5 Reasons to Love Groningen, the Netherlands

I can’t quite believe what I’m writing, but this weekend marks our 5th Dutch-iversary!

The whole reason we sold all our stuff, packed up the cat, and moved across an ocean was for Shane to start a Ph.D. program at Rijksuniverseteit Groningen (aka: the University of Groningen). I’m beyond thrilled / proud / insert other overly excited adjective to say that on March 29th, 2019 this goal was realized, and Shane officially became Dr. Wright!

Dr. Wright with his paranymphs and examination committee.

In honor of the newly-minted Doctor and our 5 year Dutch-iversary, I thought I’d give you 5 reasons why Shane loves Groningen, the largest city in the north of the Netherlands.

One : Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

The University of Groningen.

I think this one is self-explanatory: it gave him his degree!

His lab mates gave his this beauty of a graduation cap though…

And, I should be clear. They didn’t just give him a degree. After 4 years of research, submission of a 200 page book, and a 45 min question/answer session from an 8 person committee in front of the public they declared him a doctor!

The defense – the final piece to earning that Ph.D.!

Aside from this, the university can really be considered the heart of the city. It was founded in 1614 and is the main employer (between the university itself & associated hospital) of Groningen.

Can we just side-step for a second back to the founding year?

1614.

Maybe this is nothing for some of you out there, but as an American, to think that this university is more than 100 years older than our COUNTRY will never cease to amaze me. And, they’ve had some notable alumni and faculty over the years. For instance, Aletta Jacobs – the first female physician in the Netherlands, founder of the first birth control clinic, and advocate for women’s suffrage. More recently, Ben Feringa, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016.

Mom, Shane and me in front of the Academy Building.

The Academy building, pictured above, is one of the older university buildings and the location of Shane’s Ph.D. defense. This building is in stark contrast to the modern building where Shane worked; the varied architecture is another reason why he (and I) like the university so much.

The “green building” on the university’s Zernike Campus was Shane’s day to day work spot.

Two: Biking

Bikes are everywhere! This isn’t new – we’ve talked about this before – but it certainly is one thing that we’ve both grown to love the most about living here. Especially because the city has been built to be more bike and pedestrian friendly than car friendly.

Bikes in the Grote Markt of Groningen city center.

Shane’s gotten pretty good at biking over the years – I guess that happens when you have to bike 15 min one way to get to work. In the winter, he can bike just about all the way to work with his hands in his pockets & has learned to carry a variety of things on the back of his bike: crates of beer, luggage, the cat…

Three: The Market

Ahh, our beloved market.

Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday “the market” takes over the Vismarkt (Fish market) in Groningen. Food wise, you can find just about anything you need here and considerably cheaper than the grocery stores. Meat, fish, fruit & vegetables, cheese, nuts, baked goods… I could keep going.

My number one recommendation for anyone moving to or visiting Groningen is to go to the market. You will not be disappointed.

Four: Konbu Street Food & Martinus Brewery

We don’t eat out very much, but if we do our go-to place is Konbu Street Food.

It’s a Southeast Asian restaurant (which we discovered BEFORE our trip to Southeast Asia! ha) located on the Oosterstraat in city center. In my opinion, one thing Groningen lacks are moderately priced restaurants with quality food, but Konbu fits this description perfectly. The main dishes include varieties of pho, ramen, and bun, but don’t skimp on the appetizers. You have to order ‘Something’ (a cheeky name for the spring rolls) & the kimchi pancakes!

Top it all off with a Lucky Buddha (rice) beer & Shane is one happy camper!

Another Shane favorite is Martinus Brewery.

Tucked away on a side street towards the outskirts of city center, this Groningen based brewery is only a 10 min walk from our house and is quite ‘gezellig’ (I’ll let you look that one up…).

With a nice terrace, cozy tasting room, and tasty quadruples (Shane’s favorite) it’s a fun place to go when we want some special beer.

Five: Climbing

Last but certainly not least! If I’m being honest, it should probably be moved to first…

We’ve discovered climbing! I think it’s safe to say it’s his favorite activity now.

This may come as a surprise considering the size of the city (only ~200,000 people) but Groningen has three climbing gyms.

The first is part of the university’s gym (ACLO); I wasn’t allowed to use this since I wasn’t associated with the univeristy, but regardless it’s there.

The 2nd is Bjoeks, located in the Kardingen sport complex about a 20 min bike outside of city center. This is where we got our climbing certifications! This gym is mostly route climbing with some (advanced level) indoor and outdoor bouldering options. I think what Bjoeks is most famous for is Excalibur – the 37m high (with 11m overhang!) climbing tower!

It’s so tall, you can’t see the top (indoor climbing hall to the right of the tower – for scale)!

At one point, Excalibur was the tallest climbing wall in Europe. This may still hold true, though I’m not entirely sure. To climb the front – with the overhang – you should be an advanced climber & lead-climb certified. Needless to say, we haven’t climbed this yet! In the summer months you can top-rope climb the back (easier) side of the wall so hopefully we can check this off our Groningen bucket list in 2019.

And, just a heads up for anyone who dares… there’s a 1000 euro prize waiting for anyone who climbs the 9a route on the overhang side set by Jorg Verhoeven back in 2017. I haven’t yet heard of anyone accomplishing it…

The third (and our current gym) is GroPo Bouldering Gym, newly opened in 2016.

Bouldering is a completely different style of climbing as compared to Bjoeks; the main difference being no ropes or belayer required. The ‘problems’ are shorter and only tall enough to be a safe jumping/falling distance.

This is nice for us right now, since you don’t need a partner to go. Shane will be heading to Corsica for field work (potential new research project!) during the month of June. I’ll be here getting really good at bouldering…

It’s safe to say that Shane has all the indoor climbing options he could want!

It’s uncertain the amount of time we have left in Groningen – the next step for Shane is to find a postdoctoral position in a lab where he can start developing his own research ideas to eventually run his own academic lab. But, that’s for future Shane and future Whitney to deal with. For now, we will just enjoy this city while we have it!

Tot ziens,

Whitney

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We are two Americans living in the Netherlands with our fat cat, Meatball. The Shwits is a diary of our time abroad!

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