most of the places i've been to in this country are very, very pretty. and quaint. and gezellig. but once i leave the city center, i find that the rest of the city is pretty much like every other dutch city. it's just modern houses, streets, a few parks, etc.
but maastricht is different. it's completely historic. everywhere we walked, everything that we explored, it was all ancient looking and pretty and authentic. we loved it.
we got to experience maastricht with bob and rae, who were here visiting us in early december. we spent a few days in leiden at the beginning of their trip, and then trekked across the entire country, about as far as you could go without ending up in either belgium or germany, and got off the train in maastricht.
our hotel was located right in the center of town, and it took us FOREVER to get there because it was a koopzondag in maastricht -- meaning that all the stores were open on a sunday. and given how infrequently that happens, and that it was also the holiday season, everyone for about 100 km had converged simultaneously in the center of town to do their shopping. and then here were the briggles, all five of us, with suitcases, backpacks, a stroller, and a baby, trying to maneuver our way through the throngs of shoppers. it was exhausting!
we just kept walking and walking and walking, and we thought that by the time we got to our hotel, we would have missed out on all the action of the city, because it seemed like an awfully long time since we left the train station.
and then, right there before our eyes, was a GIANT ferris wheel, set up in a square with oliebollen stands, waffle stands, gluhwein stands, bratwurst stands, and an ice skating rink. it was a christmas market! and RIGHT NEXT DOOR was our hotel! oh! we didn't miss a thing! in fact, we're in the middle of it all!
after checking in and running to the grocery store for snacks and things for breakfast the next few days, we pretty much took it easy the rest of the day. we ate at a steakhouse which was adjacent to our hotel, and after dinner and putting gracie to bed, adam and went to the christmas market to explore it on our own. and of course, one of the first songs i heard over the loudspeaker was "amazing grace," which made me REALLY miss gracie, and i wanted to run back to the hotel and wake her up, and bring her with me to the christmas market cuz i KNEW she'd love it!
adam and i got something to drink at the gluhwein stand, and i decided to keep my mug cuz it was SOOOO cute: a little stocking, with the maastricht winter market painted onto it! i felt a little guilty "stealing" it (basically, i just didn't return it to get my 2 euro deposit back), but then later a friend of mine who is more familiar with the christmas markets told me that that's totally normal behavior, and that a LOT of people keep their mugs. whew! i didn't want to end up on santa's "naughty" list! we also ate a couple of chocolate waffles. of course.
the next two days we wandered the city. i can't even remember what we did in which order, but i know that we did spend a lot of time trying to locate a new baby monitor, since ours broke the first night we were there. but it allowed us a good opportunity to explore the city, and we saw numerous churches, including this one called "onze lieve vrouwen" which means "our lady". it was a mary church, and i think adam told me it was the oldest church in the netherlands. i believe it, cuz that thing was ANCIENT. i lit a candle at the mary altar, like i do at most churches i visit, asking for a job for adam who was still at that time interviewing pretty hard core for a job in the united states. (his contract here is going to expire this autumn, and at the time we didn't know where we were heading next. or if he'd even be offered a job at all. but the prayer must have worked, because just a few days later he was offered a position at the university of north texas! so we're moving to texas in july! woohoo! ...er, i mean, yeehaw!)
we also saw a wall of the city that was about 1,000 years old. there were houses right next to this wall, where people actually LIVED, and we even saw one house that was built right into the wall itself! how cool would that be, to live in an ancient wall!
i'm not sure what this building is -- some watchtower of some sort. it sure was beautiful, and even though the weather was wet and cold and dreary, it kind of made this tower look even more authentically old. it kind of lent a certain poetry to the whole scene, to have this drizzle and dreariness in the air.
we spent a lot of time wandering around, getting warm things to drink, looking at the beautiful, old buildings, and riding the carousel. like ALL the time. on our last night, we took gracie to the christmas market (even though it was WAY past her bedtime), and let her ride on it several times in a row.
here are the videos to prove it. in this one, she's riding with me
this next video is even MORE fun, though. you can hear mary grace SCREAMING with delight over the sound of the carousel! i really wish i would have gotten a video of the three german ladies watching gracie as she went for a ride -- they were laughing soooo hard at her!
afterwards, we were singing a song to gracie. her nickname is "doodlebug," which is a really easy word to put into any song. so pretty much all the songs we sing to her are "doodlebug, doodlebug, doodle doodle doodlebug." here's a good example:
adam had been nagging me for YEARS to get to maastricht, and now i understand why. it's a picture-perfect town, very easy to get around, relatively inexpensive, and beautiful. i'm so glad we finally got a chance to see it!