Groningen, the knowledge city of the Netherlands

Groningen, the knowledge city of the Netherlands

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-07-05 09:48 Groningen, the seventh largest city in the Netherlands, is not a place frequented by tourists. Its fame lies in the city being an education hub. It was recently in news since its university (which is among the top 100 in the world) celebrated its 400th anniversary recently. Home to two universities, Groningen is where kidney dialysis machine was invented by physician Dr. Willem Kolff in 1943 and where Daniel Bernoulli, the physicist known for his works in fluid mechanics, was born. It is truly a Knowledge City.It took me two hours by train from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to Groningen Central Railway Station (road journey takes almost the same time). Opened in June 1866, this station is architecturally similar to Amsterdam Central railway station, built in neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance style. Though small, this railway station is famous because of its beautiful paintings adorning its walls and ceilings. Talking of art, I was surprised to know that it is mandatory for all public buildings in the Netherlands to spend a part of its construction budget on art and artifacts. Consequently, many public places are rich in works of art.Corn Market buildingOutside the station is a canal which surrounds the city. A short walk after crossing the canal takes one direct to the historic city center which is dominated by the tower of Martini Church. Built in 13th century and renovated and extended over a period of time, it is named after Saint Martini. The organ in this church is quite old and famous. The church tower built in 1482 is over 300 feet high and is the tallest structure in Groningen. The church, built out of bricks and sandstone, is the most famous landmark of Groningen. Being a trade centre in 3rd century, Groningen was quite powerful in Europe in olden times.Within walking distance of this church is Prinsenhof. During the Middle Ages, Prinsenhof was the Church of the Brethren of Communal Life, a religious faction. It forms the oldest part of the Prinsenhof complex. By the end of the 16th century, Prinsenhof became the official residence of the Nassau viceroys, giving the building its current name. It was during this period that the beautiful Prinsentuin Gardens were created. During the 19th century, Prinsenhof was used as a military hospital for the French troops and, subsequently, it became a barracks for the military police. Currently, it hosts a television centre and a hotel.Gaud Kantor pubTown hallPrinsenhof gardensOpposite the Martini Church lies the main market square “Grote Market”. Close by is another market square “Fish Market”. Numerous shops and restaurants are located in this cobble-stoned area. Every Sunday a colourful, weekly “shandy” (market) takes places in the open area here. The Grote Market is also the place where various music/drama festivals are held.The City Hall building, which dominates “Grote Market”, is an imposing structure. In April 1945, during the World War II, this area was severely damaged. However, one small building called Goud Kantoor (meaning ‘gold office’) close to the City Hall survived. This iconic building, built in 1635, is supposedly the oldest building in Groningen. This building now houses a popular pub.Martini towerUniversity of Groningen has its administrative and academic offices in many buildings across the city. The main building housing the administrative block was built in 1846 in place of an older building built in 1614. When this building was completely destroyed in a fire in 1906, the present building was built in the same style.The University Museum located nearby is very popular amongst visitors to Groningen.  Another popular museum is the Netherland Strip Museum. Opened in 2004, it is a cartoon (strip) museum and is frequented by children and adults alike.Located 23 feet above Mean Sea Level, Groningen is supposedly free from floods unlike many other parts of the Netherlands. Having a population of about two lakhs, Groningen has the distinction of having more bicycles than human beings. I was amused to see each family owning more than half a dozen cycles of all sizes. It was a pleasure to see entire families riding together on the streets of this town. The canal which surrounds this city offers boat ride to tourists. A film festival and a festival of visual arts are held in Groningen every year.Groningen is a very pretty Dutch city in every respect, and its bubbling with energetic students.Author: Dr. DV Guruprasad  (Former DGP) is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.