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Orchids in Bourtange, Vesting Bourtange, Groningen, The Netherlands | by Rana Pipiens
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Orchids in Bourtange, Vesting Bourtange, Groningen, The Netherlands

We call ourselves 'The Orchids', those always endangered, beautiful plants. "The Orchids' is a small group of scholars at our University who work in 'endangered' - by the financial strictures of academic financing - subjects. Thus there's e.g. a Sanskritist, a Neolatinist, a Linguist, an Hebraist, a Musicologist, an Old-Germanist, a Finno-Ugrist, an Egyptologist etc. We meet every month or so to entertain each other with a talk on a subject in our chosen fields. Once every five years we publish a volume with those pieces, and annually we have ourselves a little excursion to a place of interest not too far from Groningen.

This year our Semiticist hosted us to Vesting Bourtange. Fort Bourtange is a so-called 'star fort', a star-shaped fortress precisely on the border between The Netherlands (Groningen) and Germany. Constructed in 1593 on the orders of William the Silent, pater patriae, it controlled the only road between the German lands and the city of Groningen. The Fort successfully defended the Dutch Republic, and it was particularly important in 1672 when the Republic was attacked all at once by armies from Germany, France and England. Fort Bourtange repelled the German forces of bishop von Galen of Münster, dispatching them homewards, east through the surrounding mires and swamps.

Bourtange also had a Jewish population down through the centuries. Most were cattle merchants. Sadly and horribly the Second World War brought an end to the hard-working and poor community. Much has now been restored (e.g the synagogue and the adjoining mikveh), but the people are gone forever.

Here's a part of the inner moat with its bulwarks. On the top of one of the 'stars' is the grist mill. To the right you can just see the red tiled roofs of some houses. Today the town has about 60 inhabitants. Especially in the Summer, though, there are many tourists.

We had a fine time, and topped of our excursion by a small dinner in "De Staakenburgh", near Vesting Bourtange. It's a pleasant wayfarer's restaurant in a farmhouse dating back to 1687.

What especially intrigued me in this view is the suggestion of a reflection in the lower left-hand corner; that grass is really there, and not a reflection.

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Taken on June 13, 2012