Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A Weekend in Maastricht
Author: Wendy Mussoline
Well another weekend adventure proved to be a complete success. Robert, Duncan and I caught an early train to Maastricht to explore the southern tip of Holland where there are said to be real hills. We squeezed our little city bikes on the train next to touring bikes that cost around 2000 euro each. Yes, our bikes have their own little quirks, but that just gives them more personality! Robert has a homemade luggage rack made out of a wire shelf, Duncan's back wheel is completely lopsided and it looked like it was going to fly off as we headed down the hills, and my bike...well it's just perfect...except, the bell rings constantly on bumpy roads and it only has THREE speeds...that makes it really difficult when I'm climbing hills at a 45 degree angle...and yes, we did encounter a few of those!
Anyway, we almost missed our destination because we were not aware that the back half of the train split off from the front half while the train was in motion and the back half went somewhere completely different than the front half. Fortunately, some kind lady mentioned this when I asked when we were suppose to arrive in Maastrict...we quickly deboarded ourselves and our little city bikes and found a spot on the front half of the train...shew...that was close...
Once we arrived, we had to find a map of the city since we had no idea where we were going. We did map out a route to explore the country side east of Maastricht...truly amazing fields full of orchards and even CHERRY trees..yes, we had to stop and pick fresh cherries from the tree limbs hanging over the fence. So sweet and delicious. Then we found some abandoned caves...which are not actually caves but tunnels through rock that were mined for the sandstone to make concrete. But it was as dark as a cave, so we found some candles and did our own exploring...it was a small tunnel so we didn't get lost...thank goodness. We had actually decided that this would be our camping site if we couldn't find a hostel or bed and breakfast. After touring all day on the bikes, we did finally found a beer cafe/restaurant that had rooms for rent above. Thank you Jesus! We didn't have to freeze in the caves for the night. This was truly a blessing since all 9 places we stopped at before were completely booked...when we arrived, Robert had blown a tire so he was walking his bike. The owner quickly took us under his wing, poured us big beers and gave us the special of the day...1/2 roasted chicken, pomme frits, and salat...it was the best meal I've ever eaten!
As Duncan mentioned in his blog, we took part in the local festival that had very unique traditions. On Sunday, we kept trying to find castles (shown on the map, but they kept alluding us)...Finally made it back into the City of Maastricht...We toured the real caves...an system of tunnels that covers over 80 KM...the tunnels were like walking through huge caves with walls over 30 feet high...passageways leading in all different directions...pitch black when the lanterns were turned off..the tour was an hour and we just saw a small part of the tunnel system. Our tour guide said the earliest inscriptions in the walls date back to the 1500's. During WWII the tunnels were used for protection/hiding for the people of the area...about 3000 people in all lived in the tunnels. They had ovens with a big chimney that went up 40 meters to the ground surface. They even stored their precious artwork (i.e. Rembrandt's Nightwatch) in the tunnels during the war. It was a really cool place, literally...temps were 50 deg F in the tunnels...
The architecture in Maastrict was different than the rest of what I've seen in Holland...lots of roman architecture with castles, old forts and a really neat bridge with arches over the river. I think I liked the city the most because a river ran through it...cities with rivers always steal my heart, but none compare to my home in East Palatka (FL) on the St. Johns River.