This past weekend we took our first little holiday as a family of four. We loaded the kids into their safety certified car seats in a rental Renault and headed south. Despite the documented danger of driving automobiles we chose not to wear helmets. First stop was our friends’ wedding party at a tranquil old (“old” as in dating to at least the mid 1300’s) farm complex in Leudal township in Limburg, the southernmost province of the Netherlands. The farm, called Hoeve de Schoor, was very similar in format to some old farms I know in France; a continuous ring of buildings forming a sort of walled complex with an inner courtyard. One or more of the buildings are residences for the family, workers and guests and the others are for the farm: barns, storage areas, workshop and so forth. As is typical with these places the encroaching nature combined with the “patina” of curvy thatched roofs, wood- and stonework rounded and polished by hundreds of years of feet and hands is utterly charming and relaxing.
After a night’s stay in the farmhouse and a lazy brunch with the family and friends the kids were in good spirits and we didn’t need to head directly back to Amsterdam. Both Kyoko and I had passed through Limburg many times on my way south to Belgium, Luxembourg, France and destinations further but we’d never actually spent any time in the area. We decided to get some more use out of the car (which we only have a couple times each year) and continued 45 minutes further to Maastricht, the main city and nearly southern point of Limburg. Actually Maastricht is more like a Dutch peninsula jutting into Belgium and Germany.
Along the way we checked out some notable villages along the way. In one we happened upon some local fellows riding a sort of bicycle train contraption. One fellow demonstrated to Kyoko (-taking the pictures – I was focusing on the road, driving being a life-threatening activity) his remarkable intelligence: He could actually recognize that she’s an Asian!
Little did Fuckface realize that 2000 visitors per day would now be viewing this image here. But hey, I assume he stands behind his opinions, probably being one of the 27% of Limburgers who just last week voted for extreme right, anti immigration, muslim-hater Gert Wilders and his PVV (Party for Freedom). But I digress… we were enjoying a relaxing family trip.
Once installed in a Maastricht hotel we set out to explore the city. Maastricht is much older and richer in very old stuff than Amsterdam: city walls, cathedrals, tiny buildings with tinier doorways, water flowing under and through buildings and streets of rounded cobblestones. The architecture is also far more ornate than in sober Holland. Amsterdam has lots of buildings from the 1600’s and 1700’s but not much older. In Maastricht you come across things from the 1000’s and 1100’s. That’s old.
Of course whenever I visit a city I look at the bikes, bicyclists and infrastructure. In this regard Maastricht was hardly recognizable as being part of the Netherlands. There were certainly some cyclists here and there but only in quantities comparable to a typical German or Swiss city. In other words nothing at all like most of the rest of the Netherlands. I spotted one Gazelle bakfiets and in two days only once did I see a parent carrying a child on a bike. There were bike racks and perfectly good bike roads and lanes… just largely unused. I actually saw an empty bike rack getting overgrown with nature – a redundant impossibility in Amsterdam. We did, however, see an amazing number of groups of racing cyclists on Sunday morning.
Trams were also notably absent in Maastricht. I assume there are buses though I cannot recall actually seeing any. Instead of bicyclists and public transport there seemed to be a large, underground parking garage every few blocks in the city center. That’s apparently what it takes to hide all those cars. Ah, but at least there were Segways in abundance! Has Segway maybe hired Geert Wilders as their spokesperson?
What is it about Segways anyway that universally makes their riders look like total dorks? See above for evidence.
I’ll round this one off with a valuable message from Maastricht. A number of shops had these stickers on their windows. Should we maybe get some for WorkCycles too?