Maastricht: Not just a treaty city

The city of Maastricht has been present throughout my finance career as the birthplace of the European project in its latest episode. Those that know me well know that I have a pretty split opinion about this ‘project’ and both the prolonged peace period, but also the economic North/South divide speak volumes as to its success. But let’s not dwell on this. There is more to Maastricht than being the location where the European treaties were signed in 1992, as a quiet and clean city boasting impressive architecture going back to the middle ages. 

 

Being located in the Limburg region close to the triple point of Holland / Belgium / Germany, it also offers great culinary options (including wine). My asparagus soup for lunch together with a tasty Belgian beer pays tribute to that. Some 120,000 people live in Maastricht and c20,000 are students (chiefly from bordering Germany I am told) in what is Holland’s youngest university town (1976) despite being a city since 1204. The students give the city a pretty lively touch (reminded me of Ghent a little) and some great live music on the streets by four string instrument players was simply fun to listen to (be it classics or modern songs on classic instruments). As concerns industry, it is one of the oldest locations in Holland known for pottery (Société Céramique factory).

 

Maastricht: The name originates from the river Maas (comes from France) that bisects the city and the Dutch word ‘tricht’ that means crossing. So the crossing place of the Maas. You find a similar naming in other Dutch cities like Utrecht. The city has indeed been a ford historically when the Romans presumably founded the place in 1st century AD and build a first bridge – strategically super important for military & trade.

 

Under fire: Maastricht has been center of many conflicts and was attacked 21 times according to our tour guide. After WW2, it was the first town of Holland to be liberated. This turbulent past is still visible today in the remains of the city walls (one 11m high). In fact, even Peter the great came to visit the city’s fortifications back in his days.

Stinking rich people: You probably heard of the phrase. I did, but never thought about why. In most cities, you’ll find the rich people buried inside the churches. Often covered with large and decorated stones. Peasants instead, were buried outside. Now, these stones didn’t always close the grave properly so that the rotting smell of corpses escaped. It stank in the church (one more reason to use incense to cover up … not just for smelling pilgrims as is still the case today ;o). 

 

Limburgse Vlaai: Basically a pie with a filling originally thought to come from Germany (you can also get it in Aachen). Typically that is mainly fruit, but some forms with rice exist (originally to please the Spanish occupiers who were here longer than in other Dutch parts, which also explains why Catholicism is still the main religion). Vlaais are often eaten on life events, such as birthdays and funerals. 

 

Limburish: Is the own language spoken in  the region by some 1.6m people. It sounds much more geared to German than Dutch itself (people in Aachen or Cologne understand it well), but without Dutch knowledge is hard to understand for the average German.

 

Andre Rieu – the city’s famous child: Weather you are into classical music or not, his name should ring a bell. Andre and his Johann Strauss orchestra (turning classical waltz into a concert act) has been a global superstar since the 80’s making million’s each year. While most of his performances are abroad, he runs 10+ concerts in Maastricht each year in July (this year’s tour dates) – all announced dates are sold out (BUT he will add a few I am told … so watch the space). 

andre-rieu-concert-cinema-720x379

Year

Rank

# Shows

Revenue

2017

#42

89 shows

$47,700,000

2016

#23

71 shows

$40,169,471

2015

#20

101 shows

$51,151,367

2014

#17

70 shows

$42,983,266

2013

#20

70 shows

$49,881,605

2012

#10

99 shows

$46,785,71

2011

# 9

102 shows

$67,104,756

2010

#16

86 shows

$39,992,285

2009

# 6

112 shows

$95,854,338

2008

# 8

71 shows

$76.9 mll

Steinreich: Another word play, this time in German, translating into “stone rich”. I already mentioned in a previous posts (Amsterdam walking tour: Fun facts) that Dutch houses are narrow due to the taxation of the street facing width of the houses, there are also differences in building materials used. In Maastricht you can find bricks (cheapest), limestone (of which you’ll find a lot all over Maastricht) and a grey-ish stone being the most expensive. Buildings of richer people tend to be built with more or all of the latter. Hence the name.

Bonnefantenmuseum: A somewhat strange-looking museum designed by an Italian architect Aldo Rossi deriving its name from French ‘bons enfants’ (‘good children’). Inside, you can find a mix of contemporary art and classics. The museum offers restoration services as well and during work week you can watch how they do their job through glass doors. Not a must-visit museum for me, but neither the worst I have seen.

 

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