Day in Maastricht

Maastricht Travel Blog

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The new bridge

One of the few places that I still really wanted to go to in the Netherlands was Maastricht, a small city tucked a very long way away near France and Germany and even further away than Belgium.  But I hadn't got around to it yet, until my friend from work, Leti, offered to show me round, and even pointed out I could save money by getting a discounted all day ticket from the Blokker store in town.  Hooray!  After a remarkably smooth trip to the station, we met up and got on the train. 

The first thing that everyone tells you about Maastricht is that it looks more French than Dutch, and I think that that's fair.  There is a striking lack of bicycles in Maastricht, for a start - and the ones that exist seem to be rather more sedate and less prone to cycling over the top of you.

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe from the bridge on the river Maas
 It was historically part of Burgundy, when their dukes were sort of independent of the French throne, and has a lot of surviving wall, ramparts and so on.  Of course you don't see that from the station - Maastricht doesn't look at all impressive from the station, but then, neither do a lot of cities.  You don't build railways in the really pretty bits unless - well, unless you're Edinburgh, thinking about it.  Or Durham.  The pretty bits are a short walk away on the other side of the Maas.

We crossed the St Servatious bridge, parts of which are very old, and the rest of which apparently has a very impressive way of raising the pedestrian bits for shipping without interrupting the pedestrians.  I wish I could have seen that!   The first place we went was to Onze-Lieve-Vrou square.

The Maas
  Apparently, in summer, this is where the locals come when the tourists are in the other square with the bigger church.  I finished my foccaccia, and we went into the church to have a look.  Onze-Lieve-Vrou is very lovely.  This far south the cathedrals and basillica are Catholic, which means richer decoration,  and the windows in Onze Lieve Vrou are slightly more modern ones, very bright and lovely.  The alter lighting was very effective and the church is beautiful; I don't have any interior photos because personally I feel strange taking photos in an active church - I don't have a problem with other people doing it, I just feel weird doing it myself.  So you'll have to take my word for it that this is lovelier than the bigger St Servatious. 

We walked around the outside of the wall and back in at the Hell Gate, round another corner and reached the Christmas Market.

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe
  Of course.  I think it was still under construction, to an extent, because the icerink was still really plywoody.  But other than that it was fun, and we went on the big wheel, which was really very big indeed.  Regular readers (hi mum!) will know that amongst my many hobbies (wandering around looking confused, drinking coffee, eating, talking management nonsense...) is "going on things that let me go high up in the air but aren't really scary." So I was delighted to get to go on a big wheel, and, right enough, on the outskirts of Maastricht are some hills.  Actual hills.  I was really quite excited about them - of course, they're not huge, but they are definately higher than the surrounding countryside.  You also get a great view of St Servatious church and the rest of the city, and I really enjoyed it.
Fountain
 

The market itself was very small, and provides for all your christmas needs.  But only, that is, if you need festive incense, festive stone buddhas, or the traditional European christmas battery operated squeeking dog.  It also has Gluhwein, of which more later. 

St Servatious church is a large church, and charges an entrance fee, which means that I feel totally cool about taking photos.  The windows here are more traditional and there is an enormous organ.  It has a treasury of extremely sparkly treasures, a very nice mosaic ceiling, and a lighting system that brightens up if you approach the alter from the side with the  candles rather than straight up the aisle, possibly because if you are lighting candles you might have given them money.

hell Gate
  It's quite nice, but definately not as nice as the other one.  I did enjoy it though. 

After that, we went through the shopping centres to a church that's been coverted into a bookstore (another sort of church I feel fine about taking pictures in, because it's no longer a church!), which was great - books and good architecture, what more could I ask?  The ceilings must have been magnificent a couple of hundred years ago. 

Leti explained to me how there were several new shopping centres and a lot of the old small independent stores had shut down, because they had been squeezed out of the market by the bigger stores and the city's stated mission to be the number one shopping city in the Netherlands.  This seems like something of a narrow ambition for such a beautiful town - I like shopping, but I'm more impressed with churches, mediaval walls, great food, and the surrounding countryside than I'm ever going to be with a flagship branch of yet another H&M or WE.

Hell Gate
  Leti's quite upset about the loss of the very shops that made Maastricht a cool place to shop in the first place, and I for one totally agree that if you're going to make your city the best place for shops, you should protect the interesting ones that make you unique and not the ones that are the same as the rest of the country.  This is especially true because Maastricht is so far away from the rest of the country and you have to buy quite an expensive train ticket and  pass through Eindhoven to get there.  If I lived in Amsterdam, it'd take some pretty unique attractions to get me to trek the whole way to Maastricht.
Bishop's mill
  There are still some very interesting shops on the other side of the river, though, so if you go to the city then do go there too. 

We crossed the river to get a coffee at Coffee Lovers, which was lovely, and then went back to the Christmas markets to get some Gluhwein.  There was a confusing, if sensible, system in place where you had to buy tokens, use them to buy the glass and the gluhwein, then sell the glass back for more tokens, which could be swapped for the return of some money again.  But the gluhwein was very nice and we enjoyed it.

We had dinner in Eetcafé D'n Blind Genger (or Bling Genger - not sure!), and I had rabbit in prune sauce which was excellent.  After that, and some coffee, Leti's boyfriend joined us, and we had another quick walk back to the market which was looking very festive indeed, all lit up.

cool building
  The it was time to catch the last train back.

The train journey was two hours, and it didn't terminate in Utrecht so I was a little worried about falling asleep on the way home.  I needn't have worried.  The guy behind me was singing badly to his headphones, loudly enough to drown my I-pod, and kept kicking the back of my chair.  Weasel.  And this prompted the guy in front of me to play hip hop loudly out of his mobile, which I don't think was unfair in the circumstances but didn't help the hearing my own music situation.  So I sketched myself in the window, to avoid having to... to... well... give them both a bit of a look, actually, in a cross way.

Maastricht
  Possibly even sigh to myself.  And ignore them, pointedly.  Because that would show them, right?  I almost cheered when mobile phone guy got off in Eindhoven and annoying man got sick of the pointedly ignoring him and went to sing somewhere else.  Huzzah! 

Got home at half past midnight, and I'd had a lovely day. 

sarahelaine says:
It's really beautiful - I had a great time.
Posted on: Dec 27, 2007
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The new bridge
The new bridge
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe from the bridge …
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe from the bridge…
The Maas
The Maas
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe
Fountain
Fountain
hell Gate
hell Gate
Hell Gate
Hell Gate
Bishops mill
Bishop's mill
cool building
cool building
Maastricht
Maastricht
Cloisters
Cloisters
maastricht
maastricht
St Servatious
St Servatious
Leti
Leti
St Servatius and cloisters
St Servatius and cloisters
roof in the church that they conve…
roof in the church that they conv…
church they converted into a books…
church they converted into a book…
Saint Servatius  (interior)
Saint Servatius (interior)
Saint Servatius and the hills beyo…
Saint Servatius and the hills bey…
Saint Servatius from the big wheel
Saint Servatius from the big wheel
Coffee Lovers
Coffee Lovers
Leti
Leti
Maastricht
Maastricht
The things you do to avoid having …
The things you do to avoid having…
More blurred smartypants fun with …
More blurred smartypants fun with…
Maastricht Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Coffee Lovers is a café near the Maas and the library in Maastricht. it serves excellent tea, made out of real tea leaves that turn up in a little m… read entire review
Maastricht Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
This is a cool, slightly studenty café (we'd probably call it a Bistro at home) with nice decor near the Lieve Vrou church in Maastricht. The am… read entire review
Maastricht
photo by: Vlindeke