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Tuesday June 9, 2009


            I woke at 6:15 AM and 9:20 AM and got up at 10:00 AM.  At 10:15 AM I called Susan at Dr. Rudy Nuijts office (who I met in Luzern) and asked her for hotel recommendations in Maastricht.  She told me about the Botticelli, so I called them and made a  reservation for tonight and tomorrow.  By 11:30, I was getting my shower and packing my bags.  I went downstairs and took this photo of their ground-floor dining hall.

            I saw they had a notice in the room about a Happy Hour from Sunday through Thursday from 9 to midnight but we never made it to one.

      

            At 12:00 PM I checked us out of the hotel (above) and paid the bill.  All the staff were very nice and accommodating to us.  At 12:10 PM I walked to the parking garage (photo above shows where I parked it later.)  On the way, I had to get these shots of this little alley-street called OberBADgasse (below left,) where twice, in 2007, Marcia tried to go down twice and both times we got terribly jammed up by bicycles, garbage cans and heavy construction at the other end.  It was impossible to back up and getting the BMW through heading into heavy traffic was hell.  I also had to get a photo of the old Schloss (castle) on the hill above.

  

            Below is the Heiliggeistkirche (Holy Ghost Church) across from our hotel (left) and, on the other side of the large plaza (called the Kornmarkt square) is the Alte Rathaus (old city hall) built in 1701.

 

            I got the car out (€8) and drove through the pedestrian zone to park it in front of the hotel for later loading our bags.  I then walked around and got day-time shots of the places we were last night; the Palmhaus Gasse (left) and the MoRo Café (right.)

 

            At 12:35 PM I walked down Haupstraße (above and below) to look for the great coffee shop I had found on our last visit where you get free WiFi.  Its fun walking this street filled with many shops and restaurants.  As you can see (below left) I passed up a very nice Starbuck's on the left side of the street.

    

            I finally found my Star Coffee shop [Haupstraße 129/Uniplatz, +49-622-165-9454.]  They also have another location in the city [Sofienstraße 23/Bismarkplatz, +49-622-161-9171.]  It is a popular place with many people enjoying the outdoor tables and the umbrella-shaded sunshine.

          

             It was a perfect cappuccino for €3 and I relaxed and did AOL email, the LA Times puzzle and downloaded Rush.

            In the meantime, at 12:45 PM, Marcia got her lunch at a nearby Subway and ate it on the back of the BMW parked in front of the hotel.

            I found this great map of the city along the Neckar River.  Our hotel is shown by the large arrow to the circle and the parking garage by the thin arrow to the oval.  If you dowload it and enlarge it, it is much clearer.

            We finally got ourselves together, loaded the bags into the trunk and at 2:00 PM, I drove the first 101 miles heading north then northwest to Maastricht, passing Mainz, Frankfurt and Koblenz.  At 3:45 PM we made a pitstop and got a sandwich and diet-coke.

          

            While we take a break, It is now time to re-orient ourselves to one of the countries we plan on exploring in great detail.  We will be heading into southern  Netherlands for three days.  Take a look at this small, famous country (left) that left a big footprint on history.  On the right is their Dutch coat of arms.  The name Netherlands comes from "nether" meaning "low" thus low lands or nether-lands.  It is also referred to in history as the "Low Countries."  Much of the Netherlands territory has been reclaimed from the sea, and almost 40% is below sea level.  An extensive system of dikes, dams and windmills has been constructed which protect the areas from flooding.  That is because there are no high elevations here.  The lowest point is Zuidplaspolder which is 23 ft (7 m) below sea level and the highest point is Vaalserberg at only 1,056 ft (322 m.)  With a population of 16,645,313 ('08) the Netherlands has the 5th highest population density (right) in the world at 1038/mi2 (400/Km2.)  Its capital city is Amsterdam and its size is 16,036 mi2 (41,532 Km2.)  The country is situated on the mouths of three major European rivers, the Rhine, the Maas and the Schelde.

                                  Here is their national flag of red, white and blue and below you can see that this small country is divided into 12 provinces (provincies, singular - provincie) which are: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland (Fryslan), Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, and Zuid-Holland.

[Noord = North       Zuid = South]

 

            It is important to note that the terms "Netherlands" and "Holland" are not just two interchangeable names for the same country.  Holland is truly only the name for the two most western provincies appropriately named Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland (left, in green.)  Who'd have guessed?  I only learned this today (thanks to Archimon) and will try to respect this distinction throughout these Diarios, even though the Netherlands government does not, in the name of tourism.

