Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Netherlands

Groningen and Friesland

On Monday morning, after breakfast we drove to a WWII era concentration camp where the Germans and the Dutch held Jews in WWII before they were sent off to the concentration camps elsewhere. It was called Westerbork Transit Camp. It was from this camp that over 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported and later slaughtered with the collaboration of the Dutch citizenry. In fact, it is from this camp that Anne Frank was sent to her death in Auschwitz.

A memorial wall of photographs of Jews held in Westerbork 

Part of the immense grounds, known as the detention area for uncooperative souls.

Like most of the memorials dedicated to the Holocaust, it’s an overwhelming experience to walk the immense grounds and try to imagine what it must have been like to be confined in that environment, not knowing what's going to happen to you and your loved ones. It’s a very chilling and sobering feeling.

A monument, each stone representing an individual sent to a concentration camp

The end of the railroad in Westerbork, with the rails symbolically pointing to the sky above.

Afterwards we drove to an area south of Groningen where there are ancient megaliths known as the Hunebedden that are over 5000 years old. Built of huge granite stones (some weighing over 50,000 pounds), they were moved to form rectangular stone burial sites. We visited only one of the sites, but there are a number of them spread out in this area of the Netherlands (and only this area) where otherwise, no boulders of any type exist. In fact, Maarten told us that The Netherlands doesn’t have any boulders in its landscape.

The megalith

These megaliths appear to have taken on a life of their own

From the Hunebedden, we drove to the city of Groningen, a classical old city surrounded by a moat. One of the most distinct buildings in Groningen is the Tower of Martini. In the 15-16th century, it had been the tallest building in Europe. Unfortunately for us, today the town's square was being used to host a huge carnival, detracting from the surrounding area.

The Tower of Martini

A government building

Another view of the Tower

Otherwise, today Groningen mostly is known as a quaint university town with a mote and an impressive art museum. It is the largest city in the northern part of the Netherlands.

In the morning, we headed onward to Sneek (pronounced “snake”), a place known for its canals and proximity to many lakes. Along the way, we stopped at the small Friesland village of Poppenwier. It was very small, lush green, quaint and scenic. With only 184 inhabitants, it was easy to walk it from one end and back in a few minutes. We paused at the church, where there is a small memorial to twenty American WWII airmen who perished on December 16, 1943 to free the area.

The canal in Poppenwier

A small draw bridge into Poppenwier

The memorial to the U.S. flyers

We drove onward to a nearby eatery, the Blaue Tent (the Blue Tent), which is known to have really good pea soup. Unfortunately, pea soup was only served in the winter time. Onward we went - to Hindeloopen, a village recognized for its decorative painting style that they do on furniture and other types of objects.

Coffee break at the Blaue Tent

A bridge in the village of Hindeloopen

A canal in Hindeloopen

By the time we arrived in Hindeloopen it was cold and beginning to rain. Things were pretty much closed and quiet. We took a brief and wet walk around town, checked out the museum (which was closed), and decided to pack it in. We drove to Sneek just a few miles down the road where our B&B was waiting for us.

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