Lonneker, The Netherlands

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The tiny Dutch village of Lonneker is truly a community. Frank, the miller apprentice at the town’s windmill, said it took the townsfolk two years before they would greet him, and, as I pedaled my bike around the village on a cloudy afternoon, families came to their windows to stare at me in worry while I snapped photographs. A quick wave and a cheery “Goedemiddag!” sent them scrambling back from the panes, curtains flapping at their quick withdraw.

In full disclosure I visited Lonneker because I confused it with another entry in the top 53 things to see in Enschede, earning me confused looks when I demanded from Frank and others the location of the town’s former bunkers. No worries, however, as Lonneker is also featured in the book as the 26th best thing to do in Enschede. The Lonnekers (Lonnekerians?) would likely not find the inclusion of their village as a pro, however, given their fierce independence from the city and their deep community roots. The Enschede 53 book itself notes their independence:

The cosy, and formerly rural village of Lonneker still breathes a strong sense of community and tradition. Voluntary work is flourishing, and many celebrations are held in Lonneker. Although the city of Enschede is creeping closer every year, the 1,800 residents of this village – which used to be a large independent community until 1934 – are trying hard to maintain their independence.

Lonneker is cozy and reminiscent of Star’s Hollow with an old-time grandstand in the square, a few restaurants, large church, and many festivals throughout the year that see full town participation. Wet and cold, I popped in to Cafe Sprakel, one of two restaurants in the town, settling into a seat next to the fireplace. Though I was initially the only patron, a few minutes later the local Red Hat Society bustled through the doors; the ladies giggled and raised afternoon toasts of Champagne. At nearly 20 ladies, nearly every elderly woman in the village must be a member of the group. As the waiter laughed and greeted the women warmly, opening bottle after bottle of wine for them, the sense of community was overwhelming.

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