MAASTRICHT

MAASTRICHT

Situated on a narrow strip of land between Belgium and Germany, Maastricht’s strategic location has made it a frequent target of military conquest throughout history. More recently, however, it has been a symbol of international cooperation, as the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union in 1991. Home of the prestigious Jan van Eyck Academie of Art, Maastricht (pop. 125,000) is known for its abundance of art galleries and antique stores.

TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. The train station is located on the east side of town, away from most of the action. Trains arrive from Amsterdam (2V6hr. 2 per hr. €24). You can also arrive by plane; KLM (www.klm-excel.com) flies from Amsterdam, London, and Munich. From Amsterdam, roundtrip flights cost roughly €96. To get from the train station to the VW tourist office, Kleine Str. 1, walk straight on Station Str. cross the bridge, go one more block, take a right, and walk down a block; the office will be on the right. For a small fee, the VW books B&B accommodations. ( 325 21 21. Open May-Oct. M-Sa 9am-6pm, Su llam-3pm; Nov.-Apr. M-F 9am-6pm, Sa 9am-5pm.)

ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. In general, good budget accommodations are difficult to find in Maastricht. Le Virage O, Cortenstr. 2-2b, offers spotless suites, each complete with bedroom, living room, kitchenette, and bathroom. It’s a great option for those traveling in groups. Reception is open Tu-Su 8am-midnight, but hours can be spotty, so make sure you plan your stay in advance. (Breakfast €9. Double apartments €90; triples €112; quads €136.) Spend the night on the centrally located Botel 0, Maasboulevard 95, a boat with tiny cabins and a cozy deckroom lounge. By far, the best budget digs in town, but you get what you pay for. Try to get the rooms above-deck; they’re the same price, but much cheerier. (321 90 23. Singles €27- 30; doubles €41-43; triples €60.) To get from the train station to City-Hostel de Dousberg (HI) 0, Dousbergweg 4, take bus #11 on weekdays, bus #33 on weeknights after 6pm, and bus #8 or 18 on weekends. Its cinder-block hallways may lack charm, but this hostel makes it up with amenities. Enjoy showers in every room, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a tennis court. ( 346 67 77; www.dousberg.nl. Breakfast included. Dorms €22-25; triples €75.)

Maastricht is known for its eetcafes, pubs that serve traditional food along with beer. The Vrijthof area is home to many eetcafes, but be warned that prices are fairly high in Maastricht across the board. De Blindgenger 0, Koestr. 3, is a warm, red cafe filled with art and mirrors. Their special of the day (€8) or pancakes (€5-8) are cheap ways to fill up. (325 06 19. Open daily llam-llpm.) After a trip to the caves, stop by Chalet Bergrust O, Luikerweg 71, a good restaurant with beautiful views of the city. Lunch options (sandwiches, pancakes, omelettes) run about €4. (325 54 12. Open daily in summer lOam-lOpm; in winter M, W, F-Su llam-8pm.) L’Hermitage 0, St. Bemadusstr. 20, is a favorite with students and locals. Try the cajun quesadillas (€9) or vegetarian tacos (€8). French dishes round out the cuisine. (325 17 77. Open daily 5-10pm.)

SIGHTS. The striking ElBonnefantenmuseum, Ave. Ceramique 250, contrasts Maastricht’s traditional Dutch brickwork with its futuristic (and slightly dated) rocketship design. The museum houses permanent collections of archaeological artifacts, medieval sculpture, Northern Renaissance painting, and contemporary art. It also makes a concerted effort to collect pieces by up-and-coming Dutch artists, giving it at times a vaguely regional feel, (www.bonnefanten.nl. Open Tu-Su llam-5pm. €7.) Despite its recent status as the birthplace of modem European unity, Maastricht has seen its share of interstate rivalries; centuries of foreign threats culminated in an innovative subterranean defense system. The GlMount Saint Peter Caves’s 20,000 underground passages were used as a siege shelter as late as WWII and contain inscriptions and artwork by generations of inhabitants. The man-made âœcaves❠originally began as an old Roman limestone quarry; over time, the Dutch expanded them to the point where the caves could shelter

40,000 people at once. Access to the caves is possible only with a tour guide at two locations: the Northern System (Grotten Noord), Luikerweg 71 (tours in Dutch, English available depending on guide; €3.30); and the Zonneberg Caves, Slavante 1 ( 325 21 21; call for hours; €3.30). Maastricht’s above-ground marvels include the Basilica of Saint Servatius, Keizer Karelpl. off the central Vrijthof Sq. which contains ornate ecclesiastical crafts, 11th-century crypts, and the country’s largest bell, affectionately known as Grameer (Grandmother). It is also the only Dutch church built over the grave of a saint not surprisingly, St. Servatius. (Open July-

Aug. daily 10am-6pm; Sept.-June 10am-5pm. €2.) The medieval Basilica of Our Dear Lady, O.L. Vrouwepl. honors Mary with a dark interior and colorful stained glass windows; parts of the cruciform church date to the 11th century. (Open Easter-Oct. M-Sa llam-5pm, Su l-5pm. Free.) The Natuurhistorich Museum, De Bosuetpl. 6-

7, features the remains of a newly discovered ancient species, the Montasaurus dinosaur, and giant turtles found fossilized in the stone of the caves, (www.nhm-maastricht.nl. Open M-F 10am-5pm, Sa-Su 2-5pm. €3.10, under-12 €2.30.)

ENTERTAINMENT. In general, the nightlife in Maastricht is really about pubbing. Marijuana is not accepted here with the same breezy liberality of Amsterdam. Although coffeeshops exist, they tend to be more discreet. Serving over 80 different beers, Falstaff, Amorspl. 6, has the best selection in town and is well situated in a beautiful, tree-lined square. (Special Belgian brews €2-2.60. Sandwiches €4. Open Su-Th 10am-2am, F-Sa 10am-3am.) During the school year, students stay out late to drink at Metamorfoos, Kleine Gracht 40-42, a cafe-brasserie, where a €12 beer card gets you 10 beers. (Open Su-M, F 3-1 lpm; Tu-Th, Sa 3pm-5am.)

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