A Wondering Man

Mornings have been difficult to adjust to while here in Maastricht. I’ve been finding myself waking up much later than when I would normally be waking, usually around 10am. With that, there is a 7 hour time difference between home in Kansas City and the Netherlands; so I’m still feeling like it’s 3am and I need to be in a deep sleep, despite the sun shining fine and bright through my window.

But with my first full day of living in Avant Garde, I decided to take the opportunity of not needing to accomplish anything by walking through the whole of Maastricht. My goal was to travel by foot all the way to Zuyd Hogeschool and back to Avant Garde, seeing as many sights as possible along my journey. At the time of my departure, I had a bus map that showed the routes of all the city buses, but it was little good in the way of finding specific streets and other small locations. Elsbeth had helped me the day before with marking certain locations on the map, such as that of Zuyd, the Station, and the supermarket we had visited the day before. With my backpack strapped on and bus map in hand, I set out for the center of Maastricht!

The walk from Avant Garde to the Station is a long walk for sure, covering a vast distance, but with little distractions to hinder my journey, it felt fairly brisk. I at first wasn’t too sure of the location of the Station, I had only the vague idea of where it was located from the few times I rode the bus. But my intuition of the Station’s location proved to be correct, so I knew immediately where I needed to head to cross the Maas.

The day of my walk turned out to be very beautiful, the skies barely cloudy and the sun shining brightly. Seeing the river in full sunlight was absolutely splendid; the coloration of the water was nowhere near as dark as what the Missouri River is at home, but not perfectly clear either.Still quite a beauty to behold.

Another bridge

Crosswalk over the Maas

The Maas

The river, looking towards one of the main crosswalk bridges

I made my over the river and through the shopping district; I had little interest in seeing all the shops, they’re not anymore different than what can be found on the Plaza or Zona Rosa. What I was really interested in seeing was the Vrijthof – the main square of Maastricht if you caught it in the last blog post of mine. Rather than it being blocked off, the whole of the square was finally open, which proved to be totally wicked. Large buildings encircled one portion of the square, with various bars and restaurants taking up the rest of the ring. I took the time to take it all in, viewing much of the fine architecture with wonder.

Vrijthof

Vrijthof: the main square of Maastricht

Cathedral near Vrijthof

Cathedral right off of Vrijthof

Many of the buildings that had looked upon in Maastricht most certainly had to be over 100 years old – a few of the cathedrals themselves probably even dated back before the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. When I, as an American, start realizing that I’m in a country far older the my homeland, I suddenly feel so young and amateurish. It’s an experience only an American can really have outside of the United States.

I departed Vrijthof and continued westward and northward through the city, hoping that I will eventually hit Zuyd Hogeschool. I passed through many interesting places, stopping to take the sights in and enjoy the scenery. But as I kept on walking, I started to get the feeling that I wasn’t getting any nearer to Zuyd. I eventually reached another church, where I had to make the decision if I wanted to go left or right. I took the left route, which essentially took me in a big circle back to Vrijthof, adding much time onto my journey. It was only the next day that I learned how close I really was to Zuyd, had I taken the right route, I would have soon found myself at the school.

Small church in Maastricht

Beautiful Church

Another beautiful cathedral, turned out to be very near Zuyd Hogeschool

Beautiful

Very beautiful architecture for this church

Totally cool

The day was absolutely beautiful for a walk and seeing everything!

I took a brief reprieve in Vrijthof, stopping to grab a sandwich and fries at a nearby McDonald’s. I am pleased to report that the Mac Shack’s here in the Netherlands are just as affordable as they are in the United States. (Though I must note that because the US Dollar is notably weak, I am in essence paying a tad bit more here than I would be in the US, but not much to complain about).

With food in my belly and feeling refreshed, I headed back to Avant Garde to end my journey for the afternoon. During the duration of the trip, I had worn a pedometer on my belt to measure the number of steps I had taken. 13,277 was the final tally from leaving my room and returning after 3.5 hours. Doing some quick math, the average male stride is usually around 2.5 feet (possibly a little bigger for me given my height, but I’ll leave the estimate as is), so take the number, multiply it by the number of strides, and divide the result by 5,280: the final distance I walked was around 6.3 miles, or roughly 10 km for the Metric System fans (read: everyone that isn’t American).

First Day Comings

My first full day in Maastricht proved to be less daunting then the previous evening of affairs. Morning came quickly, so Elsbeth and I rose, grabbed my stuff for one last time, and journeyed out towards Avant Garde. And with good fortune, we arrived with a couple of individuals awaiting my coming. Papers were signed, some were given, and my keys handed off to me. And in no time, I had my room in Avant Garde!

The remainder of the day involved a brief tour of the city that I would be calling home for the next 4 months. We began with taking a short walk down to a local supermarket, called Albert Heijn. This grocery store is not any more different than what one would find in the United States; the fresh produce section is usually the first area greeting customers on the left side, followed by meats towards the back corner. However, there are a few distinct differences to note. Firstly, the meat area does not have a meat counter, as is common in many stores throughout the US. There is, though, a counter specifically for cheese, which I have seen in some stores back home, but the lack of a meat counter was unprecedented. Secondly, the bread section was fairly large and sprawled out, which took up a large area. And thirdly, the dairy products are in a different location than what I would call ‘normal’ in the States. Typically, dairy products are put in one of the back corners of a supermarket in the US; in the Netherlands, at least, dairy products are located very near the front entrance to the store.

I grabbed only a single item at Albert Heijn (Peanuts! Woohoo!) before proceeding on into the city center of Maastricht. We took the city bus back to the Maastricht Station and headed by foot over the city river, known as the Maas – hence the name ‘Maastricht.’

The Maas

The Maas, the river that runs through the middle of Maastricht

On the immediate other side of the river was the primary shopping district of Maastricht, with many shops spread throughout several city blocks. We headed outside of the shopping area and continued on towards one of the smaller city squares in Maastricht, where the city hall was located.

Maastricht city hall

The city hall of Maastricht

Carrying on, we walked to Vrijthof, which is the main square of all of Maastricht. At the time, the main portion of the square was closed off due to a carnival that had finished up over the weekend, so teardown was occurring upon my brief time in the center. Eventually, we headed back to the Maastricht Station, with Elsbeth guiding me to the correct bus to take back to Avant Garde.

And thus ended my first full day in Maastricht.