|One of the huge benefits of living in Europe is that you can decide, on a whim, to go visit another country just for lunch. We are lucky to be living about 1 ½ hours from the border with The Netherlands so did exactly that: drove there to visit Bourtange, on the Dutch/German border and to have lunch! Fort Bourtange is a star fort, a pentagon or hexagon with bastions at the corners of the walls. It was built in 1593 to control the only road between Germany and the city of Gronigen, which was controlled by the Spaniards during the time of the Eighty Years' War. It is an enchanting place, with the star shaped dikes around the tiny village, with moats below the dikes. We walked the entire perimeter of the fort, looking down upon the few dozen darling cottages, a couple of museums and a large market square that is now taken up by outdoor cafes. After making some progress reading menus in German, we were really challenged with one in Dutch. I had a Dutch pancake (pannenkoek) covered in cheese, onions and bacon that was delicious. I ordered it as I knew what it was from the Dutch Pannenkoeken houses at home! What Randy had was…. less special! Turns out the young server spoke fairly good English and told us they had many visitors from Canada and the US, emigrants who came back to search their roots. It made me think about the number of Dutch families who settled in the farming area where I grew up in Surrey in the 1950s.
One of the things that struck us was the open borders between countries; the only sign that we had arrived in the Netherlands was the blue EU sign on the side of the road welcoming us! My first trip to Europe in the 1970s involved strict border control and stamps in our passports.
We drove through a number of small villages while we were in Holland; it was obvious, to us, that we were in a different country/region: houses were a different colour, although still red brick, but much smaller in that area than they are across the border.
Back in Germany, we drove through the town of Weismoor where they had just held a Flower Festival. There was a parking lot filled with the floats that had been part of the festival, with all the decorations done with hundreds and hundreds of REAL flowers. Even the businesses had 4x5' posters standing outside their businesses made entirely of flowers.