I’m now in the Dutch town of Maastricht in the province of Limburg. Looking at my travel plans, Maastricht may seem to be an odd one out. I include Maastricht as part of my travel plans because I want to visit the hometown of two of my closest friends when I was at uni. Ben and Petra came over from Maastricht to study in Adelaide for a year, because of the collaboration forged between the universities. Because of that the actual physical friendship was only for a short time because Ben and Petra had to return to the Netherlands. There were four of us: Ben, Petra, myself and Michelle. Ben and Petra now live in North Carolina, US. Michelle now lives in Amsterdam. It would’ve been nice to visit Maastricht to see Ben or Petra, but at least it’s nice to be here!
Maastricht is a charming town with a number of old churches, some remains of the medieval town wall, and a number of town squares ringed by cafés and restaurants. The town may not have big drawcards for tourists, but it’s a welcome breather for me after being in a large city like Munich. Another thing that I’ve been told about Maastricht is that the residents in the southern part of the Netherlands have a soft /g/ – it’s not as rough as the guttural, hard /g/ that the Dutch speak in the North.
I got up early this morning and then got ready in time to take the early train from Munich to Düsseldorf. The ICE (InterCity Express) train that took me to Düsseldorf looked and felt really slick – the fastest speed that I checked on the monitor (while I was awake) was around 292 km/hour. Yeah, it was so hard to keep myself awake, especially since I didn’t have any breakfast nor any coffee. I only ate some cookies and drank a bottle of water as part of my breakfast in the train. I reached Düsseldorf at about 10.30ish, and afterwards I had to take another train from Düsseldorf to Venlo. It was quite a change from the slick ICE train to the smelly regional train. There was some track work in Venlo when we arrived, so because of the delay, I was too late to catch the next train from Venlo to Roermond. Thankfully there was another one in thirty minutes. From Roermond, I took another train to Maastricht – the sky was grey and cloudy along the way so I was a bit worried. I already knew that the weather would be less than perfect because the weather forecast mentioned about the upcoming cold front.
The hotel that I’m staying at is about ten minutes’ walk from the train station – so it makes it easy for me to head back to the station tomorrow for the next leg in my journey to Brussels. It was still dry as I made my way to the city centre, equipped with my camera and umbrella. I took some pictures of the Vrijthof as well as many parts of Maastricht that I think can provide interesting photographs. I also rewarded myself with a freshly baked waffle dusted with some castor sugar, and two brodjes from one of the local bakery, Bakkerij Bart. Heel lekker!
However, the weather turned really bad afterwards – I was caught in a downpour as I was walking around. Even with my umbrella, my trousers were soaked and so were my sandals. So I headed back to the hotel and waited for a bit while watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. A couple of hours ago, I walked back to the city centre and bought some dinner back to the hotel – nothing exciting, only some KFC as I didn’t feel like going to the cafés alone.
The short trip to Maastricht is a good breather – whilst the city may not have a lot of exciting landmarks, but it feels pretty charming nevertheless. The residents are really friendly as well – and they smile more readily than those who I encountered in Austria or Germany. As I walked to the city this evening, the sun peeked out of the clouds and casted its bronze ray on the buildings lining the River Meuse. In the right light, they look almost pretty. 🙂 So tomorrow, I will continue on to Brussels – my holiday is coming to an end and I feel that I am ready to head back to reality and work, and face the challenges with new fervour.
One last thing, I didn’t realise that some of the street names here have two different names! For example, one of the bridges over the Meuse is called St Servaasbrug or Aw Brögk in the local language, Limburgisch. Another example is that Maastricht is also often written as Meestrech. Very interesting!