Friday, April 15, 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016: Groningen to Emmen, The Netherlands

When we checked out of our hotel this morning we were surprised by the dense fog.  There was definitely limited visibility - you had to drive cautiously.  For us, this part of our trip is to enjoy the countryside and that was not happening this morning! 
Typical Netherlands Tree-lined road

Wheat Field in the Fog

Apple Orchard

We drove about 20km southeast of Groningen to the village of Slochteren where the Fraeylemaborg Castle is located. We might as well tour a castle when the weather is not cooperating! This was a lovely town and castle.  Actually we spent much more time here than anticipated.  By the time we finished touring the lovely Fraeylenaborg castle, the fog was lifting.  We drove through the village taking photos of their very nice homes and house/barns.
Fraeylemaborg Castle

Great Entrance Hall

French Giraffe Piano

We also visited the old church. We first notice the interesting stand-alone church tower, then we notice the door to the church was open.  We went inside where a church member welcomed us. We just happened to catch him at the church at this specific time or we would have never been able to enter.  He told us all about the church – the builder, the fire and renovation etc. even dug out photos! The original church was built by the Castle owner.

Fraeylemaborg Castle is a historic castle dating back to 1475.  At first it was a fortress with a double moat.  In the 17th & 18th centuries additions were made to the structure until it was a castle.  A Manor Lord’s family lived in the castle until the 1970’s, at which time a Foundation from the Groningen Providence became the owner.

After a light lunch at a snack bar (restaurants are only open on weekends), we finally headed down the road (1:30) toward a Fortress at Bourtange. By now the fog is almost lifted for which we were delighted. This whole area of northern Holland, outside the little villages, is totally agriculture.  Today we saw pear and apple orchards, more big dairy barns, wheat that was several inches tall, and newly planted wheat, but also a newly planted crop - planted in ridges – we are not sure what it will be. 

Cal finds watching the farmers to be very interesting. I continue to find the windmills interesting.  In fact, outside the town where the Castle was located, there were 3 mills.  While at the church, the church member told us that he owned one of the windmills just outside the town - which we had already seen.     

The Bourtange Fortress is extremely interesting as it is only 1 mile from Germany. It was built around 1580 by orders from William of Orange, King of the Netherlands on a sandy knoll in a swampy area. However, it was not built to defeat the Germans, but it was the Spanish who were threating this area at that time in history.  The fortress is star shaped within triple moats.  Inside the star is an active charming little village. They have several preserved historic buildings, one of which was a small Jewish synagogue. 

New Fort Guard

Jewish Synagogue

It was about 5:00 when we left Bourtange Fortress, going toward a town large enough to have hotels – we came to Emmen. We found a hotel much easier than last night!

However, on our way here we drove through a rain/hail storm, then the sun shone!  What a day weather wise!! But to Cal delight, we spotted near the road, farmers working in a field. We have seen all kinds of farmers working in their fields but too far away from the road.  At first we did not know what they were planting, as they were making deep ridges.  There were actually 5 big John Deere tractors working in this large field ($$$ in equipment).  The attached equipment was totally different to us.  Anyway to make a long story short, we talked to the farmers for at least a half hour while they were on their supper break.  Their English allowed for good conversation.  The landowner had been to the John Deere factory in Waterloo, Iowa to watch their tractor being made. These guys farm approx. 1700 acres. 

Today they were planting potatoes along with a cover crop to keep the sandy soil from eroding until the potatoes are up. Then they will spray the cover crop to kill it.  They had a whole trailer load of seed potatoes to plant.  It was interesting watching every step of the process.  The guys seem extremely happy to have us stop and ask questions.  They have 3 potato factories in Holland.  The Dutch eat lots of potatoes the first being French fries, then simple boiled potatoes.  We spent at least a half hour watching and visiting.      
First the Disc to level the ground

Then the Tiller/seeder/drill planting rye cover crop

Seed Potaotes

Filling the Planter

Planting Potatoes

The two planters

Potato in the ridge/row

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