A Trip to Limburg

Hoeve de Schoor in Baexem, Netherlands

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.

pascal-pia-limburg

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!

limburg racists

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.

maastricht

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?

segways in maastricht

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?

maastricht don't think just buy

15 Responses to “A Trip to Limburg”

  1. Mike Says:

    Congrats on the new baby, Henry.
    Do you notice the “fuckface” problem a lot in Amsterdam? I’m moving with my wife in October and though there are stupid people everywhere I don’t want her to deal with more of it than usual. When we visited Amsterdam last year we had no problem. I imagine Amsterdam is much more “cosmopolitan” than Maastricht and with enough of an Asian population that people are used to the diversity in Amsterdam much more so than other parts of the country. Would you agree with that?

  2. henry Says:

    Thanks Mike. No, I’ve heard the Fuckface racist thing could be a problem here a generation ago but Kyoko says it’s not currently an issue at all. She does periodically get people greeting her with “ni hao” (hello in one of the chinese languages) or “konichiwa” but it’s with a smile. They mean well even if it seems a little insensitive or arrogant. My impression is that there’s far less racism here than in the US or UK. It’s basically a nonissue in Amsterdam.

    Now somebody will inevitably mention Geert Wilders and co and their bias against of Muslims and Moraccans and so on… but that’s a more complicated story than I can describe here.

  3. Nicolas Says:

    re: slogan, I thouk it would be even better to take the extra logical step and just put a “Substitute purchases for thought!”. You can probably phase this better than me… even just this storefront is pretty offensive.

    Now, Segways. They’re aggressively dorky (and not in a good way like a recumbent bike)… but in my experience as a Parisian, packs of tourists on Segways are not quite as annoying as Fat Tire Bike Tours. I may look down on them, but they don’t make everybody’s life hell on the bike path like those oblivious drones on their ugly-ass, good-for-nothing cruisers.

    (…says the guy who gets a MacBike every time he comes to Amsterdam :/ )

  4. Dave Says:

    Heh, Don’t think, just buy. They’ve copied the great American slogan that we all learn from birth! 😀

    Interesting that the different provinces of the Netherlands could be so different, being such a small country.

    I agree, segways are pretty much one of the worst things to happen in the last 15 years. I think you inevitably look dorky on them, because even the most lazy of us recognize that you have to be extremely lazy to ride a contraption like that (with the exception of someone with a legitimate disability, which is the vast minority of people you see on them).

  5. Mike Says:

    Thanks for the response, Henry. And re-reading it seems it happened in a village in Limburg, not actually in Maastricht, which makes more sense. I lived in Amsterdam before but I was single then without a Chinese-American wife so I couldn’t say how people were towards someone who is obviously on sight non-ethnic Dutch. Hopefully PVV ends up fading like LPF (though with Pim’s murder would they still be around?). They have their differences, but they are/were both led by one controversial person who garnered headlines but lacked much else.
    But I’m glad otherwise it’s a nonissue in Amsterdam

  6. henry Says:

    Dave.
    Despite being a very small country the regional differences are considerable. There are two languages spoken (Dutch and Fries) and each area has it’s own dialect. To the eyes of many Dutch “above the rivers” the provinces ‘below the rivers” (North Brabant, Limbug and Zeeland) have about as much to do with Flemish Belgium as with the Netherlands that they’re politically a part of. I’m sure some Dutch will correct me on this one.

    In any case for travel and business I’ve spent plenty of time in various corners of the NL and I find the differences between, for example, Groningen and Brabant to be as great than many comparable north south comparisons in the US.

    Sagways: pretty much a solution to a problem few people had.

  7. Frits B Says:

    Re Fuckface, one of the inevitable soccer programs today showed a clip of Willem van Hanegem in his active days as a player in the 1970s making the same gesture to a Korean player of PSV (who now is the South-Koreans’ national coach). Given that our outer provinces reputedly are several decades late as compared to Amsterdam (which is why they hate Amsterdammers) I think you just hit upon an example of this theory.
    Oh, and the referee let it pass. No reason to make a fuss over it. Or in other words, nobody cared at the time.

  8. John . Dublin Ireland Says:

    The Dutch version of Redneck or Chave Fuckface,they were probably half Boozed up on Lager and were trying to Work it off on their Bike Trains. He probably thought he was a great Chap but actually he just made himself look stupid.

    I got the same impression as you it is more like Flanders than the Netherlands ,and that looks like a Catholic Church in your Picture, It is like in Belgium.

    That sign in the Window is Insulting,dont think just buy,meaning do not block up my Window by staring at it buy something or Piss off. I would ignore such Shops on a point of Honour and just past them by.

    I do not like those Segways I think there dangerous to other users of the Roads or Footpaths. They are alright in a Leisure Complex or Holiday Centre but thats all.

  9. henry Says:

    Frits,
    Times do change, albeit very slowly sometimes and then sometimes in the wrong direction. I might be wrong but I can’t imagine that bigotry I grew up around in New York is still the same, or at least not publicly.

    Sports tend to bring out particularly strange examples, perhaps because it’s pure competition; competition between individuals, teams, clubs, cities, nations or whatever one wishes to infer. Though the competitors are perhaps showing some of their true inner ugliness many of the stupid and insulting things that get said and done in the heat of the moment on the court/field/track/road just get shrugged off afterwards… in men’s sports at least. My experience coaching female cyclists years ago was that the women took the competition very personally and negatively, gradually developing hatred for their competitors. It wasn’t pretty.

