Sound II


Welcome to the second blog on the sounds of Groningen. In the same style as the previous one, I will first let you hear a short sample of actual sounds of the city, then you can guess what it is, and then I’ll tell a bit about the place. Got it? Good. Let’s get started then!

Which of these places did you hear?

  1. Grote Markt (the central market square)
  2. Central Station
  3. Vismarkt (the fish market)
  4. Herestraat
  5. Folkingestraat


Don’t know it yet? Let me help you a bit more then. Here’s another recording of the same place. Listen closely and try to figure out which of the above locations you’re listening to.

Again, which of these places did you hear?

  1. Grote Markt (the central market square)
  2. Central Station
  3. Vismarkt (the fish market)
  4. Herestraat
  5. Folkingestraat





It was a trick question! There were two right answers. Both the Vismarkt and the Grote Markt appeared in the recordings!

Why combine the places, you ask? Well, because on the average day these places sound very similar. Sure, there are some differences, but at their core the sounds at these locations are almost indistinguishable from each other. But what kind of lazy writer would I be if I just left it at that, right? It’s the differences that make it interesting! So let’s dig a little deeper into those.

The most obvious difference between the two is the ringing of the bells. The Grote Markt is home to what is probably the most iconic landmark in the city of Groningen: the Martini Tower. As far as records can prove, this is the oldest building in Groningen that is still somewhat in its original state. It is also the largest building in the entire city, but none of that matters to us. What we care about, are the bells. A total of twelve bells together create the lovely sounds that can be heard at the end of the first recording. These bells are rung alternately either by a computer program, or manually by a group of people known as the Bell Ringers Guild.

Attached to the Grote Markt is one of the only bus stations in the center of the city. Basically everyone that has to be in the city center (or has to get out of it) has to go by this bus station, making it a very noisy but cheerful place. The busses are not allowed to drive through the center (and therefore not past the Vismarkt), which makes the sound of busses something else that sets the two market squares apart from each other.

Lately, the Grote Markt has also been plagued by another sound, that may be new to the market square but that is all too familiar in the city: the sound of construction. Besides an ambitious plan to create a new forum next to the market square – a plan that has been in production for the last six years), there are also renovations being made to at least two buildings adjacent to the market.

A unique sound for the Vismarkt then? Well, if you listen closely to the second recording, you can hear at least three languages: Dutch, French, and a language that I admittedly can’t identify. While it is no secret that the city is filled with people from many different nationalities (just look at our study for a quick sample), the Vismarkt is one of the unique locations where you can find these many nationalities together.

And finally, a quick look at the similarities, which are in abundance. Most days, both markets are filled with salespeople, food carts and market stalls. Both market squares are filled with people (that is, if the weather is better than when I recorded these soundbites), and both squares have large groups of cyclists passing by. Restaurants and bars flank both markets, and cheerful music comes floating from the stores that are located next to the squares.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can hear a street musician play in the small passageway between the two markets…


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