Seasonal Views of Winschoten in the Netherlands

I guess I’ll be alternating between seasonal photos and new release announcements up to Christmas.

Anyway, today I had an appointment in Winschoten, a town just beyond the Dutch-German border, which meant a 280 kilometer round trip shortly before Christmas. Not exactly ideal, but at least I got to take a few rather gloomy smartphone shots of Winschoten all decked out for the season.

The reason the photos are gloomy is because it was a grey and foggy day just before the winter solstice. If you want to see what the town looks like in slightly nicer weather (though that was a foggy day as well – fog being rather common this close to the North Sea coast), here are some photos from 2014.

So let’s take a look at Winschoten at Christmas time:

Winschoten drawbridge

A Christmas tree along the canal with a typically Dutch drawbridge in the background.

Winschoten bell tower

Winschoten’s main shopping street is lined by 19th century brick houses and the 16th century bell tower of the Marktplein Church. Not the Christmas lights.

Winschoten bell tower

A closer look at the “D’Olle Witte” (the old white one), the 16th century bell tower of the Marktplein Church. The bell tower is actually separate from the church. In front, you can see the bookstore Bruna.

Winschoten Christmas lights

A look at Winschoten’s main shopping street street with Christmas lights. The rose motif refers to the fact that Winschoten is home to the largest rosarium in the Netherlands. In the background, you can see the tower of the 19th century town hall. On the right, you can see the HEMA discount department store with the tiled look typical for the chain.

Winschoten Winkelzentrum 't Rond.

The postmodern Winkelzentrum (shopping mall) ‘t Rond (The Round). The older building on the left houses an Automat diner, which still exist in the Netherlands (Winschoten has two in perfectly preserved 1950s look). The long line on the right is people queueing up for Poffertjes, little Dutch pancakes.

Scrambled eggs with veggie stir fry

Finally, here is a shot of my lunch, scrambled eggs with veggie stir-fry, courtesy of the truck stop Autohof Apen-Remels.

No photos of the windmills (Winschoten has three) this time, since they are on the other side of town and I was eager to go home, once my business was concluded, because it gets dark at approx. a quarter past four at this time of the year and I don’t particularly like driving in the dark.

Though I did manage to squeeze in some shopping. Food mostly, Brussels sprouts, fresh cranberries, Gouda cheese, breakfast cake with candied ginger, rice crackers, atjar tjampoer (I should probably pickle my own some day), ketjap manis and gochujang, all of which are either not available in Germany outside specialty stores or at least not in the same quality (e.g. there is a huge difference between Dutch Gouda and what passes for Gouda in Germany and the Brussels sprouts were so much better than what you can buy in German supermarkets).

I also surrendered to the lure of the local Bruna store. Bruna is a chain of book, magazines and stationery stores in the Netherlands. As a teen I spent a lot of time at the Rotterdam Bruna store (my Dad worked in Rotterdam from 1983 to 1989) reading comics, which is why I’m familiar with most Franco-Belgian-Dutch comics going strong in the 1980s. I hardly ever bought any of them, since I couldn’t afford them (Franco-Belgian-Dutch style albums are a lot pricier than US-style single issues), but I read most of them and the staff let me. Plus, occasionally I managed to scrape enough money together to buy a comic album or an issue of Starlog (which they carried as well) or once, an imported book on science fiction movies for the enormous price of 65 Dutch guilders. That’s still pretty expensive for a book – even a non-fiction hardcover book – even twenty-eight years later, but considering I literally read it to pieces, it was well worth the price. I still have it, too.

So nowadays, whenever I find myself in the Netherlands and come across a Bruna store, I usually go in to check out the comics (alas, they no longer carry Starlog). And if something catches my eye, I buy it as a payback for all the comics I read in the store as a teen. Most of the series I read back then are no longer around, though Suske en Wiske (a.k.a. Bob et Bobette a.k.a. Spike and Suzy) is still going strong. I will always have a soft spot for them – since Suske en Wiske were for me what Archie is for many Americans, only that Suske en Wiske had aliens, fantasy lands and time travel – but I don’t buy the comics, because I aged out of the target demographic some thirty years ago. Indeed, I preferred Willy Vandersteen’s other series De Rode Ridder (The Red Knight) and particularly De Geuzen towards the end of my time in Rotterdram.

However, today I came across a new volume in the Worlds of Aldebaran science fiction series by Leo, which I quite like, so I bought that.

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