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Groningen

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About Groningen

This is where many find the image of The Netherlands they've been looking for - a flat, green landscape dotted with small villages, windmills and friendly locals in wooden shoes. Groningen is the name of the capital as well as of the province. The city (population 170,000) is a busy commercial centre that regards itself as the Amsterdam of the North. Not much remains of the old city, which was pretty well destroyed during the Allied liberation in 1945. Groningen's attraction lies more in its atmosphere than in its appearance. One of the dominant aspects of Groningen is its youthful population and vibrant intellectual scene. The university is prestigious and an estimated 20,000 students live in the city, along with an equal number of other young people below the age of 30. It also attracts many artists.

Aside from the university, the main industry is producing sugar from beet. The locals, with the typical northern Dutch wryness of humour, like to say Groningen's sugar production makes it "the sweetest town in Europe" - unless the wind from the factory is blowing the wrong way.

Groningen gets few foreign tourists, other than passing Scandinavians and Germans. Locals ruefully admit that many of those tourists are en route to Amsterdam, often to buy drugs, and the drugs trade has now come to Groningen itself - another reason the city is called the Amsterdam of the North. But even for those not interested in drugs, Groningen's history and its lively pub scene are worth a visit.

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