Friday, January 13, 2012

The Maany Sights of Maastricht

A couple of days after Christmas we took Jaren to his fourth country of the trip, the Netherlands. (He claimed to have already been in the Netherlands; we held that the airport doesn't count.) We went to Maastricht, a city of about 120,000 (though it felt larger) on the Meuse/Maas river. According to Wikipedia, Maastricht is the oldest continually inhabited city in the Netherlands (since 500 BC!), and is a member of the exclusive Most Ancient European Towns Network (ha!). Luckily for us, Maastricht is only about an hour away by fairly cheap bus, and has theaters that show movies in English. We'll definitely be going back.

Another great thing about Maastricht is that a very high percentage of its buildings are pretty/cool. In fact, I'd say it has one of the highest percentages we've seen. A lot of the buildings have stair-step facades, like this one.


This is the main square, in which the Christmas market was still going strong (though, in contrast to German Weihnachtsmärkte, it only sold crap). The two churches are Sint-Jans (aka the Red Church) and Saint Servatius Basilica.


We'd read that you can climb the tower of the Red Church for fantastic views. Climbing it was our intention (you know how we are about church towers), but we couldn't find a way in. I suppose it was still closed for Christmas.


I think this doorway was historically the main entrance to Saint Servatius, though it's now closed off to create a little room. I like that it's painted. I've read that other such doorways (like the main entrance to St. Paul's in London) were originally painted, too, but the colors haven't been maintained.


All the churches (and many of the squares) we've visited the past couple of months have had at least one creche on display. Saint Servatius's is one of the more tasteful ones we've seen. I particularly like that Joseph is clearly psyched about Jesus's birth. Most Josephs just kind of stand there looking tired.


We didn't have much on our list of things to see and do in Maastricht, having never been there before, but Tyler had read about an awesome bookstore we had to visit. Yep, this is a bookstore:


Here's the interior. Though it's hard to tell from this picture, much of the ceiling is covered in (damaged) frescoes from its church days. Since most of the books were in Dutch, we didn't spend much time browsing, but it was nevertheless extremely cool.


As is our wont, we'd scoped out a couple of restaurants in advance. This is the back of a bakery where we had a light dinner (which was naturally followed by plenty of heavy treats). Bisschopsmolen has been around since the 14th century, and still uses a mill wheel to grind its own wheat for its breads. Our dinner consisted of bread and cheese and more bread, with a few greens on the side.


The heavy treats we were determined to sample in Maastricht were waffles and frites. On the way back to the bus station we found a frites place with a line out the door. While the boys waited for their frites, I took pictures of the square.


Tyler and Jaren followed the frites guy's recommendations and got theirs with mayo, curry ketchup, and raw onions. I didn't partake because it sounded scary, but they looked quite pleased with the result.


In just a few minutes of "research" for this post on Wikipedia I found out about of lots of other cool things to see and do in Maastricht. (There are caves! And castles!) With all of our trips to bigger, livelier cities, we've been feeling a little down on Aachen lately. Sadly, these trips have also drained our bank account to such a degree that we won't be taking any more for a few months. So we're especially excited to have discovered Maastricht, where we can escape some Saturdays for a change of scenery and to drown our sorrows in waffles.

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