Day in Maastricht
Maastricht Travel Blog› entry 44 of 61 › view all entries
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.
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.
We walked around the outside of the wall and back in at the Hell Gate, round another corner and reached the Christmas Market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Got home at half past midnight, and I'd had a lovely day.