The Oldest City in the Netherlands?
Maastricht is named after the Maas River that flows through it. Recent history was made at its City Hall, where in 1992 the Maastrict Treaty was signed paving the way for the European Union. Come walk in the footsteps of world leaders in this southern Dutch city in what is considered to some to be the oldest city in the Netherlands
Maastricht can trace its roots back to the Romans in 50 B.C., which gave the residents plenty of time to turn the capital of Limburg province into a modern, prosperous city. No doubt helped by the popularity of the notoriously stinky Limburger cheese. After three months of life, the bacterium used to ferment the frommage is the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odor.
Perhaps this was discovered at Maastricht University. With a large international student population, the school offers many Masters and PhD programs in English and is home to world-class medical research. This youthful population helps fuel the city's culture.
Meet friendly locals or fellow travelers at Vrijthof, the city's main square with its busy cafes. Leave the guidebook at home - just wander through the neighborhoods and take in the views.
Or head below ground to the Casemates, an underground network of tunnels built as shelter for guns and cannons. Running for several miles below the city's fortifications, you can take a guided tour of these impressive shellproof refuges. For centuries, the famous Caves of St. Pieter were used to quarry marl, creating an underground labyrinth with over 20,000 passageways. These turned out to be very handy hiding places for residents during WWII sieges. You can still see some of the facilities installed at the time.
Back above ground, shop, eat and wander at the Inner City – Maastricht's main shopping district. Winner of numerous design awards, the Entre Deux is a recenly-rebuilt center that includes a bookstore located inside a former 13 th century church. The British newspaper The Guardian deemed it the world's most beautiful bookshop.
To experience more beauty, visit Maastricht in March when the European Fine Art Fair has been held every year since 1975. Noted as the world's leading art and antiques fair, over 250 of the most prestigious dealers from 17 countries come to buy and sell.
Bordering Belgium, side trips to other countries are a breeze when you've got a Eurail Benelux Pass. Thirty minutes away, Liège, the birthplace of Charlemagne, is experiencing a renaissance. The new Santiago Calatrava-designed station is arguably the most beautiful in Europe and a destination unto itself. From Liège, you can make connections to Luxembourg, a duch-y treat with the world's richest residents.
Maastricht may not have been on your travel radar – but if you want to see a southern-side to The Netherlands, come see the difference. It's the sweet smell of success.
Contributed by: Klaus, a project manager from our Information Technology team, who enjoys traveling on high-speed trains like the ICE.