Monday, 20 May 2013

Maastricht: A Sunday Surprise

I had heard the rumours and tales long before I had the opportunity to experience this phenomenon in the Netherlands. 
It was a marvel not often encountered, a wonder that you wait and wish for. Stories and witness accounts of previous sightings were described to children, listening with mouths agape, and those who had experienced it firsthand had to repeat every detail of the the encounter to friends and strangers at the local pub. 
And then, suddenly and unexpected after months of endless waiting, the sensational sight arrived: A sunny Sunday.

Brilliant Blue

Overlooking the Maas

People poured into the streets to enjoy the radiant "Pinkster weekend", shops displayed flowers and crafts out on the cobblestone streets and the smell of freshly baked "stroopwafels" lingered in the air.

Sunny Sunday

Out and About

Maastricht is a city so pretty and picturesque that I have to rack the corners of my brain to find adjectives worthy of describing it. It is probably a blessing that I never visited Maastricht on previous travels with friends, because my whining about wanting to stay here for ever and ever, singing Dutch songs and eating stroopwafels while wearing my "klompen" slippers, would have truly put their patience and our friendship to the test.

My shoes are taking strain from walking on the cobblestone streets as I explore each part of the city in sunshine and mostly rain, wondering if the novelty will wear off like my heels. But it hasn't yet. In fact, each day brings with it new wonders as I stumble upon yet another view of the magnificent Maas, or a bakery selling vlaai and freshly baked bread, or a bicycle decorated with pink flowers.

I could have walked around the city centre for hours, but instead I took a leisurely stroll along the Maas and through Stadspark, which was lined with trees and people on blankets, their faces turned towards the sun.

Enjoying the Sun in Stadspark

Kempland and Onze Lieve Vrouwewal in Stadspark

Plans were made to get together for a barbecue to celebrate the glorious weather later that afternoon. A friend had an extra bicycle I could borrow and besides a few minor challenges (no braking system and my knees brushing past my ears) it was great to cut our travel time in half. She would shout out warnings of cross-traffic looming at the end of a downhill slope and we would hold our breaths waiting to see if my bike would stop in time or if I would be crushed by an oncoming car. Such fun.

The barbecue was awesome and the crowd a mix of foreigners who introduced everyone to thirst-quenchers from their respective countries  Icelandic Brennivin (literally "burning wine") should not be mistaken with Brandewyn, although both are equally dangerous if not taken in moderation. We sipped South African Pinotage, followed by brownies with caramel sauce accompanied with home-brewed coffee. I scored a unanimous B+ for my first attempt at making a Starbucks-style cappuccino. Apparently you are not supposed to use a spoon to scoop the foam into the cups. It's a good thing I didn't lick the spoon afterwards as that would've surely costed me my "+".

The meal was fantastic, the company extremely entertaining and when we wiped the last tears of laughter from our eyes and checked our watches, it was 8 pm!

Cultural Experiences

It really was a Sunday full of surprises: Cycling, laughter and new friends. 
And of course, the sunshine.

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