Our First European, Weekend Trip: Groningen
Before we moved to Germany, Michael and I knew that visiting the Netherlands would top the list for a quick weekend getaway. There was no reason to waste time, so on our first weekend in Germany we made the quick trip across the border into the lovely city of Groningen. Surprisingly, Groningen's population is smaller than Knoxville, but the city's condensed set up and busy, bicycle filled streets make it seem so much larger. Groningen is extremely walkable and I would highly discourage attempting to drive a car through the city -- we learned this the hard way.
No matter what city we visit, we always tend to migrate toward the local Asian cuisine and coffee shops. You don't have to walk far in Groningen to find either. Moments after parking our car we stumbled upon Konbu Streetfood. This spot has a great menu with many options and an extremely helpful waitstaff. Michael had "What the Pho?", while I had the Classic Shoyu Ramen. Both were delicious, but as always after Michael was almost done with his dish, I went to take a bite and his was a bit more delicious than mine. Regardless, they were both great, but we thought the "What the Pho?" was a more unique, fresh dish.
Later in the day while aimlessly wandering the streets, we came across a Salsa Dancing Festival in the city center (yes, you read correctly -- Salsa in the Netherlands). There was loud music and people everywhere dancing beautifully. Michael and I were so impressed by the energy and talent each dancer displayed. We don't know how to Salsa (yet) so we enjoyed a beer at a local pub and watched. We tried to order a Heineken, but of course we picked the one pub in all of of the Netherlands that doesn't have Heineken! In any event, we ordered some type of dutch beer and watched the city dance.
Shopping in Groningen includes bigger names like Zara and H&M, but there are also really great local businesses with handmade clothes and knick knacks. We enjoyed exploring different places and even met a handful of friendly Dutch people! For the first time in my life someone told me that they "loved my accent". Haha! Who knew an American accent was "lovable"? British, yes, but American? I happily took the compliment and in that moment knew I would enjoy visiting The Netherlands.
The majority of the day included walking through Farmer's Markets, random alleyways, and simply enjoying the scenery. We stumbled across a bike shop/café called SPAAK that seemed to truly embody what the Netherlands is all about - coffee and bikes. In the basement of SPAAK there was a bike service area. Naturally the upstairs contained a coffee shop, plenty of seating, and a bikes throughout.
Towards the end of the of the day we had already walked over 8 miles and rain was starting to come down. So what better excuse than to hide in an "Ice Café", (this is what they call their ice-cream shops), enjoy a little dessert and hide from the rain for a bit? As we were looking for the nearest ice café, we saw bright, red lights and music playing -- of course we had to know what was going on. Unbeknownst to us, it was Groningen's "Red Light District". I believe at some point someone did mention it all to us, but we must have forgotten and we felt like such children as we embarrassingly left the street filled with women standing half-dressed in windows. It gave us a lot to discuss over our ice-cream in the rain.
By the time we finished our ice-cream we were both so exhausted and ready to drive back home. We said "see ya later" to this dancing city and knew we'd be back soon. Until next time, Groningen.