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The Netherlands- The North Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips


 

The Netherlands' northern region is made up of several provinces, including Fryslan and Groningen, and capped by the Frisian Islands. Even to the Dutch, the lake-land province of Fryslan is a bit 'different' from the rest of the Netherlands. Here the people have their own flag, anthem and language - Frysk (Frisian). In 1996, the province's name was officially changed from Friesland to Fryslan (as it is spelt in Frysk).

LEEUWARDEN

As the economic and cultural capital of Fryslan, Leeuwarden radiates an air of proud independence. The city developed from three terp (artificial dwelling mound) settlements which merged in the 15th century, though it's better remembered as the birth place of Mata Hari, the dancer executed by the French in 1917 on suspicion of spying for the Germans.

The VVV (0900-202 40 60), Stationsplein 1, has city and provincial information. More can be gained from the Frisian Museum, Turfmarkt 11, as well as the Frisian Literair Museum, Grote Kerkstraat 21, a literary museum occupying Mata Hari's former house.

From Amsterdam there are hourly trains to Leeuwarden (25 €, two hours) or you can take bus No 350 from Alkmaar across the Afsluitdijk.

GRONINGEN

This lively provincial capital has been an important trading centre since the 13th century. Its prosperity increased with the building in 1614 of the country's second oldest university and, later, the discovery of natural gas. The VVV (313 97 74), Gedempte Kattendiep 6, is half-way between the train station and the city centre.

The city's colorful Groninger Museum, Museumeiland 1, is opposite the train station. It's open 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Groningen is the best place to arrange wadlopen, a serious pastime - strenuous and at times dangerous - involving kilometres-long, low-tide walks in mud that can come up to your thighs. To get into the thick of it contact Dijkstra Wad Walking Tours (0595-528 300) at Pieterburen to the north of town.

FRISIAN ISLANDS

The Netherlands is capped by the Frisian or Wadden Islands, a group of five islands including Ameland, Schiermonnikoog and Texel. They are important bird-breeding grounds as well as being an escape for stressed southerners. Ferries connect the islands to the mainland, and bikes can be hired for getting around.

Texel

The largest and most populated island, Texel's 30km of beach can seem overrun all summer but even more so in June when the world's largest catamaran race is staged here. The biggest village is Den Burg where you'll find the VVV (31 47 41), Emmalaan 66.

Trains from Amsterdam to Den Helder (12 €, 2 hours) are met by a bus that whisks you to the awaiting hourly car ferry. The voyage takes 20 minutes, and costs 5 € (concession 3 €).

Ameland

Ameland is noted for its birds and four quaint villages. The main one, Nes, is home to the VVV (54 65 46), Rixt van Doniastraat 2.

From Leeuwarden, take bus No 60 to the port at Holwerd. On weekdays there are six boats a day; weekends four (hourly services from 1 June to 31 August). Returns cost 10 € (concession 5 €) and 5 € for bikes, and cars start at 70 €. The journey takes 45 minutes.

Schiermonnikoog

With one of the nation's most tongue-tying names, Schiermonnikoog is the smallest island of the group and off-limits to cars. In the only village, about 3km from the ferry terminus, you'll find the VVV (53 12 33), Reeweg 5.

There are four ferries (three on Sunday) from the village of Lauwersoog, between Leeuwarden and Groningen. To get there from Leeuwarden take bus No 50; from Groningen, bus No 63. The voyage takes 45 minutes each way and return tickets cost 10 € (concession 6 €) and 5 € for a bike.

 

 

The North


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