This is Roxy’s last weekend with her unlimited travel card, so we were determined to make the most of it. For several weeks now, we’ve wanted to travel to Maastricht, but something has always stopped us. First, there was construction on the line, and the trains were taking longer. After that, the forecast has been for rain, rain and more rain. Each time, it’s ended up not raining. So yesterday, with only a 30% change of rain, we decided to go for it.
If you look at a map of the Netherlands, in the south-eastern corner of the country, it looks like it has a small growth. In Missouri, we’d call it a “boot-heel”. Maastricht is located there. You can walk from the center of town across the Belgian border. It’s a 2.5 hour train ride from Amsterdam.
As we stepped out of the train station, it began to drizzle. I know what you’re thinking “It rained in the Netherlands? No way!” I know. We’re on track to have the wettest July ever in the Netherlands, which is saying something. It was a piss-poor day to go visit anywhere, but we soldiered on.
Our first stop was Sint-Janskerk (St. John’s Church), with its distinctive red tower. I started snapping pictures on my powerful Nikon D300, only to realize that I had neglected to bring a memory card. Grrrrgh. So, I made due with my (slightly less powerful) iPhone camera. Unfortunately, this is the best picture I got of the church and its red tower.
Being so close to Belgium, you can easily see the French influence on Maastricht. It’s home to the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the Netherlands (the majority of the Netherlands is Protestant, Maastricht is more Catholic), and the architecture definitely is less Amsterdam-school, and more French-leaning.
We journeyed over to the Vrijthof, one of the largest squares in the city. It was set up for a big outdoor concert that night, so we didn’t really get a sense of the square itself. We did sit for a nice lunch of koffie en tosti’s (a toasti is a toasted sandwich).
I had read about a very cool bookstore in Maastricht, located in a former church. We happened to stumble upon it, and went in. Most of the Church has been left as-is, but a lot of the religious iconography has been removed (assuming there was any, it was probably a Protestant church to begin with, and they don’t exactly fill their churches with paintings and statues). The altar area is now a cafe, and a multi-level bookshelf has been built in the middle. Just for grins, I checked out the magazine section and discovered that yes, you can buy a Playboy (among other things) in a former Church.
We walked into the Markt square and saw the Town Hall. It soon started to rain again, so we did a bit of shopping before boarding the train back to Amsterdam. We’ll have to come back to Maastrict again sometime, and perhaps bike to Belgium.