As the fall season slowly makes its inevitable appearance, I decide to feed my curiosity and travel further up the province of Groningen to the comparatively smaller communities of Appingedam and Bierum, where the latter of which I would stay a night at the childhood home of my friend Roanne, whom I met in Lombok, Indonesia. Her father, Fred, is kind enough to pick me up at the train station in Appingedam after a half-hour’s train ride from Groningen station, before taking me on a ride through some of the less-frequented, more sparsely-populated areas in the northeast. Swathes of farmlands occupy most of the region producing potatoes, sugar beets, oil seeds, grain, dairy products, cattle and wool making.
A quiet, charming town with a population of just over 13,000, Appingedam is well-known around the region for its hangende keukens, or hanging kitchens, a unique display of classic Dutch architecture dating back to the late 1870’s. Small rooms are intentionally built sticking out of building sides above the Damsterdiep canal, over which a pair of wooden bridges crossing the canal provide a nice vantage point where I spent a few minutes in admiration, despite the light showers and gloomy atmosphere. After all, as the Dutch have grown used to, it’s really a mental battle when it comes to inclement weather in the Netherlands.
We next stop in Delfzijl, and after passing through what is the town center I am met with the imposing earthen structure of a dike stretching endlessly into the horizon along the coastline. The grey sky above eventually reveals blotches of pale blue as we walk along the grassy ridgeline standing at about two to three storeys high, battling against the fierce southeasterly winds blowing in from the Wadden Sea as we go. Even the local population of seagulls seem to be having a hard time flying against the wind, appearing to be levitating instead amidst the powerful breeze. Curious about the faint stretch of landmass that straddles the horizon in the distance to my east, I fire up Google Maps and quickly identify it to be the shoreline of northwestern Germany, and there in between us lies the gaping mouth of the Ems river.