After a scenic two hour drive from Vianden, Luxembourg we arrived in Maastricht, the Netherlands and for Jim, we might as well have been traveling in a time machine. As we got closer to the Crowne Plaza, where he stayed about 13 years earlier, his internal GPS took over and we weaved from a main street, down this side road, left at the dead end – and voila. Here we are! This particular talent of his is almost freakish sometimes.
It was interesting to visit Maastricht with Jim and see the city through his eyes, from 13 years ago. It must have been a big step for a guy growing up in small town USA to travel alone to the Netherlands to work on a (nerd) project.
A few steps from the hotel we were walking on a cobblestone street along the river, and – wait, what’s that rattling noise coming up behind us? A bicycle. Then another. And another! Bicycles – a major source of transportation in Maastricht. Parents taking kids to school, people on their way to work, college students going to school – everybody rides. It gave the city a different sound, with some streets designated only for bike or foot traffic it creates a dampened version of typical city noise.
Maastricht, population approximately 122,000, is known for its picturesque squares, romantic streets, historical buildings and it’s also a university town. Maastricht University has over 14,400 students and even though Dutch is the national language, many of the classes are taught in English since 43% of the student body are foreign students. English is taught in primary school and about 70% of the population knows conversational English. Ahhh, here – even though the menu isn’t in English – we have a friendly server who can translate it for us!
People are so tall here! Jim said after his first visit he always told people if he ever got married he was going back to the Netherlands to find a tall wife. I think that’s funny considering he ended up with one 5’4” on a good day. And corn silk hair…some of the natives have white blonde, really blonde hair!
We meandered through the city admiring the architecture and walking around the first and second medieval border walls, with no particular agenda. A music festival was going on in Vrijthof square, the city’s main focus for both locals and tourists. One side is a row of terraced cafes which face twin churches and on the square itself are several monuments and a bandstand. Lots of locals were out enjoying a late afternoon drink (or three) with friends, people-watching as we were, and enjoying a warm sunny afternoon.