Sunday, July 15, 2012

Maastricht, the place I currently call home


I have now been living in Maastricht for almost a year and I thought that it was about time to write some lines about the charms of this small town in the south of The Netherlands. I had been here once before moving here, so I already knew that Maastricht was not a big, vibrant city. However, in the last months I have found out that Maastricht is a very charming city, specially to be enjoyed when the sun shines, sitting on one of the many terraces which are spread all over the city. Just like the Dutch would say, gezellig!


Maastricht is actually very small and all the main sights can be reached by foot. The train station, a small delicate building with coloured glass windows, is usually the main entrance point to the city. The city center is just a 5 minute walk from the station along cobbles streets full of boutiques and deli shops. The city center is almost exlusively a pedestrian zone, in fact, the whole city is totally pedestrian (and cyclers) friendly. There are some traffic lights near the station but after a year here I have almost forgotten how they work! 
Maastricht is very different from the rest of the The Netherlands and some Dutch even joke (or maybe they are serious!) that this southern city is not really part of their country. While most Dutch cities pride on their cannals and typical 16th and 17th century houses, these are not to be found in Maastricht. Most of the main sights, including the Vrijthof and the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein, date from the Middles ages and indeed, they are unique buildings in The Netherlands. After all, Maastricht claims to be the oldest city in The Netherlands, Romans were already around here in the 1st cenury BC. Old walls and town gates can still be found around the perimeter of the city center, surrounded by green parks. Other sights are the Markt (market square) and the Saint Servasius Church. There are also some museums, but I haven't been to any of them yet (shame on me!). South of the city there are many tunnels caved by former inhabitants who attempted to protect themselves from ongoing wars and sieges. Some of them can be visited and they offer a very interesting insight into the history of the city. Sint Pieter caves are a good example, and the whole city can be viewed from the top of the hill.




So, this is very brief overview of Maastricht and as for my year here, well, so far it has been really fine. I have been working for the past nine months at an Internet company, I made a new best friend and even though I haven't travelled as much as I would have liked to, I cannot complain. I have been to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Haarlem again, I have discovered new places like Den Bosch, Zandvoort, Liege (Belgium) and Aachen (Germany). I don't know how much longer I will stay in Maastricht, maybe another year or maybe just another month, but so far I have really loved living here. So, here are some tips to enjoy this little, charming city!

WHAT TO DO IN MAASTRICHT

  • Walk around: Maastricht is a small city with a pedestrian city center, so it is really nice to just walk around its cobbled streets.
  • Enjoy life sitting on a terrace: as soon as the sun begins to shine all cafés put some tables outside and terraces get totally crowded.
  • Shop, shop, shop: the city center is always crowded with people indulging in some retail therapy. As Maastricht lies on the border with Germany and Belgium,even foreigners come here to enjoy the multiple possibilities. This is specially truth on Saturdays, Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of every month.
  • Do some picnic in the sun: it is possible to lay a blanket over the grass at both sides of the river and many people do so on sunny days, to enjoy a bottle of wine or simply to read a book while enjoying the scarce sunrays on this region.

Any other suggestion?

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