Making mountains out of molehills and marvelling at Maastricht

We were in Maastricht, the city where that treaty was negotiated in 1992 – the one where EU members decided to introduce a common currency, the Euro – which was eventually fully adopted in 2002 – except by the British of course!

Our lovely camping spot in Maastricht

The city has a reputation for being a thriving cultural hub – second only in the Netherlands to Amsterdam for national heritage buildings – so it sounded promising.

Maastricht is second only to Amsterdam for the number of heritage buildings

We stayed at a lovely marina with very grand entrance gates and the ruins of a medieval castle rising high up behind the spot where we were parked.

The grand entrance gates to the marina
View from our van to the ruins of a medieval castle above

The marina was an easy and interesting bike ride away from the city centre and once on the outskirts we left the bikes and walked through the quaint pedestrian lanes and alleyways.

A fortification on our way into the city
Look carefully and you will see the remains of a medieval building incorporated into its modern incarnation
The town hall, one of the many heritage buildings in Maastricht

The Het Vrijthof is a beautiful square in the center of old town Maastricht, paved with old cobblestones and surrounded by trees. Sadly the many very nice restaurants and cafes that encircle the square were all closed so it looked rather drab and uninteresting.

Sadly the Het Vrijthof looked very drab with all the restaurants and cafes closed due to Covid

We walked from the square and came upon the St Servatius Basilica, a Romanesque cathedral with atmospheric crypts and many treasures which unfortunately we didn’t get to see.

An ancient gateway into the Basilica precincts
St Servatius Basilica, a Romanesque cathedral

As we walked through the beautiful arches to the west of the basilica we were surprised to see another church right next door.

We loved these stone arches on the laneway between the two churches

This was the medieval Church of St John which was originally built as a baptistery for the Basilica of St. Servatius. After the 17th century it became a church in its own right and is now a Protestant Church whereas the Basilica is Catholic.

The Church of St John alongside the Basilica of St. Servatius.

We were fascinated by the ox-blood red paint on the 15th Century tower of St John’s Church and wondered why the beautiful stone work had been covered.

The ox-blood red paint on the 15th Century tower of St John’s Church

We discovered that the tower (and much of the Church) had been built in the local yellow marlstone which is extremely soft and porous so the paint was applied to protect it from the elements.

A tiny roadside chapel we passed
An installation in the Church grounds

One of the highlights of Maastricht was coming across an enchanting water mill apparently owned by one Godfrey of Bouillon in the eleventh century AD and which after his death, passed into the hands of the Prince-Bishop of Liège.

A water mill has stood here since the eleventh century
The mill is still used to grind grain to make flour
The mill race

As we walked down the little alley from the water wheel we looked through a big window where we saw bakers busy baking bread and delicious looking pies- apparently from flour ground in the mill we had just seen.

Round the corner was a baker’s shop

We walked round the corner and found a wonderful bakers shop full of delicious treats and bought some lovely crusty rolls and a fantastic traditional Dutch apple tart.

The Bishop’s Mill
Delicious tarts in the shop window

The following day was my birthday and to celebrate the day we decided to ride our e-bikes to the picturesque and historic town of Valkenberg aan de Geul.

How now black cow

It was apparently only 11 kilometres away (roughly seven miles) which sounded perfect as it was a fairly nice day. Unfortunately it took us twice as long as we had expected due to our reliance on Google maps! Note to self: download a Dutch cycle path app. before our next bike adventure!

I thought this animal was a deer but Jonathan thought it was a goat – what about you?

The ride itself was very pleasant but I have to admit to feeling a tiny bit sad that because of Covid we couldn’t stop at one of the pretty inns and restaurants scattered along our route for a relaxed and cosy lunch.

I wished we could have stopped off for a cosy lunch

I don’t want to make mountains out of molehills but it was quite surprising to see some quite steep hills on our route! Most of the Netherlands is flat as a tack but not the province of Lindberg – it most definitely has hills!

A hill on the way to Valkenberg

Valkenberg is a really pretty town that depends heavily on tourism. Sadly the place was almost deserted when we were there and the many colourful restaurants and cafes were closed.

One of the impressive buildings in Valkenberg
The place was almost deserted due to Covid
Such a pretty town

My birthday lunch turned out to be takeaway frites with a huge dollop of frite sauce eaten on a bench outside. Not the usual long lunch but the frites were absolutely delicious!

Birthday lunch!
Our lunch time view – one of the recently restored city gates in Valkenberg
The gate from the other side

Valkenburg proudly boasts the remains of the only hilltop castle in the Netherlands – hardly surprising as it also has just about the only hill!

Looking up the hill to the remains of the hilltop castle
Steps up to the castle ruins

There are also underground caverns in the town created by the Romans when mining marlstone. These can be explored by foot or “slow train”. Other attractions include spas where normally visitors can bathe in natural hot springs but of course, were closed because of Covid.

Marlstone is so soft that graffiti has been carved into buildings for generations

We climbed up to the castle and enjoyed the hilltop views from the base of the ruins.

The base of the castle ruins
A model showing how the castle looked in medieval times
View from the top
A commanding view

It was interesting to find out about the work of the Dutch resistance during the four year and four months German occupation in Second World War and to see how parts of the city were rebuilt after their destruction in the war.

Another recently rebuilt city gate
On guard at the city gate

Our return trip also took rather longer than anticipated as our “quicker” route home included a massively long and winding hill which was a struggle even with the help of a our e-power.

Illustration of the destruction in the town during World War II
Same view, rebuilt after the war

After what seemed ages Jonathan noticed his battery had lost a lot of power and he was concerned that we wouldn’t have enough to get all the way back “home” again. So we toiled up the rest of the hill pushing our bikes and after a long haul to reach the top, wound our way through the suburbs to arrive back to the van in the pitch dark!

Sunset in our camping spot

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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