Our itinerant lifestyle means that we see a lot of different places – that’s part of the reason for being in The NL; it’s worth temporarily sacrificing our perfectly comfortable house back in the UK.
Yesterday we stopped over night in Engwierum, somewhere between the Lauwersemeer and Dokkum . Described somewhere by it’s location gives you an idea of how quiet it is.
Not a lot happens there – it’s an agricultural and dormitory village. We walked around and I couldn’t see a shop, a bar (there was a sign advertising a restaurant, but we didn’t find it), a community centre. There was a primary school, interestingly named ‘Springboard’. The name tells you what they expect from their school. I wondered if I would go mad living here, but then again, maybe there is a vibrant community life, with flourishing Shanty Choir, handicraft group, cake-makers and gardeners and I just couldn’t see it. The Dutch are notoriously private -although they love getting together in bars and restaurants and feeling ‘gezilleg’ (cosy) .
The people who live in Engwierum almost certainly love it and they do get to see boats like this one, coming past.
What Engwierum does have, is frogs! Many, many frogs, living happy lives in the drainage ditches and ponds and advertising their presence by croaking, calling and chirping. And they are very loud. God bless them!
So Engwierum is an ‘almost nowhere’ place and this started me wondering what makes a place ‘itself’? What is the essence of any place? Why do we like or dislike places and why do we often disagree with others about the merits of a place?
There are places which are definitely ‘somewhere’. I’d count Gronigen as one of those. A medium sized city, with a university, large harbour, many shops, museums and art galleries, which is pleasant to be in, maybe because they’ve largely banned cars from the centre. Watch out for those bikes though – you need 360 degree vision sometimes!
There are places within Gronigen too: here is a Hofjie, an almshouse, of which there are many right in the city centre.
Then there are the ‘almost somewhere’ places, like Joure, one of my favourites. Apart from the original Douwe Egbert factory, there’s nothing special about it, but for me, it’s characterised by the gaggle of white geese living in the harbour, and harassing the boats. And the crows, nesting in the treetops in the park. John Lister-Kaye, in ‘Gods of the morning’ says that crows make many more sounds than the ‘Caaw’ they’re usually credited with. He’s right.
That leaves ‘absolutely nowhere’places and at times, I think these are the best. We’re just outside Leewarden, most definitely a place: European Capital of Culture in 2018, a very happening place, especially for live music and bars, clubs and restaurants. Lots of students too. But we couldn’t get through the bridges into the city yesterday evening, so we’re moored in Lekkum Yachthaven – which is a few metal rings for securing your boat to and some mowed grass at the edge of a park. It’s beautiful! And quiet! And nowhere and somewhere, both at the same time.
To put icing on the cake, this church was illuminated at night.