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Favorite thing: if your wanderings take you down to the Helspoort and the old city walls on a chilly, damp, December morning then an ideal spot for a warming coffee is this intimate little street corner cafe/bar - Cafe de Pieter at Sint Pieterstraat 22.
With its walls adorned by original sketches and paintings the front room evokes one of those Parisienne cafes such as those frequented by the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec who would have bartered their works of art for meals and booze.
We just dropped in for a coffee and paid cash - a bargain at 2 Euros a cup, including a biccie. Service was friendly and around mid-morning there were only a couple of other customers. It does have the feel that it can get busier as the day progresses which may make it worth dropping in during the evening too but not this trip, alas.
Written Dec 11, 2012
Favorite thing: The Maas, as it is called in Dutch and German (Meuse in French and English), is actually not a very busy river. I seem to have taken pictures of it mainly when something was going on, such as a barge passing through, but there were long periods when the river was just empty.
I assume it must have been much busier in the nineteenth century, when for several decades the Meuse Valley was the leading industrial region of continental Europe, especially further upstream in the Belgian (Wallonian) part of the valley.
As I have already mentioned in one of my Liège reviews, the Meuse or Maas is one of those confusing rivers that flow more or less from south to north, so that upstream is at the bottom end of the map and downstream is at the top. This means that if you are in Maastricht and want to go to Liège, you don’t know whether to say you are going up to Liège because it’s upstream or down to Liège because it’s lower on the map.
This confusion of course has more to do with our map-making conventions than with the river, since the river was here before we were.
In my first photo the barge Contentus is going downstream towards the historic St. Servaasbrug (Saint Servatius Bridge).
I took both photos from The High Bridge.
Updated Nov 3, 2012
Favorite thing: This is the newest bridge in Maastricht, a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that was opened in 2003. It goes from Plein 1992 on the right bank of the river to the historic city center on the left.
When I first saw the name of this bridge, “De Hoeg Brögk”, I assumed it had been named after some prominent person called De Hoeg, perhaps a former mayor of Maastricht or maybe a French general or a wealthy Dutch industrialist. I made a mental note to look this up.
Eventually I did look it up (not because of the mental note, which I had forgotten, but because I noticed the name on the map again). It turns out that there was never anyone named De Hoeg (Hoeg, yes, but not De Hoeg).
“De Hoeg Brögk” is Maastricht dialect for “De Hoge Brug”, which in turn is Dutch for “The High Bridge”.
On some of my other tips I have mentioned “the De Hoeg Bridge”, but that turns out to be a pleonasm because the word de means the, so I’ve been writing “the The High Bridge”. Up to now I thought the Dutch word for the was het, which it is, but evidently the word de also means the. (So you can see how limited my Dutch is, LOL.)
In fact I have found a statement about this bridge which uses de and het, both meaning the, in the same sentence: “de brug ligt 10 meter boven de waterspiegel en het hoogste punt van de boog is 26 meter boven de waterspiegel.”
Which means: “the bridge is 10 meters above the water level and the highest point of the arch is 26 meters above the water.”
I’m sure there must be some simple rule about when to say de and when to say het in Dutch, but they both seem to be the definite article.
Be that as it may, the bridge really is ten meters above water level, so it is high enough to allow big ships to pass through. It is made entirely of steel and has an overall length of 261 meters.
The bridge was designed by the Belgian architect René Greisch (1929-2000) and was completed after he died by his company in Liège, just 30 km up the river.
The High Bridge has won two prizes, the Dutch Steel Award (Staalbouwprijs) in 2004 and the European Award for Steel Structures in 2005.
I used The High Bridge several times, both on foot and by bicycle, and found it extremely convenient because the Botel, where I was staying, was anchored just 95 meters upstream from the bridge.
At each end of the bridge there is a lift (second photo) in addition to a ramp and stairs.
GPS 50°50'46.13"N; 5°41'50.55"E
Location on Google maps
Updated Sep 19, 2012
Favorite thing: The Wilhelminabrug is a bridge that was built over the Meuse in the years 1930-1932. It is mainly for motor vehicles, but also has bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides.
