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15 April 2016

Living In Leuven | A Day In Maastricht

On Saturday the 27th of February, a few of my law friends and I decided to go to Maastricht for the day. Generally, we find train journeys from Leuven to other countries to be quite expensive, so we tend to reserve those for organised trips with ESN, for example. After a bit of research, we realised a trip to Maastricht would involve a train to Liège, then a quick change onto a train to Maastricht for only 10 euros!

We had 30 minutes to wait for our train from Liège, so decided to have a wander outside the station. The station itself is absolutely beautiful and I'd really like to visit the city of Liège one day - mainly to say I've had a Liège waffle in Liège!

The journey to Maastricht took a little over one hour and we headed straight to the tourist information desks to figure out how we can see the majority of what the city had to offer in one day. Our friends in Leuven recommended we saw the Fort and the underground caves, so we headed south and out of the city center to pay them a visit.

We had the option of buying a combi ticket to the fort and the caves - but decided to pay €6.40 to visit the Northern caves as it was possible to walk around the outside of the Fort free of charge.

The caves were created as a way of passage by labourers and were also used as hiding places during the second world war. During this time, the labourers and those seeking refuge spent their free time drawing on the walls. Some of the artwork that can be found inside the caves are absolutely incredible and the tour guides try their best to conserve it by asking the public not to step too harshly on the ground and be careful not to lean against the walls of the caves.

As people lived in the caves, there are some remains of where they resided including a wall covered in smog from cooking and burning fires underground. The tour guide also told us of how the French wanted to blow up the underground passages, but instead of expecting the explosive to destroy the tunnel vertically, the laws of physics prevailed and only created destruction horizontally along the tunnels instead.

We were also told about the dangerous reality of living underground. The temperature in the caves is only about 10 degrees, combined with high humidity levels, creating a hazardous environment for anyone living there for more than 2 weeks.

After the underground cave visit, we walked around Fort Sint Pieter. We visited Maastricht on a really beautiful day and the area around the Fort and caves was filled with people taking their dogs for a walk, or taking their children out for a picnic. This part of Maastricht is really elevated and offers some amazing views of the city from the top - I'd highly recommend visiting!

On the way back to the city center, we walked by all of the Maastricht University buildings. It was interesting to see the student accommodation buildings and the law school - I know of a few people who studied/are studying there on Erasmus as it was an option for us on our applications. When we reached the city center, we decided to go for lunch on a street full of restaurants next to the Vrijthof.

I couldn't leave the Vrijthof without taking a photo of the bandstand there. It brought back a lot of memories from when I toured Germany, Paris and Belgium with the music department of my high school. I'm positive the year above me toured the Netherlands and performed on this very bandstand!

Before heading for our train home, we visited the Dominicanenkerk, which is an old church now converted into a bookstore and cafe. I thought the whole concept of a book store in a church was a bit strange at first, but it would be sad to see such a beautiful building go to waste if it wasn't re-used in some way.

We left Maastricht for Leuven at dinner time and thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Maastricht!

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