Travellers’ tips for Maastricht
BEWARE OF THE TRAFFIC: Although there are few cars in Maastricht, bikes and scooters are very popular. There is little difference between road, bike path and pavement as cyclists and scooter riders careen across all cobble stoned areas (which is pretty much everywhere), even the centre of the Markt, without even glancing to see if they’re about to collide with someone on foot.
I’M NOT DISAPPOINTED TO HAVE MISSED TRAFALGAR SQUARE: Maastricht is full of pigeons. Heaps of them. I even saw a couple of male pigeons chasing the tail of a female pigeon, clearly trying to talk her into having a ‘good time’ with them. This was in plain view of young children as their mothers pushed them along in their strollers. Pigeons have no shame, I tell you! As to how I know the difference between male and female pigeons? The kids at school assure me that the female pigeons are the first to enter the junior school building in an attempt to escape the advances of their amorous male counterparts. If you don’t like pigeons, or have an aversion to the Hitchcock film ‘The Birds’, don’t go to Maastricht.
TAKE A MAP: If you like to know where you’re heading or simply have a really crap sense of direction, you need to take a map with you. Don’t think you can buy one when you arrive in Maastricht. I traipsed around the entire city and didn’t see a single information centre or newsagent. That being said, I did spot a couple of public maps of the city (like the shop directories at Chaddy or Southland, minus the touch screens). They simply confirmed that Google Maps is accurate.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR UNUSUAL PEOPLE: A dude in a long black overcoat, holding a bracelet behind his back and sporting a neat little moustache quietly followed me around the Helpoort area (which is incredible by the way – it’s the old fortress and defensive walls of the city, complete with five original cannons alongside the Meuse river). Anyway, I was fully aware this guy was following me as I changed direction several times and still, he wasn’t far away, so I made sure to stay near other people. He then approached me as I took a photo and asked me if I’d like to see the Bambis. Despite my intensive research, I didn’t know Maastricht had cute storybook animals. I politely refused, saying I was going the opposite way as I had a train to catch. I quickly walked away and check to see he was no longer following me. Perhaps he was harmless and just wanted to compare accessories, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Never trust a guy with a moustache (no offence intended dad. Love ya!).
MAASTRICHT IS GOING TO THE DOGS: I saw only a few dogs being walked by their dutiful servants (some would call them owners) and one gorgeous beagle who seemed to have misplaced his personal assistant. The lack of dogs however, does not mean a lack of their droppings. Clearly Maastrichtians don’t care too much to clean up after their canine pals as it was all over the place – grass, footpaths, in doorways, everywhere! Just as I made this important observation, I managed to step in some. Yuck! It took a good half hour to find a clean patch of grass where I could ground it out of my shoe tread. Eww!
CHARGE ‘ER UP!: Make sure your camera battery is fully charged. Although Maastricht is a small town, there are lots of beautiful Markts (squares), buildings, streetscapes and bridges to take happy snaps of. The list includes the modern architecture of the Bonnefanten and the John F. Kennedybrug (JFK bridge), Markt Stadhuis (where you’ll find the eatery I ‘dined’ at), Vrijthof (and its plethora of pigeons as well as some cool sculptures), and the churches of Sint Maarten, Sint Jan and Sint Servaas. The Basilica of Our Lady is also beautiful and you can see the locals drop in for a quick prayer on their way through town. Helpoort is a must-see and there are some lovely green zones such as Stadspark and Charles Eyck Park. For those who enjoy good quality food, there are a few delicatessens selling an enticing selection of… CHEESE!