the village in the northern part of Groningen has more to offer and is a pleasant village, close to the Waddenzee.
Around the church (15th century) we walked through Netherland’s oldest botanic garden: Domies Toen. In the older days it was the garden of the reverend, now an interesting garden with lot of flowers, herbs, ponds and old trees. Not quite the scenery we expected in this flat surroundings (www.domiestoen.nl). I couldn’t make pictures, because we were unlucky with quite a lot of rain during our visit.
At the eastern end of the village is a windmill - De Vier Winden (Four Winds) - from 1846, which is often used on Sundays.
The village is also starting point of the longest walking path in the Netherlands (Pieterpad), with a distance of 494 km to the Sint Pietersberg (nearby Maastricht).
It is also possible to make so called ‘mud walks’ with low tide on the bottom of the Waddenzee. And if you are interested to learn more about this area, take a look in the ‘Waddencentrum’.
Pieterburen offers some restaurants (one on a boat) and accommodations and has shops and galleries along the ‘Hoofdstraat’.
Pieterburen is located about 25 km's north of the city of Groningen.
For directions see: www.viamichelin.com
Valom, drop down in English, is but some houses and farms but I just love it because it so typical for this part of the province.
And of course the name, haha, gotta find who came up with that thought!
Don t drive too fast when approaching, you might be passed it before you realize it ;-).
Lageland, translated it means something like low land. Nothing more than a road along a canal and some houses and an iron bridge, called 'De IJzeren Klap' (ijzeren means iron) and 'klap' is a Groninger word for bridge.