The charming town of Maastricht sits in the “tear drop” southeastern corner of The Netherlands by the Meuse River (“Maas” in Dutch, hence the town name). a stone’s throw from Belgium and a hard ball kick from Germany, as it were. The town is known these days more because of the European union project since Maastricht is were the sane-named treaty launching the European Union was signed here in 1992.
I went to visit a college friend who was residing there as an ex-pat because I happened to be working in Frankfurt at the time. The town is an old town, settled by the Romans who built a bridge across the Meuse River in the 1st century AD. Maastricht also sat an an important point in Charlemagne’s empire around the 9th century AD which later evolved to the Holy Roman Empire. The city has been ruled by French, Spanish, German, dukes, princes, bishops, and, of course the Dutch. The city almost ended up in Belgium when Belgium separated from the United Kingdom of The Netherlands in the 1830s. Finally, it was the first Dutch city to be liberated by the Allies in WWII. All this to say that, though you may not know much about Maastricht as me before I went, it is an old and quite historical place.
I found the locals to be quite friendly. I recall how the old owner of a pub my friend frequented told me when we went there to hang out and have a beer that he loved Americans because they liberated his town from the Nazis. This was over 50 yrs after the fact and he must have been a kid when it happened but the feeling was fresh and strong.
The town is quaint and beautiful, what other adjectives can I use? Walk its streets as does everyone there and shop or just look around )like in the high-end Stokstraat street). Admire the architecture and details (like what they used to joist furniture and other stuff up to higher stories of the buildings).
Going up the 70m tall red bell tower of the Protestant Church of St. John’s (St. Jan) is a must. St. John (as in St. John the Baptist) was built in Gothic style around the 12th and 13th century and it provides great views of the town below and the neighboring Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Servatius (St. Servaas) with its twin towers, built on the site where the saint was buried in Romanesque style also around the 11th and 12th century. Walk around their grounds and then end up in Vrijthof Square, visiting a museum or hanging out a café.
I hope that more people venture beyond ever-popular Amsterdam to discover towns like Maastricht to get a more complete view of The Netherlands. Take a look at the gallery of photos and tell me what you think! Click on a photo to enlarge it