|Maastricht central square is bustling with churches|
Back in The Netherlands, in the beautiful city of Maastricht, we began with a sunny and wonderful day. Gone were to overcast skies and spitting rain of the previous day. We gathered for a light breakfast in our hotel's main building and met up with our group for a 10:30 AM walking tour of the old city. Our tour guide was a very put-together middle aged lady who really knew her local history. She pointed out many small details around us that we never would have noticed or known the meaning of. She showed us inscriptions on walls, decorative lintels, metal stumbling blocks to commemorate the dead from Nazi death camps, and much more. She took us into a large hotel that had discovered Roman ruins in the basement when they tried to renovate. The ruins have been preserved into a little in-situ museum in an unexpected place! Several of the old churches in the city have been de-sanctified and turned into cafes and even a huge bookstore, making shopping here an even more enticing prospect.
|World's coolest bookstore! Sj is in heaven here...|
|Creepy much? Inside the Red Church|
When our official tour was over, our group was hungry and thirsty. I know you are shocked by that! We ended up at the Café De Zwaan (Swan) sitting outside along one of the main squares in the city. We had some local frites (not as good as Belgian) and then a beer at the café. I had a Witkap Tripel that was one of my favorite tripels of the visit. A street market was set up in the square and we wandered around looking at produce, flowers, arts, crafts and other items for a time. The sun was high and riotous colors abounded around us.
Sj and I split up on our own for some more aimless wandering. We visited several large and intricate churches, taking pictures when it wasn't rude to do so. We paid a small fee to climb the 70 meter tall tower of St. John's Church (or Red Church as it is commonly known). This was a tight and twisty climb, but not as insane as the Bell Tower in Bruges. We randomly met up with Chris and Hassan at the top, after taking in the great views of the city below us. I am deathly afraid of heights, but this was still very cool. As long as I clutched the red wall next to me with a death grip!
|Optical illusion in sidewalk chalk, seen from the roof of the Red Church|
We walked back to the hotel for a quick change--that climb and subsequent walk across the city had been a good work-out! From there we walked over the old stone bridge across the River Maas and took in the sights on the other side of town. On the way back we crossed the river again, but this time on a very large and modern pedestrian bridge. While I feel slightly badly that we didn't go visit museums or anything especially cultural, we did get a very good feel for the city sights and enjoyed the sunny day to its fullest.
|Modern pedestrian bridge over the River Maas|
|Café Frape! 550 beers from around the world!|
To reward ourselves for our day of walking, we settled into some chairs in front of the Café Frape, looking out at the river with a great view of the sparkling water and the stone bridge. The owner was an older fellow who was very attentive to us when we arrived. He handed us a list of over a hundred beers, including many Belgian, Netherlands and even some American craft beers. Sj and I were having a hard time deciding and he was more than happy to make a decision for us. With a couple of questions to see what type of beer we were in the mood for, he left and then promptly returned with some beery treasures! Since I told him I wanted something dark and maybe roasty, he brought me De Ranke Noir De Dottignies--a very tasty and flavorful Belgian style strong stout.
For Sj, who wanted a sour, he brought the wonderfully tart and refreshing Tilquin Geueze. Eventually our tour-mate Arthur wandered by and joined us for another round. We all watched the bikers zipping past us on the path, taking advantage of the warm and rainless weather. I ended up also trying an Emelisse Espresso Stout--a very American style beer from a small craft brewery in Holland.
Fully relaxed, for possibly the first time in a week, we all headed across the river again to a an Indonesian restaurant. The meal was served family style with large bowls of rice and noodles and multiple small dishes to share. The flavors were all unusual and fun to try, and this was a perfect dinner for an adventurous group like ours.
|For those dog lovers out there!|
We had hoped to end our night at Take One, a famous beer bar just down the road, but it was closed that particular day. We ended up a nearby bar, the Tapperij de Pashoorm, sitting outside in the gathering dusk. We shared a few more beers amongst the group, including a couple decent Herkenrode beers and a Tripel Moine.
|Dusk falls over beer travelers!|