            Netherland has a coastline of 280 miles (451 km) and a land border of 638 miles (1027 km); 280 miles (450 km) with Belgium and 360 miles (577 km) with Germany.  In January 1579, the northern provinces of the Low Countries concluded the Union of Utrecht breaking away from Spanish rule and in July of 1581, with an Act of Abjuration, they formally declared their independence.  It wasn't until January 1648 that Spain recognized this independence with the famous Peace of Westphalia.  The Act of Abjuration is much like our Declaration of Independence and the Peace of Westphalia is like our armistice with Britain after winning the Revolutionary War.

 

            This term denotes the two peace treaties of Osnabrück and Münster (in Westphalia) that ended the Thirty Years' War (of the Religions) (1618–48) in the Holy Roman Empire (above right,) and also the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.  The painting of the signing (above left) is by the Dutch painter, Gerard ter Borch (left.)  The  treaties involved the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III (right,) the Kingdoms of Spain, France, Sweden, the Dutch Republic and their various allies, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the Free imperial cities.  It was held in the cities of Osnabruck and Münster, in Germany.

            Above is an interesting map of the powers and their territories in 1648.  The treaties resulted from what became the first modern diplomatic congress, thereby initiating a new political order in central Europe (above,) based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign.

            The Dutch "Empire" became quite large but today,  Netherland's only dependencies are located in the Caribbean; one, the island of Aruba (below) with a population of 130,000 (flag left, coat of arms right) and...

   

    

...the other, the islands called the Netherlands Antilles (above left) with a combined population of 198,000 (flag left, coat of arms right.)  It includes the southern islands of Curaçao and Bonaire off the coast of Venezuela and the northern islands of Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten (St. Martin,) of which the latter is half Dutch and half French (above right.)

   

            The two Dutch colonial companies, the West Indian Company (WIC) and the Dutch East Indian Company or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC)  both had an interest in Africa but it only resulted in the Boers (Dutch farmers) being encouraged to settle in South Africa so the Dutch companies would have a supply spot for the spice trade ships going to their empire in the Far East.  It began when they beat the Portuguese in Asia in 1605.

            In North America, in 1609, the VOC commissioned English explorer Henry (Henrik) Hudson who, in an attempt to find the so-called northwest passage to the Indies, sailed up the Hudson River on the Halve Maen (Half Moon) (below left) thus claiming New Netherlands (below right) for the Dutch.  The photo is of a replica of the Halve Maen which was donated in 1909 by the Dutch to the U.S. on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the discovery of what is now New York.  They now have a Museum in Albany to visit the ship.

       

            The tragedy for Hudson was that mutiny occurred on his fourth voyage (blue line, below) in 1611 and his crew set him adrift in James Bay, never to be found again (inset.)  His name was given to a river, a bay and a strait.  The inset painting of this is by British artist John Collier who also did the oil below right.

            In 1626, the Director-General of the WIC, Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from local Indians and started the construction of fort New Amsterdam.  In 1664, English troops under the command of the Duke of York & Albany (later James II of England) (right) attacked the New Netherland colonies.  Being greatly outnumbered, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam and then Fort Orange.  New Amsterdam was renamed New York and Fort Orange was renamed Fort Albany (from James's English & Scottish titles).

            The Dutch foray into South America involved their dependence upon African slaves they brought in to work the plantations.  In the 17th Century, the Dutch people rejected the importation of these slaves, so the Dutch companies sent them to the New World.  Dutch Guyana (below) won their full independence only in 1975 and became the Republic of Suriname (flag left, coat of arms right.)  It is the smallest sovereign state in terms of area and population in South America and the only Dutch-speaking region in the Western Hemisphere that is not a part of the the Netherlands.  Many migrated after independence and now there are more Surinamese in  Netherland then in Suriname.

            As you can see,  Netherland was a very big nation historically.   Netherland's two official languages are Dutch and Frisian or West Frisian (Frysk) which is spoken mostly in the province of Friesland (blue area, below right.)  The left map shows the areas where variations of Germanic language are spoken.

   

            We are now entering the most southern provincie of Netherland called Limburg.  Its name derives from the fortified castle town of Limbourg, situated on the river Vesdre near the High Fens, currently in the Belgian province of Liège.  Limburg is a long split of territory that stretches down between Belgium and Germany (left.)  It used to be part of a region in Belgium of the same name.  It has a population of 1.1 million and has an area of 850 mi2 (2201 Km2.)

