Touring Maastricht by foot

Maastricht’s old centre is well-packed with bars, restaurants and antique shops. Maastricht belongs to the Limburg province of the Netherlands, which borders Germany and Belgium. The cultural influences of the two neighbouring countries are visible mainly in the city architecture, local food and… in the language abilities of the locals. Maastricht’s inhabitants always smile and are ready to help with any piece of advice in their mother tongue, English, French and German.

Maastricht’s old city square bears the name of Vrijthof. We could not admire its genuine beauty and its balanced open space because the square was prepared to host a concert of the famous André Rieu.

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Vrijthof gets ready to welcome André Rieu, his staff & the public

The maestro and his staff wanted to celebrate the 13th consecutive year of his summer concerts in Maastricht through a special series of performances. We noticed that people from all around the world came for the event. We saw them checking the area. Some others, who did not manage to get a ticket, tried to book a restaurant seat facing the square.

Since the square was inaccessible we instead enjoyed a walk in the heart of the city. Touring Maastricht by foot gave us the possibility to admire the beautiful buildings around the city main square.

Maastricht’s streets are very clean, romantic and of very good taste. I rarely saw cobbled streets as the ones in Maastricht, where the rounded stones fill the surface perfectly, so a walker does not stumble upon.

The traces of a fortified ancient city are still visible. The strong walls and bunkers speak for themselves. There is no corner of the city centre without flowers of all colours and breeds. After all, we were in the Netherlands, the country of worldwide famous horticulturists.

Maastricht is crossed by the river Maas (Meuse in Belgium). The two sides of the city connect through a number of beautiful bridges.

There is a bus city line available to tour the city. The buses look like the American old buses. We saw some American “trace texts”, which are still visible on the bright and strong yellow background of the buses.

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We have never seen so many bikes in one place! Biking is already a tradition in the Netherlands and anyone can see the impressive number of bikes that are used as a sort of “national vehicle”. Needless to mention the Dutch national awareness of getting closer to nature and protect it.

We spent some time to admire the Sint-Janskerk and its temerarious clock tower.

Maastrichtenaars claim that their city is the oldest in the Netherlands.

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Maastricht’s Sint-Janskerk and its temerarious clock tower

Maastrichtenaars are Maastricht’s inhabitants. If they need to talk to you they are able to switch immediately to either English, German or French. This is so useful as I do not speak any Dutch.

As soon as one arrives in Maastricht it is easy to spot one of the highest city point, which is the tower of the Sint-Janskerk Church.

The Sint-Janskerk, or St. John’s Church in English, is a Gothic church in the historic centre of Maastricht. Along with the Roman Catholic Saint Servatius, they are the special “twin churches” of the Netherlands.

The Church impresses with its red tower of about 80 meters. The tower houses a beautiful clock on top. The main bell of the clock was removed by Germans in 1943. The tower was re-equipped with a new one in 1997.

The clock of the tower is a beautiful piece of fine mechanic art. The clock is in four faces, so one can read the time from any angle. The tower is made out of marlstone. Since the stone is soft and porous, the tower is protected with a coating layer.

The tower got back its bright red colour recently and looks like the original red available in the Middle Ages. The tower was painted in yellow during the 18th century, while in the 19th century turned white.

The Church is a famous venue for both public and private events. That might be the reason that the Church was closed and we could not visit it.

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Maastricht, a culture of biking

Like any old cities, Maastricht of the Netherlands features a mixture of infrastructures which have witnessed the city history over its past 2000 years.

It is hard to believe that nowadays the city found a way to keep alive these structures and make room for biking lanes.

We rarely saw cars in Maastricht. Instead people bike and share their bike bell sounds across the streets.

We saw people enjoying restaurant food in street. Most of them came by bike and park the bike next to the restaurant.

We saw bikes of all colours and brands. We saw people of all ages biking: parents, grandparents and kids. Family biking seems to be a well-established tradition in the Netherlands.

We noticed that Maastricht’s traffic lights are adapted in such a way to facilitate cycling. The lights are equipped with detection loops so that they turn green before a cyclist reach the traffic light point.

The city heart is car free, but cars are not ban entirely. The city’s main square houses underneath a huge car parking.

There are plans to turn a motorway into a huge biking area lane to transfer the car traffic in a structure of underneath tunnels.

A bike journey in Maastricht is an enjoyable experience with no major risks to get hurt.

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Living the togetherness with Coldplay

We made it to the Coldplay concert in Brussels, on 22 June 2017. The group turned 20 and the concert has been a special occasion to listen to their popular songs, written in such a long period of time.

The concert was part of “A Head Full of Dreams” World tour. There were about 60,000 people of all ages, from small children to people like me or older. It appears that the Coldplay touches people of all generations.

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I have never ever seen so many happy people in one place, enjoying the Coldplay’s music. The entire audience knew the songs by heart and joined the group to sing together. There was so much energy around and so many deep emotions, as each of us took part in what Chris Martin, Coldplay’s leader said, “energy and love” giving.

