Sunday, April 16, 2017

[MAASTRICHT] Lunch in the Netherlands

Given the proximity of cities within the Euregio, you can just lump most of them together in a single day. As they say: Breakfast in Belgium; Lunch in the Netherlands; Dinner in Deutschland. Of course you can always add #blessed at the end of your post to annoy the hell out of your friends, those who think that you need to ride a jet to shuttle back and forth between these cities. But then again, their being geographically challenged is the least of your problems. Besides, fate seems to favor the geography geek.

A bigger problem comes in the form of short battery life and not enough energy. A full day itinerary is not for the faint of heart. And legs. If your phone is old and bailing on you, then the city at the end of your list will be on a relative disadvantage. That’s what happened to Maastricht in my case. But it’s all good, sometimes you enjoy a place better without having to point your phone camera at everything you lay your eyes on. Oh wait, the legs issue.

Well, it’s true. You are going to have to walk a lot unless you have a car. Just remember that Europe is best explored on foot, or at least that’s true for many cities here. You can reach Maastricht from Liège by train in less than an hour. I think it took us just a little over 30 minutes to get there. With two friends who have already been there before tagging along, I just let them take the lead and bring me wherever. Oh wait, we also need to toss in some historical info to make this blog article more legit, no?

Maastricht is the southernmost city of the country according to Wikitravel. It also claims to be the oldest in the Netherlands. Most people residing in Euregio know it more for its proximity to their habitat, though. Friend from Aachen said she’ll be going back here in the next few weeks to shop at IKEA. I think that’s normal when you live in border cities. To add, the locals here are apparently called Maastrichtenaars which sounds like Pokémon to me.

We were greeted by a small Hauptbahnhof but it had, like, stained glass windows and shit which prompted me to ask if they were legit. Construction was going on just outside the building so the yellow tape around the place was an eyesore. We walked all the way to the city center which would have been pleasant if not for the killjoy chill the strong winds brought upon us. Crossing a cobblestoned bridge led us to an area with narrow streets that were also cobblestoned. The shops were closed because it was a Sunday.

It didn’t take long to reach the main square. I think it is uniformly called the Alte Markt (Old Market) here in Central Europe. The concept is similar to that of Spanish plazas in Spain and her ex-colonies. The difference is that instead of a church, you are most likely to see the Rathaus as the centerpiece. This is usually surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and Asian tourists. But Maastricht begged to differ. Most of the tourists that day seemed to be from Spain. There’s just no mistaking that stark Castizo accent.

The weather in this part of Europe has been bi-polar for the last week or so. We decided to take a break in a Vietnamese restaurant where we tried, with some success, to reconcile our Deutsch with the owner’s Niederländisch. It would have been a fun spectacle for locals to watch. Hey look, Asians conversing in Germanic languages! Am I high? Anyway, even the Alte Markt was not that crowded because of the bad weather. Maybe everyone just hates Sunday?

But I think Poznan’s Alte Markt is still the one to beat in my book, for this year at least. Or perhaps Prague’s? It’s been ages since I’ve been to the Czech capital, but yeah, Maastricht’s seems a bit bare in comparison. Where did all the old houses go? After walking a bit more inland, we found ourselves at another square which had all the old houses I was looking for. Okay, I guess I was just impatient? This square is called the Vrijthof, featuring the church of St. Servatius as its main attraction.

The church is not as different from most churches I’ve seen in the region as far as architectural style is concerned. What makes it stand out, though, is that red tower beside it, which for some reason conjured some brutal Game of Thrones scenes in my head. I was half expecting Tommen to jump off the window anytime. But no one really died there that afternoon as far as I know, except for my phone. Slow day. I hate you, phone. I hate you.

It was a shame because what seemed to be the main campus of the University of Maastricht was waiting just around the corner. We also went up some old wall overlooking a river. It was so chill, both literally and figuratively. Technically, it’s spring so the flowers are already in full bloom. It was a lovely stroll over all. I bet the scenery is livelier during the summer. I just don’t know if you can swim there. Going back to Aachen was as easy as hopping on an Arriva bus for a trip not lasting more than an hour.

Maybe I would have enjoyed Maastricht better if we had breakfast there instead of lunch? I don’t know. All I know is that I liked Liège better. Maybe it’s because I was hearing French in the streets again after a long while? Dutch was prevalent in Maastricht alright but there was a smattering of different languages heard wherever we went. Perhaps Maastricht is just more international. But yeah. Sorry, Maastricht. I’m still an Amsterdam fanboy!

[MAASTRICHT] Lunch in the Netherlands

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