Monday, February 11, 2008

The north end of the Netherlands - Groningen and Eems canal

Last time when we went to the southern city of Maaschtricht, it was the first day you could buy a discount NS train ticket, 25 euro for two persons traveling for one day unlimited. Before the tickets expired in March, and also a sunny and warm weekend like spring, we hopped on the train for the northern city of the Netherlands, Groningen. The G in Dutch is pronounced somewhere between G and K, also with some vibrating sound, I bet you might not be able to say it right.

It was such a warm day in February, and the train was crowded from the beginning. Many people are traveling, especially you see lots of white hair couples. Now we know that this might be a fashion in the Netherlands: go visiting other cities. They might be like us, bought a discount ticket, and take a one day trip. The three hours' journey passed easily with our Ipod fully loaded with the latest Economist podcast. The return trip was felt to be longer than expected, maybe also because the train was running in the dark, and nothing to see outside.

We found all cities are very similar, when you travel on a Saturday. A Saturday market in the center of the city with fruits, vegetables, kaas (cheese), flowers. Things are all the same as what I saw at Delft. I am not a big fan of the open market, because I do not feel it is much cheaper than grocery stores. There is a kind of fried fish, Kimbeling, which was our occasional snacks in the market. But soon both of us felt it was oily and stopped buying. Things I bought from the open market always get rotten faster. One stalk at Delft I sometimes visit is a grocery stalk. In the afternoon of Satuday, they will sell some vegetables at very cheap price. 50 cents you can buy a big cauliflower, or a Chinese cabbage.

Maybe it is around the Chinese New year, there were two museums hosting China related exhibitions. In the canal in front of a modernist museum right across the train station, there was a boat with some post, like in the picture. I am not sure why a canoe was used, maybe for fireworks? I was reading it as "I love China, you shoot China, We all love China". The Netherlands seem to be promoting its relationship with China. The NS trains already painted 2008 Olympic signs in the front. This coming year Tulip seaon flower show also has one theme as the coming Olympic in Beijing.

Briefly browsed the city, we decided to go further to the north. It was about another half an hour's train journey, we reached a town called Delfzijl. It was along the Eems canal, and out to the North sea. We were excited to see the water, big and open view of water. Mr. Aawaara commented, we have been bored of seeing all man-made things, we need some natural scenes. Actually, it was not totally nature either, it was a canal. Maybe it is because we were bored of the crowded city, and in need of some openness.

Across the canal, the other side is Germany. We could see many windmill along the canal on the other side. Germany was said to be the global leader in green energy, which seems to be true. We took a walk along the dike, the man-made bank along the canal. You can clearly feel that the water level is much higher than the land inside the dike. The whole country, more than half of its land, is protected by these dikes. Some teenagers were playing along the dike with their bikes, rushing down the steep slope again and again. A tiny tiny sand beach was made in a corner, almost the size of a basketball court. Two kids wearing rain boots play in the water with their grandparents watching besides. There were some kind of sea-weeds growing along the bank, and you can also see some broken shells washed on the shore. Not too far away, we saw some ducks are swimming. It might be the connecting part where the fresh water and sea water mixed together. I did not dare to taste the water.

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