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Chris Martin jumps to trigger the famous Coldplay colour palette

To me the concert was an unbelievable gigantic togetherness.

Coldplay survives among the many music trends probably because of their unique musical style with harmonies and melodic lines that trigger deep emotions. The harmonies and melodic lines combine in an original pattern, which sounds naturally and which is closed to many people’s hearts. The Coldplay’s pattern is easy to identify and remember.

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Coldplay’s balloon moment

Chris Martin, the vocalist, sings in a falsetto style while the other group members produces a high and bright intelligent sound. The songs are touching because they tell simple stories which everyone live or has lived.

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Coldplay on Stage B

In 20 years Martin’s falsetto voice developed with the age, became more mature and bright. Falsetto requires huge vocal efforts and solid training, intensive practicing and special abilities to control the human “singing box”.

Coldplay acknowledges that their music is influenced by a number of past and current musicians. The group compositions moved from a meditative, emotional phase to art rock – with accents of classical music and jazz – through an “alternative rock” phase.

The outcome of this evolution is today’s Coldplay voice in the music world.

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When Coldplay’s wristbands went on

In Brussels the communication with the audience went on through both music and ordinary words. Nothing artificial, everything was flowing naturally as their music does.

According to Coldplay we should see a forest in any seeds around us. Therefore, each human being can achieve anything, if encouraged, raised up, mentored and loved.

When you’re in pain, when you think you’ve had enough

Don’t ever give up

Don’t ever give up

A video selection of Coldplay performances in Brussels, on 22 June 2017

Yellow

Paradise

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

Everglow

The Scientist

Full Coldplay concert in Brussels, 22 June 2017

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Brussels’s Poppies

Poppies are a sign of fragility. In the village I grew up there were poppies growing on the border between the wheat fields and the countryside roads. The life of the poppy flowers was short, perhaps one or two days.

We tried to take some poppy plants and put them in our garden. They never accepted the new home and died shortly.

Over the years I naturally associated the poppies with the wheat fields and the summer. With their upbeat scarlet colour, they were strong spots in a bright yellow sea of the wheat fields.

I did not expect to see poppies in Brussels. I spotted them outside the city while driving in the countryside. I even saw yellow Californian poppies, in a corner, next to a park.

In most of the western cultures, poppies are a symbol of sleep and peace, perhaps because of their sedative properties.

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In Flanders, a Belgian region, poppies are a well-known symbol, coming from a famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”, written by a Canadian. A number of Anglo-Saxon countries remember the war heroes on 11 November each year. People wear paper poppies to honour the people who died in war.

I photographed these poppies in three places in Brussels: Anderlecht, Woluwe St. Pierre and Evere.

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Why Brussels’s summers are special

Each year Brussels’s summer comes in as a kind of rewarding season after darker and cloudy days. Summers are always brighter, fresh and soft in Brussels. Once summer is here, the city becomes a very attractive place.

The green spaces house gorgeous plants blooming continuously, so that they refresh everything around us. The Belgians are famous horticulturists. Their skills are visible in the pieces of floral art in parks, private gardens and even in roundabouts.

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Summer in Brussels also means less traffic and less noise. Brussels’ inhabitants escape to different sunny destinations to enjoy summer holidays.

The days become much longer. We enjoy more daylight, in contrast with the short and cloudy winter days. 21 June is the longest day of the year and counts 16 and a half hours of daylight.

Some years ago we hosted a friend from the South and he was surprised to see that, around 10:00 o’clock in the evening, the daylight was still on.

In the summer the restaurants get more animated and attract potential clients with their fresh vegetables coming from local gardens. The beer is tastier and the large variety of Belgian beer is very tempting.

Brussels in summer is spectacular and is a tangible oasis for the people who do not escape in the South.

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Etterbeek’s Medieval Market turns 25

Etterbeek’s Medieval Market turns 25. The 25th event edition was organised in the Cinquantenaire Park of Brussels, between 2 and 4 June 2017.

The Cinquantenaire is one of Brussels’s largest parks located in the heart of the European Quarter, in Etterbeek, one of the nineteen districts of the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium.

Exhibitors from other countries joined the event.

The event purpose is to help visitors (re)discover the world of the Middle Ages, its folklore, food, fashion styles and other traditions.

Tea herbs and spices of all kinds

Macarons of all flavours and colours

 

 

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When the engine has not  been invented yet

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Beautiful medieval decorations

Related articles

The 23rd edition of Etterbeek’s Medieval Market in 2015:

25.05.2015 Etterbeek’s Medieval Market: A short journey to the Middle Ages
25.05.2015 Etterbeek’s Medieval Market 2015: Medieval Glazed Ceramic Art
25.05.2015 Etterbeek’s Medieval Market 2015: Medieval food & cooking
24.05.2015 Etterbeek’s Medieval Market 2015: Medieval entertainers
24.05.2015 Etterbeek’s Medieval Market 2015: Jewellery & Accessory Photo-album
24.05.2015 Etterbeek’s Medieval Market 2015: Costume Photo-album

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