Maastricht & Nijmegen

Trip Start Sep 11, 2008
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Where I stayed
Kasteel Well

Flag of Netherlands  , Limburg,
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hello again travel blog readers!

This weekend was one of fascination and relaxation. On Friday, my art history teacher took a group of us to the city of Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Maastricht is both quaint and majestically medieval, but even better than the aesthetics is the fascinating history behind the stunning city. Had we ventured here alone, we would only have marveled at its beauty, but thanks to Rob Duckers (our art teacher; pronounced Dookers), we gawked at the structures because of their aesthetics and because of their stories. He is a curator of some museums and thus full of information that other tourists are not privileged to obtain. Also, the fact that he paid for our coffees, lunches, and drinks made the trip even more worthwhile. (We tried, we really did, but he refused our shiny Euros each time!)
                We were officially in Maastricht after going through a brick medieval archway called "Hell's Gate" that was attached to the city walls and fortifications. We walked along the small, quiet cobblestone streets to the huge Romanesque church of Our Lady. Because of the very few windows in the building, the church was unusually dark. The reason for the few windows is that the heavy roof has to be supported by as much solid wall as possible. The church was ornately decorated with colorful statues, a huge golden organ, and an elaborate altar, among other décor. We were there for a brief time before a lunch break at a nice café.
                The second church was especially enthralling. This gothic church is named after Saint Servatius, who was the first bishop of Maastricht. It is the only church in the Netherlands to be built over the grave of a Saint. Unlike the first church, this one had several large windows, providing for lots of light. The décor was even more impressive and the space even larger. Because Duckers is a curator, we were allowed into certain areas, such as the east-crypt, which are generally not open to the public.   Every single painting, engraving, and decoration had a story behind it, and we got to hear them all thanks to our fabulous teacher.  For example, did you know that in the early centuries, Moses was depicted with horns on his head because there was a mistranslation into the gospel -"Moses' face was radiant" was mistranslated into "Moses' face had horns" or something along those lines. So, there was a statue in this church of Moses with horns! After exploring the church itself, we went to the attached museum of religious relics. We saw Mary Magdalene's skull, the bone of Doubting Thomas' arm, and pieces of wood from Jesus' cross. Now, it's nearly impossible to prove if these artifacts are the true relics that they claim to be because they are so old. Either way, it was amazing to see. Most of the relics were contained in gold and jewel-studded vessels. I felt as if I had walked into a huge treasure chest.    
                We ended the excursion with drinks and "bitter balls" (delicious appetizer) at a café. The group parted ways, but my friends and I stayed in the city for a few more hours on our own. We traveled back to the Castle for the night. My three roommates and I awoke the next morning and took an hour bus ride to Nijmegen, another of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Our plan was to walk around aimlessly and leisurely, which is just what we did.  It's another lovely city, with plenty of shops and medieval buildings and cafes. We traveled back to Well for dinner, where we ate at a Chinese restaurant. Though rather uneventful, it was another great, relaxing day.

Contrary to what my father believes, I am actually learning and doing work along with my travels. All four of my classes are very interesting. True, aside from plenty of reading, my workload is rather light at the time. Most of my classes seem to relate to one another, and each enriches my travels. Each of my professors is from a different area in Europe -Germany, Netherlands, Poland, and Belgium -and I enjoy each of them as well. I take plenty of notes and pay close attention everyday. So there, Dad!

I realize I haven't discussed much of what goes on during the week. Well, to be blunt, not much. When I'm not in class during the day, I'm either doing work for classes or relaxing in the room. Wednesday night is "American Night" at the bar in town. My mom asked me, "What is American Night? Apple pie?" That would be delicious, but there's no pie involved. It's simply a fun night at the bar when they play American music. The majority of my Castlemates congregate on one side of the room while a handful of Dutch boys hover in the corner watching us. These boys, along with 95% of the Dutch males we've seen, wear their hair spiked up with dollops of gel -circa 1990's. It's pretty funny. Sometimes during the week we venture to the local bakery for some hot chocolate and pastries, sometimes to the small grocery store for Stroopwaffels (the BEST dessert invention ever. I will buy some for everyone.), and sometimes we walk around the Castle grounds. One night last week, we had a dessert & wine picnic in "Narnia," which is a nearby path with trees on either side that curve into each other rather unnaturally, creating a sort of roof over the path.

This was a rather long update! If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read it all! Next weekend we go to Paris -I'm very excited about this since I can sort of speak French.

Love and miss you all!!
Tot ziens, (Goodbye),
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