Only on Sunday afternoon between 12:00 and 16:00 (4 pm) can you visit these ruins uncovered during excavation of a wing of the Hotel Derlon. See a cobblestone road from BC, see a pieces of a Roman column, and see strata of archaelogy from various time periods - all in surrounded by the breakfast room of the hotel. Of course, if you stay in this hotel you will see the ruins with your breakfast. Otherwise see it on Sunday afternoon!
In the Netherlands, tourist information centers are designated as VVV. The Maastricht VVV is located right in the heart of the pedestrians-only area of the city at Kleine Staat 1. Here, you can obtain helpful tourist information about Maastricht and the surrounding area.
The building in which the Maastricht VVV is located is called the Dinghuis. It was originally built in the 15th Century, and it used to be a courthouse.
The Markt is a large plein (square) in the Maastricht city center. Its main attraction is the Stadhuis which was the old Town Hall. During my visit, there were many vendors selling merchandise in the Markt. It is also surrounded by many sidewalk cafés, restaurants, pubs, and stores. The Markt is another great place in Maastricht to people-watch.
On my first day in Maastricht, I took a short river cruise on the Maas River (aka Meuse River) run by a company named Rederij Stiphout. They have a small information and ticket booth. The trip that I purchased lasted about an hour. There is a guide who provides information and commentary in Dutch and English.
There is one stop at the St. Pietersberg caves. If you want, you can get out and tour the caves -- and then take a return trip on a later boat. I elected to stay on the boat which travels down to near the border with Belgium -- and then turns around for the return trip to Maastricht.
There is seating both inside and outside. The ride itself is not terribly exciting. On the return trip to Maastricht, I used the time to write out some postcards. The boat also has a snack bar which serves food and drinks, including beer.
In Maastricht, there is a statue of the famous French musketeer, d'Artagnan. In the 19th Century, d'Artagnan became famous all around the world as one of the main characters in Alexandre Dumont's "The Three Musketeers" and its sequels. In real life, d'Artagnan died at the age of 62 during the 1673 siege of Maastricht in the Franco-Dutch War.
I saw the statue of d'Artagnan from afar while on the Stadsrondrit Maastricht Sightseeing Tour. It is located in a park outside of the city center.
At the Vrijthof, you can find the Stadsrondrit which is a tram that gives guided tours of Maastricht throughout the day. The tour that I took was in Dutch and English. The guide suggested that I sit in the back because he described the sites in English after he did so in Dutch. The duration of the tour is 40 minutes -- and it gives a good overview of the city and its tourist attractions.
The Onze Lieve Vrouwenplein is a large, beautiful center city square. Its main attraction is the lovely Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) that was built in the Romanesque style. The large plein is surrounded by many sidewalk cafés and pubs. It is another great place to sit and people-watch.
Right next to Hell Gate another representative of medieval Maastricht, the Jeker tower, named after the river Jeker, a local affluent of the river Maas, has been restored in its former glory. This tower dates back to the end of the 13th century. Around 1550 it was lowered considerably for military reasons and by the start of the 20th century had fallen to ruin. At the instigation of Victor de Stuers esquire this corner tower was almost completely restored in 1911, thus completing the view of the city wall east of Hell Gate.
At the far end of Onze Lieve Vrouwe wal, the oldest gatebuilding of the Netherlands, with its ominous name of "Helpoort" (Hell gate) stands commanding awe and respect. It was part of the first battlements, dating back to the 13th century after 1229. It served as city gate untill the beginning of the 16th century and underwent its last big restauration in 1881.
The former bearpit, a few steps away from the Sad Bear statue, now holds , thanks to then ingenuity of local artists, a collection of exstinct animals, while a young lady sits sadly at the side of a dying giraffe. Informative plaques at the bars of the cage indicate which species of exstinct animal can be seen. The entire project is meant to draw people's attention to the fact that nature and earth are vulnerable and exstinct species do not return any more. As part of a project of a local art school the young lady is provided semi annually with a new dress.
A stone throw away from the river Maas, between the Saint Servaas bridge and JF kennedybridge and near the docking area of the Stiphout tourboats, the Onze Lieve Vrouwe wal (Wall of Our Lady) stands firmly as a remnant of the city's medieval battlements. A walk along this wall gives the visitor an idea of what things must have looked like several centuries ago. At the other end of the wall stairways lead down toward the country's oldest city gate. At either end of the wall informative plaques are to be found delicately carved out of stone and painted.
Walking along the outside of the city walls you will quickly arrive at the "Father Vinck tower" another sturdy reminder of Maastricht's past. It was named for a monk who was beheaded and along with four other people, after which his their heads were displayed on steaks on one of the so called "Rondeels",circular outcroppings in what used to be the wall around the "New City " (1515-1517). That "Rondeel", officially called The Three Pigeons, has been nicknamed "the Five Heads" as a result of the beheading and displaying of the decapitated heads.
A feature along the walk outside the city walls which will certainly appeal to the younger visitors is the city's Animal Park. This consists of several enclosures, across the walkway from the moat at the foot of the wall. The Animal park harbours among others such farm animals as goats, turkeys, chickens along with less obvious pets such as pheasants and deer. In the moat itself ducks and geese of various colours and sizes are to be seen.
A little down the road from the animal park, atop a little hill, reachable by a path winding around it, sits a bear perched on a bench drooping his head sadly downward. As the story goes this creature came to an artist in a dream after animal welfare people had decided that the two live bears in the nearby pit lived in uncomfortable conditions. The bears were subsequently removed.
Not far from the famous kazematten one is liable to run into a famous character out of French History, whom I personally had believed to be a fictitious character sprung from the imagination of Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. Nothing however is farther from the truth.
Charles de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan (Lupiac (Gers), 1611 - Maastricht, Juin 25th 1673) was a captain in the army of the French King Louis XIV. He was romanticised in the books of Alexandre Dumas, and as a result became known as d'Artagnan. He died during the siege of Maastricht (1673).
He was a son of Bertrand de Batz-Castelmore and Françoise de Montesquiou, a daughter of the Lord of Artagnan. Upon the death of Charles' brother he inherited the title Count of Artagnan. (Comte d'Artagnan).
.A beautiful large statue, portraying Monsieur D'Artagnan ready to engage any adversary of the King, is to be found here and a smaller one at the site of his death close to the kazematten.
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