We took a break from major travels this past weekend so Riley could work on his latest paper. We did, however, hop the train to Leeuwarden on Saturday afternoon just to check it out. We wandered around town and the canals a bit and had coffee (of course) before we headed to their leaning old church tower, from which a free guided tour by a local was due to start at noon. I was congratulating Riley, who is generally not the biggest fan of such tours, on his escape as we approached at 11:59 with no sign of a guide or other tourists. Suddenly, Peter came flying up his bike and screeched to a halt in front of the designated meeting spot, leaning over to catch his breath as I laughed unabashedly. A crowd of 20 people appeared from nowhere and soon the tour (in English) began. We saw off-the-beaten-path stuff such as the town's coat of arms, inconspicuously mounted on the side of a building that used to be on the edge of town but is now on the edge of the city center. Next was a graffiti alley, for which Peter was delighted to give the town credit for reaching a gentleman's agreement with the local graffiti artists. Several pieces were exceptionally well done. We also saw the old town square, a statue of William of Orange, a beautiful complex of homes and apartments for the elderly and infirm (with its own full-time gardener and stunning gardens), new and old municipal buildings, the Princesshof ceramics museum, the distillery of a local specialty herbed gin (similar to Jagermeister, we were told, but better), and a huge former prison complex. The prison only closed in 2008, and was subsequently converted into small offices and artists' studios where a cell (the "offices" still have a sturdy lock, solid steel door, and a small opening for food trays) can be rented for only 50 euro/month. The tour ended at a small shop selling goods from the Province of Friesland. Riley couldn't help buying (more) mustard and (more) cheese. We wandered a little more, had a snack along the main canal, and I toured the ceramics museum (beautiful and overwhelming) before we headed home. All-in-all, a wonderful visit.
We capped off the weekend with a home game for the local football club, FC Groningen, the boys in green, against Rotterdam's Excelsior. The good guys scored two goals, and the bad guys scored zero, but the game ended in a draw since the first tally was an "own goal." Womp womp. Had it been intentional, it would have been a stellar header for a goal. I can't say FCG did themselves any favors with a lot of sloppy passes and giveaways. Their few strong shots were stifled by Excelsior's goalie, who played an exceptionally good match. We were stunned to discover that you could smoke in your seats at the game, or at the very least it was overlooked by ushers, officials, and other non-smoking fans. Riley lost count of the number of cigarettes the guy next to him rolled himself and then smoked, though he probably reached the double digits by the end of the 90-minute match. Ugh. Below is a photo of bike parking at the stadium (free-for-all) and a blurry photo of post-game traffic, bicycle version. It was mayhem getting out of there.