    John, Just for the record I think Segways are dorkier than glasses with band-aids around the nose bridge and the promise that they’d take over the world totally absurd and wrongheaded. But for a very few niche applications it’s a great invention: airport security and people who can stand but have difficulty walking are two examples. I don’t think they present any great danger to other road and footpath users though they might sometimes be annoying. I think cyclists can choose more effective targets but that won’t stop me from always making fun of Segway riders.

  10. Peter Says:

    talking about making fun of segways…

    http://www.encyclopediaofstupid.com/stupid/index.php/Segway

    🙂

  11. ten Says:

    alfie kohn wrote a fascinating book about competition and the harm it does us in all facets of life, called “No Contest – How we lose in our race to win”. He devotes a chapter to sports, and basically says that competitive sports cause people to see their competitors as enemies to be vanquished rather than as fellow humans who deserve our empathy. He suggests that we separate competitive sports from exercise and concentrate on enjoying the latter. I guess in cycling terms, this would mean going out for a nice bike ride (perhaps in a large group) without worrying or caring about who comes first.

  12. henry Says:

    Ten, That’s interesting but I don’t really see it’s relevance to this post.

    In any case I’ve never read that book but I’m highly inclined to disagree with anybody who claims that competition in many contexts isn’t natural and often healthy. Of course it’s possible to be overly competitive, competitive in inappropriate situations, or to simply deal with competition badly but this is all very different from claiming that competition is essentially evil.

    I competed in cycling events for 15 years and have countless great memories, many long time friends and no enemies. I still remember vividly the butterflies before each race, the small and biggish victories and the sobering disappointments. I became tougher and more resilient as a result, but also came to a far deeper understanding of my strengths an weaknesses. There are few things more sobering than getting your ass kicked fair and square, nor more satisfying than training, learning, digging deeply and then gaining the advantage a year or two later.

  13. ten Says:

    Henry,

    you mentioned competition turning ugly is why I mentioned it. And I’m undecided myself – for sure competition can add spice and make things fun – kicking a ball around is a lot more fun against another team, but taken to extremes things can get pretty ugly – the recent world cup final could be an example of this ;-). Either way, Kohn makes a pretty strong argument that reducing competition in most areas of life would be a good thing, but apologies if I’m way off topic here.

    ten

  14. Judith van der Roos Says:

    Not sure if I should respond in Dutch or English here, but as the post is in English I will go with the flow.

    I hope you liked our city, Maastricht is in fact the oldest city in the Netherlands dating from Roman times. One side of our house is made up of part of the old Roman city wall so if you thought buildings from 1000 were old then you should have dropped by our house because we can knock another 1000 years off it ! I was amused by your comments about the lack of bike riding here because it is certainly not an accurate reflection of the city. We make a great deal of use of bikes in the city with a total of six bikes in my family between my wife and our four children, including our Baksfiets. I have had two youngsters and a guide dog in the Baksfiets cargo hold, a baby in a carrier on the back and a toddler on the handle bar seat.

    I was also pleased to see you did not like the Segways, I hate them. I am deaf and partly sighted, being blind in my lower right quadrant with some dead spots in my normal field of vision. Some of the tourists, the young men mostly, who use the the Segways come up so fast and often come onto the pavement (sidewalk). The other day a Segway rider came along side slowly and called to my guide dog Sissi distracting her at the moment I was passing some low, crotch high, metal bollards. I walked right into them as a result, it was one heck of a blow. In the end I had to text home for help being unable to walk. Its is three weeks since then and the bruises to the tops of my thighs and vulva are fading but my dislike of Segways and their riders has grown.

    There used to be trams in Maastricht, my great grand mother recalls them during the war years. We are about to get a light rail /tram line back, I hope it is a success because anything that can reduce car traffic has to be good. I would also like to see the city ban those idiot SUVs, especially from the old part of the city where we live, the roads and lanes ar just too small for such stupid things.

    As to Geert Wilders I suggest that he is not really the problem, merely a product of the problem. I have no liking for the man being a feminist and a lesbian married to another woman but I can see why people are supporting him, it is a reaction to the failed policies of years of apologist social experimenters who allowed uncontrolled immigration regardless of the country’s need for low skilled labor or it’s ability to absorb it. We welcomed immigrants from largely muslim countries, housed them at cut rates, provided excellent and mostly free health care, free education for their children and subsidised university education. In return all we asked was they respect our way of life. Sadly many, more than a simple minority, failed to respect that wish. They consistently demonise ANYONE who speaks out about the levels of domestic abuse in their very closed communities, attack us when we try to prevent female genital mutilation and forced marriages (read: sexual slavery).

    Of all the countries in the world I do not think any has such a long history of ethnic, belief or cultural tolerance. However it is islam’s own inherent racism, intolerence and bigotry may well be the straw that brakes the camel’s back.

    Lovely site, it has been a pleasure to read, thank you. Kindest regards, Judith

  15. Jan Says:

    Yes, we, southerners, are emotionally coupled to the belgians. Frysian people may be friendly, but they seem to come from another, friendly, planet. There’s no real “click”. And the funny thing is: Brabanders and Amsterdammers seem to have a lot in common. Put a few brabanders and a few amsterdammers in the same room and within few minutes they become friends. Probably because brabanders tend to be witty and open minded, just like most amsterdammers. We (the former) are more introvert whereas the latter are mainly extrovert. That’s a good start.

    But then we have the limburgers. They tend to be arrogant and almost universally feel (and display to be) superior in all respects. So limburgers among each other (they like to flock together) pretend to be a group. But if you are not germanic, you have a small chance they will accept you. For some reason, the limurger wants to be german.

    This may be explained by the fact that Limburg was part of the holy roman empire (AKA germany a long time ago). But they should have started to come to their senses. So, next time come to Midden Brabant. Biking is nice here! http://www.verhoeven272.nl/fietsen/routes.html

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