To be honest, I knew little about Maastricht except that it’s the birthplace of André Rieu, world-renowned Dutch musician. I would soon discover that Maastricht was one of the most besieged cities in Europe for at least twenty times and today, it’s transformed into a university city. It was also in this city that the European Union was conceptualised two and a half decades ago. Maastricht is bisected by The Meuse (Maas River in Dutch), with the old cobbled section of the city situated mainly on the western riverbank. More interesting, the city centre is only 4km away from the Belgian border and 29km away from the German border.
Just back from Leipzig barely two months ago, this time hubby was going to attend the European Vascular Course that was held at the MECC Maastricht. Yup, even I thought it was insane to be travelling to Europe a total of three times (including Rome last September) in the last six months. Anyway, the weather in Maastricht towards the end of winter (early March) was more tolerable as the temperature was ranging between 6-12°C. Daily showers of rain were the only “problem” that could hamper any outdoor plans (Tip: prepare umbrellas or ponchos if you’re visiting around this time).
This trip was fully sponsored and the business class ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam on Qatar Airways came up to a whopping RM16855.38 per person inclusive of taxes. Well, we could only dream of enjoying such a privilege once in a lifetime. There was a short period of layover at Hamad International Airport, the same airport we were at six months ago. The only remarkable thing this time was a complimentary access to the exquisite Al Mourjan Business Lounge. Having had the opportunity to explore several airport lounges around the world, you’ve to take my word for it that Al Mourjan is hands down the best!
Since this was some sort of a business trip, everything was taken care of without any hassle on our part. Four nights accommodation at Apart Hotel Randwyck amounted to €432 (RM2058) inclusive all taxes. Truthfully, it’s just an average hotel which is located approximately 2.5km from the city centre. But, it’s one of the two only hotels within walking distance from the venue of the course, MECC Maastricht.
Located 217km south of Amsterdam, Maastricht was not at all difficult to reach, thanks to the well-connected rail system of the Netherlands – Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The commute from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Maastricht (changing train at Utrecht) consumed a total duration of two hours and forty minutes. A one-way ticket would cost €26.99 (RM130.75). The speed of the wifi in the train was impressive, thereby making the journey not so dull.
From Maastricht central train station to the hotel was another 25-minute walk (1.8km). Within the city, cycling was definitely the best mode of transportation and the road infrastructure appeared very safe for cyclists. In fact, there were probably more bicycles on the road than cars.
Sightseeing In Maastricht
Hubby’s course ended quite late almost everyday, thus preventing a more adventurous food exploration in the city. Furthermore, most of the days had been pretty wet which lasted for quite a significant number of hours. The best and only option around MECC Maastricht was Bar Bizonder in Hotel NH Maastricht, where we dined thrice. It served a wide range of international cuisines and the quality of which was excellent. A decent meal would average around €15 (RM70.80).
It’s ironic to end up in a Mediterranean restaurant while exploring the city on one evening, which was certainly unplanned but we were left with no choice but to seek shelter in this restaurant when the rain started pouring. So why not just have dinner, right? It turned out that to have dinner at Laus Mediterranean Kitchen wasn’t a bad decision after all. You might want to check out this restaurant that is located nearby the Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein (Square of Our Lady), the next time you’re in Maastricht.
Perhaps due to its longstanding history and proximity to the United Kingdom, the Dutch are rather eloquent in English. I don’t find any problems at all communicating with most of them. This information should give you the peace of mind when travelling to Maastricht and I believe the same applies to the rest of the Netherlands.
What about drinking directly from the tap? As in most of Western Europe, tap water in the Netherlands is safe for consumption. However, most restaurants will still not serve you a free glass of tap water. You’ll only get bottled water (of course then you have to pay). I’ve written so much about this important asset in my previous posts on Rome and Leipzig. Interestingly, I found a helpful illustration that summarizes it.
Just like Johann Sebastian Bach is to Leipzig, André Rieu has also made Maastricht famous through classical music. Having said that, André travels around the world so extensively that his sensational Johann Strauss Orchestra only performs at the Vrijthof, Maastricht in July. Missed it!
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