Actually the original bridge had stone arches and looked somewhat similar to the much older Saint Servatius Bridge. But the original Wilhelmina Bridge was destroyed in the Second World War. In 1957-1960 it was finally re-built in an entirely different form, with three steel spans instead of five stone arches.
This is one of eight bridges in the Netherlands and Curaçao that were named after Wilhelmina (1880-1962) while she was the Queen regnant of the Netherlands. (Others are in Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch, Deventer, Leiden, Nieuwegein and Zaandam.)
Location of the Wilhelmina Bridge im Maastricht on Google maps
Updated Sep 19, 2012
Favorite thing: The Saint Servatius Bridge is partly an old stone bridge dating from the thirteenth century (1280-1298) and partly a modern steel drawbridge that can be raised to let tall ships pass through.
Of course the old part of the bridge has been repaired and strengthened periodically since the thirteenth century, for instance after it was badly damaged in the Second World War by the retreating German army.
The bridge is now car-free, so it is a major route for pedestrian and bicycle traffic between the right and left banks of the river.
Saint Servatius (in Dutch Sint Servaas) was apparently the first bishop of Maastricht, at least he was a bishop and he died in Maastricht sometime around the year 384.
Location of St. Servaasbrug on Google maps
Updated Sep 19, 2012
Favorite thing: At the turn of the 20th century Maastricht had about thirty breweries. Now it has none and only two of the buildings remain: the De Keyzer and the De Ridder, both on the eastern side of the river close to the St Servaas bridge.
Having ceased commercial brewing in 1970 the De Keyzer is now a brewery museum and offers guided tours on Saturdays for individuals and small groups or by arrangement at other times for groups of 10 or over. For details - www.brouwerijbosch.nl
The De Ridder brewery continued brewing until the early 1990's when it was bought by Heineken who promptly closed it down, although they still produce the De Ridder Wieckse Witte (named afer the Wyck area where the brewery is located) at one of their industrial-sized factories.
That's modern commerce for you :(
Updated Sep 8, 2010
Favorite thing: If you are heading out for the day from Maastricht, either by bus or train, and have time for a coffee before you travel then look out for this bar which is pretty much opposite the train and bus stations. I dropped in here a couple of times for my traditional breakfast of coffee and cigarettes and found it a really chill locals place.
On my second visit, the day I was leaving for Cologne, my cigarette lighter packed up. I bummed a light from one of the other customers and no sooner had I done so when the proprietor popped out and handed me a box of matches, on the house.
Good coffee and only 1.80 a cup including a biscotti.
Updated Sep 8, 2010
Favorite thing: As a city with its own unique identity it's no surprise that it has its own flag which you'll notice all over the place. The white star on the red background has been the city's symbol since 1545 although it was changed to a flag similar to that of Poland in 1938 before being reinstated in 1994.
Whilst it resembles a modern Communist banner it is in fact a historical heraldry symbol.
Updated Sep 6, 2010
Favorite thing: Despite its wealth of interesting little side streets which tempt you to wander, rather than go directly from A to B, Maastricht is a very easily navigable city and difficult to get lost in. Most main sights are well-signposted and there's also plenty of street maps scattered around the centre.
If you do find yourself somewhere totally unfamiliar and there are neither signs or maps then, provided you haven't crossed the city's ring road, you'll eventually come to the river from where you can get your bearings.
Updated Sep 4, 2010
Favorite thing: The main tourist office is located in the pedestrianised centre of the old city at the river end of the main shopping street. The distinctive building, the Dinghuis, is the former 16th century courthouse. Here you can get all the usual info and advice, accommodation assistance, freebie maps and leaflets and the office also has a shop selling souvenirs and guidebooks.
There's a clock on the gabled front if you need to know the time and a weather vane atop the bell tower if you need to know what direction the wind's blowing ;)
The office is open 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday during the summer and 11am to 3pm on Sundays. During the winter it closes on Sundays and an hour earlier on Saturdays.
The website is pretty comprehensive and well worth a visit - Maastricht VVV
Written Sep 2, 2010
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