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Groningen, the northernmost province of the Netherlands, was named after its capital city. The city of Groningen was an economic and cultural center during the Middle Ages, earning the nickname "capital of the north." The province is located in the northern part of the Netherlands, on the shores of the Wadden Sea. With its isles and nature, the Wadden Sea area is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, as it is the most extensive unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats worldwide. Apart from the sea, which forms the natural northern border of the province, Groningen neighbors Germany to the southeast and the provinces of Drenthe and Friesland to the south and west. The local landscape is primarily flat, with the prevailing part of the total surface being used for agriculture. Apart from the aforementioned Wadden Sea, there is another protected area, the Lauwersmeer National Park, which is shared across the border with the province of Friesland.
The province of Groningen is named after its capital city, found in the territory's central southern part. Groningen city, often referred to as the "capital of the north," is the largest settlement and the economic and cultural center in the northern Netherlands. The city's significance dates back to the Middle Ages when Groningen town was part of the Hanseatic League, taking part in the North German trade network. Later, the city became a regional market center. Thus, to this day, Groningen is a significant metropolis in the northern part of the Netherlands, with abundant history and culture. The highest building in the city and the predominant feature of the city center is the historical Martinitoren tower, with a height of 97 meters. The tower offers panoramic views of the surrounding city. Groningen is also home to the Groningen Museum, a maritime museum, a university museum, a comics museum, and a graphics museum. Additionally, an international photographic platform, Noorderlicht, runs a photo gallery and organizes an international photo festival in the city as well. Another popular destination in Groningen city is the old warehouses along the canal. By taking a stroll through the old industrial district, visitors pass by 28 listed buildings and 11 municipal monuments. The district formerly contained the city's oldest harbor, which had a direct connection to the sea. In order to avoid having to wait for the tide, entrepreneurs constructed a high quay, the Hoge der A, for loading at high tide and a low quay during low tide, de Lage der A, ensuring that trade could continue uninterrupted. Today, Hoge der A and Lage der A is where the WinterWelVaart event takes place. During this time, Christmas lights illuminate ships at the harbor, and Christmas markets and performances take place in the historical district.
During the 19th century, numerous manor farms were scattered across the Groningen territory. Piloersemaborg, located just outside Groningen city, is the last surviving of the manor farms in the Netherlands. The house, Piloersemaborg, was initially built in 1633. Today, the former manor farm functions as a hotel filled with farmer's antiques and stately architecture. Another historical destination in the Groningen province is the Vesting Bourtange fortress. The fortress was constructed in the late 16th century, during the Eighty Years' War, as a defense area. Star-shaped water canals surround the fortress, providing protection and a lookout spot. Today, the Vesting Bourtange is restored to its original shape, with ramparts, moats, and red lift bridges. In the northern part of the province is found the Menkemaborg, which is a 14th-century house now operating as an 18th-century style museum with a maze, orchard, and vegetable garden.
Nature is another reason for visiting Groningen province. The National Park Lauwersmeer reaches across the borders in the northwestern corner of Groningen. In 1969, the Lauwerszee was closed off with dikes, which led to the creation of the Lauwersmeer National Park. According to the local travel portal, the national park is "ideal for water sports enthusiasts," as sailing, canoeing, surfing, kitesurfing, and swimming are some of the numerous activities available in the protected area.
With an area of 2,960 kilometers squared, Groningen is Netherlands' seventh largest province by area, with approximately 80% of the land being used for agriculture. The local landscape is primarily flat, with a considerable part of the area being below sea level. Near Slochteren, a hamlet in the central part of the province is found the eighth-largest natural gas field in the world. As a result of the gas exploitation, several earthquakes with magnitudes up to 3.6 have been recorded in the area. The Groningen province's northern part was reclaimed from the sea during the Middle Ages. Thus, the site consists of marine and sandy clay and is now used for producing wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, and oilseeds. Until the 16th century, peat bogs covered most of the southeastern part of the province. Over time, people reclaimed and transformed the sandy soils and created another agricultural region. The southwest lands of Groningen province mainly have sandy soils supporting mixed farming and cattle raising.
There are several protected natural areas within Groningen's borders. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Wadden Sea, which belongs to Groningen province. The Wadden Sea area is protected and preserved as it is the most extensive "unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world." Groningen part of the Wadden Sea consists of the sandbank Simonszand and the natural reserve Rottum, with three uninhabited islands, Rottumeroog, Rottumerplaat, and Zuiderduintjes. Apart from the Wadden Sea, the Lauwersmeer National Park is another protected area in Groningen province. The national park extends across the province's borders to the Friesland province. The Lauwersmeer National Park is home to various plant species, such as orchids and animals, including foxes, Scottish Highland cattle, and Konik horses. However, the predominant animal species are birds, as over 100 bird species reside in the national park's area.
Located in the northern part of the Netherlands is Groningen, which has an oceanic climate. Regarding the average temperatures in Groningen, the province's capital, the warmest month is August, with an average daily temperature of 23°C. Reportedly, February is the coldest month, with 5°C being the average temperature. April tends to be the driest month in Groningen due to having 40 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during July, as the month receives about 81 mm on average.
Reportedly, the first settlement of Groningen city was built in the northern part of the town, called Hondsrug. The city's original name, Villa Cruoninga, was first mentioned in writing in the year 1040 in a letter from King Henry III, granting the domain wares to the diocese of Utrecht. In the following years, Groningen became a stable commercial city. During the Middle Ages, the city of Groningen acted as a city-state, influencing the surrounding Ommelanden. Additionally, in the 14th century, Groningen became one of the Hanseatic League towns, which further increased the town's influence. Eventually, nearly the entire province of Friesland was under Groningen's control. However, the city of Groningen was granted to Albert III, Duke of Saxony, later to the Duchy of Guelders, and finally to the Habsburg Netherlands. In 1594, the city was under the influence of the Spanish and was later conquered by the Seven United Provinces, the precursor state of the Netherlands, to which it belongs to this day.
Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands during the Second World War. In the Battle of Groningen, the Second Canadian Division helped to rescue and liberate the city in April 1945. At that time, numerous German soldiers were captured in Netherlands' territory. Presently, each region within the province's borders reportedly has its own "story." The east of Groningen province was in the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly settled by "exploitative landowners" with considerable communist movements. To this day, the area is known as the last stronghold of the communist party in the Netherlands. On the other hand, in the southeastern part of the province, known as the "Peat Colonies," the landscape is characteristic of canals with linear villages.
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