Franeker, tumultuous past, silent present

15 minutes from Leeuwarden (the capital of Friesland), Franeker is fallen in complete silence. Or maybe it was just a lazy Sunday, but even at the train station no rumors could be heard. Once the home of the second university in the country, the city is known today for the Eise Eisinga planetarium.

The streets and houses are not different from the ones around The Netherlands, but they are compacted in forming the small city center which takes around 20 minutes to see. Right in the center you will find the church and some places to eat/drink, but also a clock on the pavement which works based on your shadow. There’s a list with the months of the year and if you are lucky to have sun, by staying on the month which is currently ongoing your shadow will tell you almost the exact hour. Not far from the clock the beautiful town hall is located and close by the planetarium.

Eise Eisinga had as a primary financial source the wool business he inherited from his father. Even if he didn’t studied mathematics in depth at school he was attracted by science and he learned by himself many things that others can barely understand during university even today. When, in 1774, there was a rumor that the world will end due to the conjunction of planets, he started creating a planetarium in the small living room of the house located on the canals. It took him almost 7 years, 9 weights and 10.000 nails to built it and soon after he finalized, Uranus was discovered, but there was no place left on the ceiling anymore. By building the planetarium Eise wanted to show people that it is almost impossible for the planets to collide, showing the rotation of each planet around the Sun and of the Moon around Earth. It is impressive to be in the room, looking at the blue ceiling and listening the guide which will give more in depth information as story telling.

In that period ( 15th – 18th century) Franeker was a known city around the Kingdom of Holland. The second university of the country was established ( after Leiden) and you can imagine that the actions of Eise Eisinga weren’t left without echo. Many professors came to visit the planetarium and in 1818 the king himself wanted to see the working “magic”. The king bought it, but it is not owned by the state anymore. In 1828 Eise died at the age of 84 and he left in his will instructions and details of how the planetarium works. The guide will tell you some interesting stuffs ( eg. how a new year starts or how the pass to March when there are 29 days in February) so I truly recommend you to visit it – it is also the world’s oldest functional planetarium. And the entrance is not expensive: only 5e for an amazing world of a beautiful mind.

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