            You may have heard of Limburger cheese (above right.)  I remember it well from my childhood.  I spent the ages of 3 to 6 living with my grandmother Mildred in Berlin, NY and my step-grandfather, Robert Onkel, who was from the Alsace region, used to eat it all the time.  The smell of it made me run out of the kitchen.  He always tried to get me to try some but I never did.

            This cheese originated in the historical Duchy of Limburg (flag right,) which is now divided between modern-day Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.  It is especially known for its pungent odor.  It is most commonly eaten as a sandwich on dark rye bread with a thick slice of sweet onion.  The bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese is Brevibacterium linens; the same bacterium found on human skin and is partially responsible for human body odor.  In 2006 a study earned the Nobel Prize in biology for showing that the malaria mosquito (Anopheles) is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet .  This cheese has now been placed in strategic locations in Africa to combat malaria.  It is also  the only known weakness of Mighty Mouse.  The cheese is now primarily produced in Germany but the Chalet Cheese Cooperative, located in Monroe, Wisconsin, is the only company making this cheese in North America, in case you wanted to try some.  I was going to try it but couldn't find it anywhere while in Limburg.

 

            Oh, I almost forgot, the trip.  At 3:55 PM, Marcia drove mainly west the remaining 112 miles past Bonn, Cologne and Aachen to Maastricht.  At 5:15 PM we filled up with gas at a Shell station for $7.22/gal and soon finally arrived in the city.  Below you can see this is not a small town.  It is 23.2 mi2 (60 Km2) and has a population of 117,550.

            We came in from the east on N-278, crossed the Maas River and entered the oldest part of town.  Here is Maastricht's flag (left) and coat of arms (right.)  The city's name is derived from Latin; Trajectum ad Mosam or Mosae Trajectum, meaning "Mosa-crossing," and refers to the bridge over the Meuse (Maas) River built by the Romans during the reign of Augustus Caesar.

    

            Below left you can see that Maastricht is in the very southwestern tip of Limburg and on the right is the delineation of the area we explored.

      

            Below is a blow-up of that region showing the location of our hotel on the left bank and the restaurant we went to on the right bank.

            The GPS took us right to Papenstraat (Porridges street) and at 6:05 PM, we drove up to the front of the hotel but Marcia had to pull up on this tiny little bricked sidewalk on the right (below left,) across from the hotel because we would be blocking oncoming traffic that zips up this one-way, one-lane road.  It was a little tricky but I finally got the bags out and rolled them to the door (below right.)

   

            We checked into Hotel Botticelli [Papenstraat 11, +31-43-352-6300] and into room #15 by Michelle who was very nice.  I have never encountered a room key like the one we were given (below right.)  It was difficult to get it to work on some occasions.

       

            Here is the reception area and Michelle hard at work.  Our room had a little walled-in patio with weather-worn furniture that probably needs to be replaced soon.

  

            Our room was quietly located in the back of the hotel, across a charming little courtyard with a central raised pond full of fish.

  

            Above right is the courtyard and left is the back wall of the yard, the annex our room is in.  It was a very nice, comfortable room.

            I unpacked and changed quickly and by 6:50 PM I was on my run through the streets in a light rain and headed to the Centrum and to Vrijthof.  Click on that name to see a panoramic scan of this huge square.  Vrijthof is the best-known and most important square in the city.  Along its periphery there are ancient houses which are now shops and restaurants.  The two most important monuments in the square are Sint Servaas Basiliek (foreground) and Sint Janskerk (red brick steeple) with their fantastic apses (below.)  I ran down that street (below right) toward the steeples of the two churches.

  

             Below left is a stock photo of the other side of the St Servaas Church which was built on the grave of St. Servatius, the first bishop of the Netherlands, who was buried there in 384 AD.  First there was a wooden chapel, later replaced by several stone churches.

    

            After the last church was destroyed in the 9th Century, they rebuilt a proper pilgrim's church with galleries around the grave of St Servatius around the year 1000.  You can see the Treasury of St. Servatius, containing a part of his skeleton as well as other relics: a pectoral cross, a key, a crosier and a pilgrim’s staff (11th Century) and a unique collection of silk fabrics (starting from the 6th Century).  Above right is a stock photo of Sint Janskerk (St. Jan's Church ) which was built in the 12th Century and became a protestant church in 1632.  You can climb the tower for a small entrance fee.  It was closed when I went by.

 

            Above left is my shot of Sint Sevaas and on the right is the palace of the Spaans Gouvernement (Spanish government) which is on the south side of Vrijthof square.  It belonged to the Dutch Dukes of Brabant from the 13th Century and was restored in the 15th Century.  Today it is a historical museum with 17th-18th Century furniture, paintings, and ceramics.  I didn't go in; not my cup of tea.  Below is a stock panorama of Vrijthof with the performance gazebo in the center.

