A Hankering for Pancakes

It’s Throwback Thursday, so I am going to share this little travel narrative I wrote in October 2005 after a day trip to the quaint village of Thorn in The Netherlands. And by pancakes, I mean pannenkoek — a Dutch pancake that is about the size of a dinner plate and just a bit thicker than a crepe. These can be sweet or savory.

The allure of 250 varieties of pannenkoeken is what prompted my husband to take me on a day trip to Thorn. This small Limburg town seems to have little going for it, except the restaurant that serves up these tasty treats. That in itself was reason enough to make the 45-minute drive from our home in Germany, but what we discovered there was a whole lot more than pancakes.

Thorn is known as “the white village,” due to the white-washed brick buildings in the center of town. Standing out is the abbey church, which was founded in the 10th century and served as the heart of the Benedictine convent, the reason for Thorn’s existence. Thorn eventually became a stift, a monastic community without strict rules of living. Young, unmarried daughters of the aristocracy lived in the village until it was time for them to wed. 

Despite no longer being a convent, Thorn still has a strong religious tradition. As we approached the abbey church, we saw many adults and children in costume lining up at the church entrance. Since the VVV (tourist information office) was right around the corner from the church, I popped in to ask what was going on. I was told that the church was having a parade. The music started playing just as we joined the growing crowd, and the procession began to wind its way through the village.

Since the purpose of our visit was De Pannekoekenbakker, we waited until the parade had moved out of sight, and then walked across the street from the church cemetery to the restaurant. The restaurant was quaint, the pannenkoek was delicious, and the hot chocolate with whipped cream was heavenly. The rumors we had heard about this restaurant were true—the food was decadent.

Our stomachs full almost to bursting, we decided to explore the church. The gold on the ornate Baroque altar and organ pipes popped against the white interior. The sun pouring through the windows gave the whole sanctuary a glow. It was pretty, but relatively simple, just like the village. 

After admiring the sanctuary, we descended the stairs to see the star attraction below the main choir. Along with the reliquaries sit two glass-topped coffins containing the remains of two of the church’s abbesses.

A short while later, meandering down the cobblestone streets, we find ourselves charmed by this serene village on the Meuse River. We came for pancakes, but left, filled with so much more.

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