Streets & neighbourhoods, Maastricht
Maastricht really suited my personal style of tourism. The city centre is compact and eminently walkable (although the cobblestones can be a bit hard on the feet) . The various streets and districts are diverse with all sorts of interesting individual features.
To my mind if you walk about with a guidebook then all you'll see are the things in the guidebook but if you wander with an open mind and open eyes then you'll notice so much more. OK you might not know anything about what you've come across at the time but take a pic or two and then you can do your own research at a later date.
The statue here is "Pieke oet de Stokstraot" on the Stokstraat by Nicolas Van Ronk Stien. "Pieke" is a Romany character from a book by Ber Hollewijn and fictionally lived on Stokstraat at the time that the area was one of the city's slums. He's captured here in bronze with his dog "Maoke" selling cigarettes (probably contraband) to passersby and is a typical example of the many idiosyncratic little features that the town has to offer.
Whilst Maastricht's most obvious waterway is its river it does have a network of canals and other waterways around and under the city. Some of these would have been used for transportation, others as drainage and flood control and there are also several watermills whose uses included the grinding of flour and as the power source for textile manufacture.
This is another statue that piqued my interest as I was wandering along Grote Looiersstraat, where the Natural History Museum is located. At the time I had no idea who it was but have since found that it's a guy called Fons Olterdissen.
Olterdissen was a turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th) arts teacher who lived most of his life here in Maastricht. He was influencial is promoting writing in the local dialect and was a co-founder of the social and cultural association “Maastricht Vooruit” (Maastricht Ahead).
Amongst his writings he authored several comic operas and the final song of his “Trijn de Begijn” has become Maastricht’s official anthem.
The sculpture here is a 1961 work by Willem Hofhuizen and depicts Fons addressing the sculptor's children.
Maastricht's main park is the Stadspark which is located between the old city walls and the river's western bank. This is quite a diverse park with the expected lakes and fountains, grassy areas and horticultural ones and ideal for a pleasant wander or to sit awhile and maybe have a picnic. Unexpected was the fenced-in area hosting a lively little tribe of goats (as well as some deer and avians).
Those that know me know that I have an affinity with these creatures. Firstly because I'm a Capricorn, secondly because some interpretations of my surname render it as "Goat's Town" and finally because I reckon that goats are good eating HA!
Whilst the historic centre makes fascinating wandering it's also worth taking in the more modern developments too as these have played their role in the emergence of the city. You don't have to wander far - a few minutes walk down the east bank of the river from the St Servatius Bridge takes you past the remains of the Medieval river fortifications and gateways and then past the modern apartment blocks, offices and the back of the city's main museum and art gallery, the Bonnefantenmuseum, all of which are along the pleasant riverside walk.
If you continue under the John F Kennedy Bridge you'll find the memorial to the US 30th Infantry Division who liberated the city from the Germans in 1944. The memorial was dedicated on Sept 14th 1994 to comemorate the 50th anniversary of the event.
I'm not sure how this translates but I think it's something like "Big Bridge Street" which perhaps during the 18th century it was. The Hoogbrugstraat is now a quiet little side street on the eastern side of the river, just down from the railway station, with a row of quirky individual shops.
If you look above the doorways you'll notice that most have the original motifs which served as their addresses at the time they were built.
Maastricht's University is the Netherlands second youngest having formally been awarded its charter in 1976. The University was originally intended to be built as a medical school in a purpose designed modern campus.
However the expected shortage of medical professionals had been avoided by the existing schools taking on more students but the Limburg and city authorities continued to go ahead with plans to have a university sited here. The first faculty, that of medicine, began teaching in 1974 despite the University not being recognised as such. Its charter was officially granted in January 1976 since when it has expanded considerably and now hosts six faculties offering courses, at all levels including PhD, in Arts and Sciences, Business, Law, Humanities, Medicine and Psychology.
What's particularly interesting is that many of the new faculties are housed in historically important buildings which had at the time fallen into disuse and disprepair. Thus the University has contributed hugely to the urban regeneration of what was a decaying city following the collapse of its industrial base.
Walking along the streets of Maastrciht is a wonderful experience. Stokstratkwartier is nice neighbourhood in the heart of the old town. Here you can see some fantastic examples of private buildings built in the 17th and 18th century. All the houses have got an high roof to have great attics whether to store the provisions and the commodities during the orders.
On the Sunday night in early June I could hear a live band playing as I was crossing the River Meuse on the Servaasbrug. In a side street just off the river bank near to where the large river cruisers are moored I came across the band playing a mix of covers, country and western etc performing from the back of a lorry. There was a crowd of about 80 people milling around enjoying a beer, some burgers and a few were even dancing. There was a really pleasant atmosphere.
What a pleasant and spontaneous thing to chance upon and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. ( Can't say that I rated much of the music though).
Wandering around the quiet streets of Maastricht on a sunny Sunday evening in June I was pleased to see a variety of different sculpture from the old but innovative such as the statue with the gas flame to the 'sliced up' man as seen in the photos.
There are many more works of art scattered around the city but here are three to give you an idea of the range.
If you are interested in modern architecture or urban planning, you must spend time in the Ceramique District. You can purchase a self-guided walking tour/map at the Centre Ceramique, a stunning example of modern design on the Plein 1992, just over the lighter-than-air pedestrian and cycle bridge from the old city center. The entire district once housed the Sphinx porcelain/pottery factory, and is now a planned community that includes apartments, offices, government buildings, a hotel, and a museum. I found myself taking pictures of the Centre Ceramique from every angle. The pedestrian bridge is stunning. And the Patio Sevilla, one of the apartment complexes along the Avenue Ceramique, has the loveliest terraces I've ever seen.
Purchase the brochure/map at the Visitor Center. The tour begins and ends at the Visitor Center and they recommend you allow 1 1/2 hours to complete the tour. However, I chose to walk slowly and savor different sections on different days. My favorite parts of the walk were the Onze Lieve Vrouwewal, the Helpoort, and the streets of Lang Grachtje, Hilariusstraat, and Grote Looiersstraat. I encourage you to explore all of the streets near the Natural History Museum, the Jan Van Eyck Academy, and the University. Don't be afraid to stray off the tour if you find a street that intrigues you. I discovered that the city was big enough that I could explore a different neighborhood every day I was there (4 days), but small enough that I never got lost.
In this small street you find the remains of an old city wall, the firts one. (1229). it has also the remains of a tower in the wall. The wall is very thick. (2.5. meter). In the industrial age there were poor houses for the working class build under and onto the wall. now its an ideal street with plants in summer.
Shamrock is the bar to go to if you're an American or are fluent in English. They have Grolsch on tap, other bottled beer and they have TV's which play American Football, soccer or baseball. There's also foosball, pool and darts. If they can tell you're American (which 9 out of 10, they just know) and you're buying a lot of beer, they'll ask if you want to play beer pong. They'll just put a piece of plywood over the pool table and have you play.
The Wijck area lies between the railwaystation and the Maas, river opposite the old citycentre. The name Wijck comes originally from the Roman word ' Vicus', meaning suburb. This area at the eastern side of the river Maas was a suburban area in the Roman times.
In Wijck you can find some wide avenues lined with trees and large houses. Walking here gives you the feeling being in Brussel or Paris. In Wijck you can find some interesting restaurants and shops. At saturday there is a market at the Stationsstraat.
Wijck was also known by a brewery, where they produced the so-called Wieckse Witte (closed down in 2003). Its one of my favourite beers, though I red in a report 'sweetish, with an unpleasant chewing-gum flavour'. Just try it youself..