            The small grey building (above and below left) you see in the center of the square next to the St.-Servaasbasiliek is called the Militaire Hoofdwacht and was of great importance to the city as it was the place where the keys to the city gates were kept.  The sign posts (below right) for tourists were everywhere; that is if you can read Dutch.  Note the ubiquitous camera at the top of the post.

 

            Over near the church they had these comical little multi-colored "plaster" statues.  I thought their manhole covers were quite unique and there was this humorous stone monument in the center of the square.

            As I ran in the rain, I went down Grote Gracht and into another large square called the Markt (below left) and found the Stadhuis (City Hall) in the center (below right.)

 

            Opposite the Stadhuis was this funny fountain with a stone statue of this heavyset lady holding ducks.  The sign warned the water is not safe to drink.

            In  Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk plaza I came across this monument to Johannes Petrus Minckelers (1748-1824) who holds a flaming rod (stock photo left.)  In my photo (below left) it wasn't flaming.  He was a Dutch scientist and inventor who is credited with the discovery of coal gas as well as the inventor of the gas lamp.

Then I found this monument to a Petrus Regout (1801-1878,) (below center and right) the first Dutch industrialist, who descended from a Maastricht merchant family that, since the 17th Century, had been active in the glass and earthenware trade.

            After his father's death, Petrus had to leave school at the age of 14 to help his mother in the business.  In 1836 he founded the pottery firm that was to flourish.  In addition to being a versatile and energetic entrepreneur, Regout was a member of the Senate (Eerste Kamer) of the Dutch Parliament and the author of a number of brochures on social and economic issues.

            As I headed back to the center, I came across this cute little cafe and a rather large crucifix on the side of building.

             

            I then saw St. Matthias Church (above right and below, stock photo center) [Boschstraat 99] which originates from the 14th Century which is the oldest church in the city; several parts were added in following centuries.

   

            As is very usual in this part of the country, most of the church is constructed using marl from one of the nearby marl pits.  This is one of two parish-churches that was handed over to the protestants in 1632, but it became Catholic again long ago.  A statue of a saint (maybe St. Francis) was in the center of the fountain (above right) in front of the main entrance.

            I finally arrived near the Maas river and got this shot of the docks.

            Then I found this quaint little hotel.

            I finished my run at 7:20 PM and decided to relax at the famous old pub I learned about called In den ouden Vogelstruys (vogel means bird; since 1730) [Vrijthof 15, +31-43-3214888, info@vogelstruys.nl] and I had a glass of their local Limburgian beer called Brand.  It was really classic inside and the beer was great.  I think they thought I was a little strange in my running gear.  I relaxed for a while and then thought it was time to head back to the hotel.

    

            Here is a view of the place from the outside.

            Its in the last building on the long street Helmstrasse facing the Vrijthof at the corner of Platielstrasse.  All the buildings on this block house restaurants with outdoor cafés out front.  When the sun is shining, the crowds come out.

  

            On my way back I noted this rather nice building called the GE Artesia Bank.  I didn't realize that GE was in the banking business especially in  Netherland - but they are.  The building fascinated me for some reason and its prominent stone saying "Cuypers Architects."  So I looked it up and discovered that this company was founded...

 

...by Pierre (P.J.H.) Cuypers (1827-1921,) a famous Dutch architect (left) who is responsible for the Amsterdam Central Station (1881-89)  (right,) the Rijksmuseum (1876-85) (below left,) the Heilig-Hartkerk ('Vondelkerk') church (1870-1880) (below center,) all in Amsterdam as well as the famous St. Jozef Kathedraal (St. Joseph Cathedral) (1886-87) in Groningen (below right) (that I attended Mass at later in the trip.)  He also did the St. Martinus church we see later in the city of Sneek.  They built many churches and business buildings throughout  Netherland.  Click here to see them.  He was BIG!

[All stock photos; some thanks to Archimon]

   

            While I was trying to photograph the Cuypers building, this procession of Segways passed in front of it so I has to wait until this long train passed by.

 

            I walked back to the hotel, changed and then at 8:15 PM Marcia and I walked to Onze Lieve Vrouweplein (Slevrouweplein) square which is a very neat area.  The direct translation is "Our Dear Lady Square," after the name of the huge fortress basilica on the corner.

