"Not At All What I'd Expected!" Top 5 Page for this destination Maastricht by johngayton
Maastricht Travel Guide: 1,267 reviews and 3,255 photos
I hadn't planned on visiting Maastricht this trip but when I heard about the mountain (HA!) at nearby Vaals I reckoned that would be worth a visit. All I knew about Maastricht was that it was the location where the EU treaty of that name was signed and so I'd sortof envisaged it as being a modern-style Dutch city.
This is a place where the lack of pre-planning really did work for me. The WOW! factor as I got off the train to find brickwork and cobbles instead of the expected concrete, steel and glass was immediate.
My hotel exceeded my expectations, I had some great meals (including the new season white asparagus), enjoyed the city's football frenzy and I accidentally found one of the bestest ever bars anywhere.
And I even got a g**t (multi-plural) sighting - WHEY-HEY ;))
Maastricht, and indeed the whole Province of Limburg of which it is the capital city, has an interesting and varied history. Its location, astride the River Maas, made it an important garrison town about two thousand years ago for the Romans who built a bridge over the river and installed a castellum (small fort) for its protection.
Following the decline of the Roman Empire the city became an important cultural and religious centre under Frankish rule and during Charlemagne's reign (768 to 813 AD) its proximity to the Carolingian capital of Aachen rendered it an important seat of ecclesiastical power.
For the next thousand years, as the European borders were belliferously drawn and redrawn, Maastricht was part of, or occupied by (in no particular order) France, Germany, Spain and Belgium. It was only in 1839 that Maastricht, and the province of Limburg, was finally settled as being part of the modern Netherlands.
About this time the city began to become industrialised with the building of Petrus Ragout's ceramics factories and by 1930 had become a major mining and industrial centre.
In May 1940 the German army advanced on the city during one of the first battles of their World War II Western Front campaign. The Germans had intended to try to capture the Maas bridges intact but the Dutch defenders managed to destroy them all before finally capitulating in order to prevent the historical city being bombarded.
In September 1944, because of its strategic location, the Allied forces, led by the US 30th Infantry, liberated the city, managing to do so without causing major damage. A commemorative monument marks the spot on the river where they made their crossing.
Following World War II the city's renaissance was swift, becoming the province's cultural focus and with the founding of its university in 1976 ( the Netherland's second youngest) has now established itself in the educational field too.
As a sort of digression - It's interesting wandering around the university area as many of the departments are housed in much older buildings which gives the impression that Maastricht is one of the oldest.
With its rich and varied history it's no wonder that the city has developed a character of its own and the statue pictured is the "Mestreechter Geis" (Spirit of Maastricht), by Mari Andriessen in 1962 on Het Bat/Stokstraat.
The "Mestreechter Geis" was a figure in Lou Maas's operetta "Drei Mestreechtenere noa de Maon" (three people from Maastricht to the moon) and has been adopted as the mascot of the annual carnaval. The statue was a gift to the mayor for his 25th jubilee.
The evening I arrived the Dutch national team had been playing in the World Cup 2010 quarter-final against Uruguay in the afternoon. I missed most of the game except the last few minutes which I caught in a bar when changing trains at Den Bosch. It seems to have been a well-contested match which the Netherlands won 3-2 (a fact that was reaffirmed by the train conductor over the speaker system as I boarded my connecting train).
The celebrations of course started immediately and were still going strong by the time I'd gotten to Maastricht, checked into my hotel and then gone out looking for dinner.
The bars and restaurants on, and leading to, the Vrijthof (the city's main square) were busy and buzzy although most diners seemed to avoid the places where the fans were clustered. Not me though - I was more than happy to sit and eat in the midst of it all and soak up the civilized (ish) celebrations.
The Dutch do drunken celebrations far, far better than the English. There's no aggressive nationalism nor macho posturing just the guys (male and female) out to enjoy themselves and celebrate the game as much as the victory.
This made for a superbly informal welcome to a city which I was already suitably impressed with.
- Pros:Lively, Historic and All-round A Nice City
- Cons:The Cobblestones Make For Sore Feet ;)
- In a nutshell:Another Place For Throwing Your Preconceptions Out The Window
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