So many countries, so little time. When I go abroad, I tend to stick to capital cities, especially when doing European city breaks. Flights from your home area to capital cities are much more often, and much cheaper, than visiting other cities in that country. If you only have a long weekend to explore beyond your borders, you want to be doing as little travel as possible, and doing the most activities in a smaller area.
On my recent trip to the Netherlands however I had the opportunity to spend three days in the southern city of Maastricht, which is so close to Belgium and Germany I spoke to people who had actually arrived there via airports in those countries over Amsterdam.
But boy, what a beautiful city!
So what did I do there? Well, I wandered, wandered, and then wandered some more! The streets of central Maastricht are stunning – small and narrow, and so typically European. Cobbled, and warm, and you have to take extra care not to walk in the way of the army of cyclists when admiring all of the architecture.
It wouldn’t be a lie for me to also say that I ate my way around Maastricht. After spending some time in super expensive Amsterdam, I found the prices of eating out in Maastricht around the same as those at home, and tried as many restaurants as I could. Spoiler: they were all fab!
The best place to find restaurants is along the side of the Vrijthof, the largest and most popular square in Amsterdam, where families, couples, and friends all dined outside eating all the foods that you can name; pizza, pasta, sandwiches, steak, soup, seafood…
It was near impossible to get a photo to show you how long this row of street style restaurants is, once you’re in the crowd, you’re in the damn crowd. But what an absolutely fantastic atmosphere! I had never experience anything like this in any other European city, and for this alone I would love to return.
For the next point, I would like to add that Maastricht has Christian buildings galore. They are beautiful. Architecture in Maastricht is beautiful.
However, they had so many that they began turning the churches to different purposes, for example the hotel that I was staying in (stay turned for this in the next post), but what I did find in one of those new purpose churches was…
Wait for it…
IT WAS A FREAKING BOOKSHOP.
A really, really big bookshop. It had such a wide selection of languages, and the English book section was just perfection. Every single book that they stocked was obviously well thought through, with a wide range of covers. Jane Eyre came in 5 different covers, all of which I was desperate to buy.
What I liked most about it was that the bulk of the book store was on, what can only be described as, multi-level scaffolding with shelves, which meant that the original shell of the building was left intact. You could walk the entire way around the walls, admiring the original building.
The gravestones on the floor were an, erm…interesting…feature for a bookstore.
After the bookshop I ended up in an actual church. Fun fact: every time that I visit a new city, I always head to the church. Not for any religious reason, I mostly see myself as atheist, but as a historian I find churches like affordable museums.
Church’s, mainly of the Basilica kind, have treasury’s where they display the wealth of the churches old artefacts, and in the case of Basilica of Saint Servatius, this was a massive three story collection of old ornaments, jewellery, and shrouds. Cities change, the modern replaces the new, but churches serve as a window into the architectural past.
I’ll not bore you with the 100+ photos that I took in the treasury, but if anyone wants a separate post, then I can sure work that in, so let me know.
Oh, and if you’re in Maastricht when Andre Rieu concerts are on, you’re sort of obliged to go. No, I’m serious.
It was an experience that I never thought that I would have, and only went for WanderNan (his number one fan). His music wasn’t my kind of thing, although I did enjoy the proper classical music, his rendition of mambo number 5 was a little, out there.
Still, all of Maastricht is in full party mode and it’s a little hard to not get wrapped in it.
Could Maastricht be the friendliest place on the world? So far, in my experience of travel, YES!
Would I go back? Only if I can apply for citizenship, please.