            Onze Lieve Vrouwe basiliek was built on the spot where St. Servatius founded a chapel in 380 AD.  The oldest imposing west part of the church with its two small towers was built around 900 AD.  With its tiny windows it looks like a fortress.  It's very difficult getting a photo of this part because of the trees in the square and the surrounding buildings (stock photos below.)  You can walk in the gothic cloister (below right) and see the courtyard.

     

            On the west side of the church you come into the intimate green square named Onze Lieve Vrouwe plein with lots of surrounding restaurants and cafes.  At 8:30 PM we decided to have dinner at a restaurant in the square that was recommended by Dr. Nuijts with the tongue-twister name of 'T Kläöske [Plankstraat 20, +31-43-310-0916.]  I have no idea how to pronounce äö.

 

            We were seated at a very nice window table.  This Photostitch picture wound up decapitating one of the two guys sitting next to Marcia because he bent over just as I took the second shot.

            We got a look at their live lobster tank and I think that set the course for Marcia.

    

            We looked over the extensive wine list and menu.

   

            Marcia and I started out with a bottle of Dutch white wine (Nederlandse wijn) called Auxerrois Apostelhoeve 2008 from Louwberg Maastricht ( +31-43-343-2264) and then they brought us an "amuse buoche" of fried shrimp with mayo along with two 2 raw oysters.  I refused to eat the oysters (I eat NOTHING raw,) so they exchanged it for more shrimp.

             

            For a starter, I had a "tasting" of scallops 3-ways; grilled (left), rouleau (rolled, center) and fried (right) accompanied with a vanilla mayonnaise [Proeverijtje van Sint-Jakobsschelpen, gegrild roulleau en gefrituurd met een vanillemayonaise.]

            For an entree, I then had a "tasting" of Livar pork with Limburgian mustard sauce over white asparagus [Proeverij van het livar varken met asperges en een Limburgse mosterdsaus.]  This was quite tasty.

 

            The Livar pork is from the Cistercian (Trappist) Abbey of Lilbosch in Echt (in Northern Limburg.)  Their pigs have been selected and developed so they have more intramuscular fat giving it more flavor than normal pork.  The animals are heavier and are nearly one year old when they are slaughtered.  The pigs are free-range and are fed with cereals that are cultivated in the Abbey's fields.  Thanks to this unique collaboration between the Livar herders and the Abbey, the Livar pig roots about in the Abbey gardens of the cloister where the piebald pigs saunter in the gardens among the brothers in their black and white habits (below left.)

 

            Marcia's meal was less local and she reverted to her Maine heritage by enjoying a lobster bisque [Bisque à la Kläöske] (below left) followed by an entree of a duo of lobster and cod over pasta and a foam sauce (below right) [Duo van kreeft en kabeljauw, pasta en een kreetenschuim.]

 

            I walked around and got a shot of their wall art with a piece by Mimy Dupont selling for €700.  If you like her work you can reach her at je.dupont@hetnet.nl.  I also saw this interesting poster from the local theater that basically says "I, you, we, she,...." over and over with no spaces.  I have no idea what it was trying to say.

    

            It was all OK but the service was a little too leisurely.  At 10:45 PM we left and walked to the restaurant Eetcafé il y a, (means hangout) [Koestraat 7, +41-43-325-0777.]   (Remember that "street" is "strasse" in German and "straat" in Dutch.  They have 50 wines that you can try.  We met Ilya, the owner.

            At 11:30 PM we said our goodbyes and decided to take a liesurely walk through the area near the church which was full of lively bars.  We worked our way to Café Charlemagne [Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 24, +31-43-321-9373] which looked very inviting.  I ordered an Affligem beer and Marcia had a glass of Chardonnay (below right.)  We met Ben (below left, waving) and Susan Firnz  (below right,) who wanted Marcia to try a Belgian cherry bier called Rosé which surprisingly she actually enjoyed.  This is remarkable because Marcia never lets beer touch her lips - she hates it.

  

            Below is Ben moozeling his way into the picture Susan took of us.

 

            We enjoyed our time with them.  They were very nice to us and hope to see them again some day.  This is the one bad thing about traveling from place to place and rarely returning.    Below left is a shot of the exterior of Café Charlemagne.  We left at 11:55 PM and on our way back to the hotel we walked by many other bars and the Onze Lieve Vrouwe church (below right.)

       

            We got back to the hotel and went to bed at 12:50 AM; I really conked out again.

KJH                                                   Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #8 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD

KHofferMD@AOL.com                        RETURN TO INDEX

Maastricht, Netherland

5-6-2010

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