After our days as tourists in Amsterdam, we headed south. It was a novelty for us UK folk to travel on a double decker train, with great views from the upstairs carriage.
We have been visiting Maastricht for many years as an Aussie relative married and settled there. So as well as the usual family catch up, chatting over leisurely meals, coffees and wine, we did get out and about. We enjoyed delicious meals in small restaurants and savoured new wines in an original wine bar where price was the same per glass or per bottle, no matter what wine you chose.
Maastricht is a beautiful old city, in the Netherlands but in a hilly region close to the borders of Belgium and Germany. The Euro currency was a blessing in this community, compared to keeping Dutch guilders, Belgian Francs and Deutshe Marks in various purses or wallets. People visit the area for the scenery, hiking and mountain biking.
We walked around the cobbled city, by the river, through the squares, the shopping streets. Although there are some big department stores and chain shops there are also small independent shops so it’s always nice to buy some unique clothes. Some of the shop assistants said they are visiting London in the next few weeks to shop. I guess we all just like a change and something different from what everyone else is wearing.
The main square, the Vrijthof was preparing for it’s Christmas market and fair. Side streets had decorations up. I don’t usually get into the Christmas mood in November, but I couldn’t help it in this environment. We bought a few small decorations to add to our tree back home.
There are typical Dutch houses with their distinctive roofs. New houses fit in amongst the older houses. Aussie Uncle commented about timeframes in Europe compared to Australia, visits back to Sydney and the historic houses there, such as Cadman’s Cottage. His mother-in-law’s home here in Maastricht is older than Cadman’s.
There are several impressive churches, two overlooking the Vrijthof. Some churches have been given a new lease of life. I walked into a bookshop which is in a 13th century church. The building has new purpose but is still perfect for quiet reflective moments. All the bookstore fittings are free standing and work so well within the original structure. There is a small cafe in the chancel. You only get the true shape of the coffee tables from the upper levels of the bookstore. Another church is now a hotel with the reception area, bar and restaurant all within the old church building, bedrooms off the old cloisters. Both are original designs to mix the old with the new.
All year round the cafés have seating outside, overlooking the squares and market places. It’s a great place to stop, relax, enjoy a coffee or beer or glass of wine and just watch the world go by.
The city walls date back many centuries. The real D”Artagnan (fictionalised in “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas) was killed here during a Franco-Dutch war and the Seige of Maastricht in 1673.
And of course there are lots of bikes in Maastricht.