The G in Groningen is for Gezelligheid

Posted on 21. Aug, 2014 by in Travel

On Sunday, Riccardo and I headed to Groningen. Although it was a very short trip, I was very excited to go to the northern most tip of the Netherlands. It took us almost three hours to get there, and we enjoyed a typical Dutch country scenery of bomen, boerderijen, koeien mixed with regen and wolken. Before long, we were driving into the Groningen region and into this remarkable city.

The first traces of Groningen date back to the 3rd century AD, although documents trace the city back to only 1040. Its peak importance in trade was in the 13th century, and its most invloedrijke periode was during the 15th century. It is during this time that Groningen was in charge of the administration of the neighboring province of Friesland.

Groningen has several important bezienswaardigheden or landmarks. The most notable one is the Martinitoren or the St. Martin’s Tower, which was the highest building in Europe during the 15th century, when it was built. It is in the Grote Markt, which is the main square in Groningen. The Martinitoren is the bell tower of the Martinikerk. Both are named after Saint Martin of Tours who was the patron saint of the Bishop of Utrecht. The toren is closed on Mondays so I was not able to go up, but the kerk was open. This church has very well preserved 16th century paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ. The architecture of the church is simple, and yet full of details.

Martinikerk, Groningen (personal photo)

Martinikerk, Groningen
(personal photo)

Another important landmark is the Groninger Museum, which is, located right across the Centraal Station. This museum, in my opinion, is why Groningen is such an impressive city when it comes to architectuur. The current building of the museum was designed by the Italian architect Alessandro Mendini and opened to the public in 1994. Before that, the museum was in the Praediniussingel. In the museum, you can appreciate local, national and international works of art, most of which are modern art.

Because most musea were closed Monday morning, I took a walk around the city and by its canal, and was impressed with everything I saw. The houses in Groningen follow the typical Dutch design and most were in excellent conditions (at least from what I could see). The canal has many boathouses, as well, and there are plenty of cute bridges to cross from one side to the other.

Martinitoren and VVV office in Groningen (personal photo)

Martinitoren and VVV office in Groningen (personal photo)

As I was walking around Groningen, I tried to pinpoint what it was that caught my attention and made me like this city so much. I feel the same when I go to Maastricht. There is something about these two cities that appeals to me. They have this city wonder with a small town feel. Perhaps the fact that both cities have important universities is what attracts me. They have a certain gezelligheid that makes me feel at home.

Useful Vocabulary:

de invloedrijke periode- the influential period

de bezienswaardigheid- the landmark

de bezienswaardigheden- the landmarks

de toren- the tower

de kerk- the church

het museum- the museum

de museums/musea- the museums

architectuur- architecture

gezelligheid- friendliness, jolliness, coziness, comfort

de plattegrond- the map

wandeling- walk, stroll

het restaurant- the restaurant

het hotel- the hotel

de kamer- the room

de winkel­- the store

de VVV- the tourism office

Inversie – Inversion in Dutch

Posted on 20. Aug, 2014 by in Dutch Grammar, Dutch Language

Inversie is used frequently in the Dutch language, and in many situations. What is inversie? Inversie, or inversion in English, means that you switch the verb and the subject in a sentence. For example: hij geeft hem een appel becomes hem geeft hij een appel, or hij kan heel goed praten met mij becomes praten kan hij heel goed met mij. Even though this may be tough, it is very important to learn!

Inverted! (Image by Lauren Nelson at

How to invert

It happens in many cases, but before we get to all those, first the ground rules to invert:

1. Add or move the word(s) that cause inversion (e.g. add waarschijnlijk, or move the dative in a sentence);

2. Switch the persoonsvorm (verb) and onderwerp (subject) – so ze brengt becomes brengt ze;

3. Inversion completed!

What can I invert?

So what can you invert? As I said, there are many cases:

When putting the lijdend voorwerp (accusative) in front – ik eet het brood niet – het brood eet ik niet;

When putting the meewerkend voorwerp (dative) in front - ik geef hem een appel - hem geef ik een appel;

When putting tijdsbepaling (time) in front - ik ga morgen naar de dokter – morgen ga ik naar de dokter;

When putting plaatsbepaling (place) in front - ik eet een pannenkoek in een restaurant – in een restaurant eet ik een pannenkoek;

When shouting something - hij loopt boos weg - loopt hij boos weg! (often in cases of anger, indignation, surprise…)

When giving your thoughts (modale bepaling – modality) - ze hebben geen geld – volgens mij hebben ze geen geld;

When putting a bepaling van gesteldheid (condition) Hij komt rennend de hoek om – rennend komt hij de hoek om;

In case of a voegwoordelijk bijwoord (dus, toch…) - hij gaat niet mee – Dus gaat hij niet mee;

In case of a bijzin (subclause) - - ik ging naar huis. Hij ging naar school. – toen ik naar huis ging, ging hij naar school.

In a question - jij gaat naar school - ga jij naar school?

So as you can see, there are many situations, and you just have to get used to these. But as you can see, it is just switching up a small part of the sentence that causes inversion. The rest of the sentence just stays as it is!

This is a tough one to get, but it is very important. It determines the flow of your sentences, and how well you are understood. Forgetting inversion is very audible!









Campaigns in NL 1 – De scholen zijn weer begonnen!

Posted on 19. Aug, 2014 by in Culture

This new series of posts, called “Campaigns Made in NL” is about campaigns and advertisements in the Netherlands that are so ingeburgerd (integrated in society) that everybody knows them. Some led to new verbs and other idioms. This week: schools started again!

The banners: de scholen zijn weer begonnen! (Image by Willem Karssenberg at

The campaign

From now on, street corners are filled with signs, banners are spanned across the roads and all with reason: De scholen zijn weer begonnen!

Every year, traffic users are informed by the organisation Veilig Verkeer Nederland (VVN) (safe traffic Netherlands) in collaboration with the gemeenten (municipalities) that the schools started again, so they keep in mind the children. This campaign appears to be necessary, because many students go to school by bike or foot. And many children in traffic, especially when there are many school children biking next to each other, pose a greater risk for accidents. These banners are only put up after the summer holidays, as schools had around 6 weeks zomervakantie (summer holidays), but not everybody is aware of when they start and end. And so as a reminder, the VVN places these signs.

 Did the campaign work?

VVN has been setting up these banners for more than 20 years now, and it proves necessary. Every year in September, the traffic accidents with children under 14 rise – and September is the first full month of school. It is difficult to measure whether the campaign helps, as prevented accidents cannot be recorded. And comparing numbers of now with numbers back when the campaign did not exist is not fair.

Children go to school in different ways in the Netherlands now too. Back in the 1970s, children went to school by themselves already at the age of 6 – today, the average lies at around 9 years old. And this is seen as one of the reasons why more accidents happen: children are not as familiar with traffic and how to behave. In addition, the amount of motorized vehicles has gone up. Also, parents more often take their children to school by car, often because they are afraid that their child will have an accident. What they do not realize is that more cars on the road creates a greater risk for ongelukken (accidents). VVN itself adds that children could play all summer and some have a new way to school – and that can make them incautious.

Impact on language

In Dutch, de scholen zijn weer begonnen is very rarely used as a proverb. It is a warning that something started again. So this can be something politically, and often with a satirical tone.

In general, everybody is aware of the campaign, and only the words trigger the thought about it.