The DaVinci left Roermond around 3:00 am this morning headed for Maastricht. We were up about 7:30 and along for breakfast then sat in the lounge and watched the dykes and farmhouses pass by and the occasional gravel and sand operation, loading barges for construction projects throughout the Netherlands.
We arrived in Maastricht as lunch was being served. Afterwards we met a local guide who took us round the older part of the city. Maastricht was an insignificant Dutch town until 1992 when a treaty was signed proposing a common currency for Europe. Overnight it became a household word as the treaty was ratified or rejected by various common market countries. While most did vote to accept it, some, notably Britain and Denmark did not, a choice they may be glad of at present given the Euro's problems in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and particularly Cyprus.
It is an interesting city with a long history going back to the Romans, some their ruins are still visible, and parts of the city wall and Churches date back to medieval times. The guide we had was a retired military officer with a sly sense of humour and theatrical mannerisms. He led us along with good humour and handled one chronic laggard with a quiet shepherding so subtle I am sure she did not even realize he had singled her out in a way that ensured she led rather than followed.
As well as seeing the older sections of the town and several monuments, we were introduced to the university. This institution was founded as a way of bringing employment back to Maastricht after it was devastated by the decline of coal mining then the closure of auto assembly plants. The university does not have a campus, but is distributed over many small buildings taken over and renovated for study. The guide credited Canada for the idea of problem solving teaching which is used by all the faculties, with, it seems considerable success. What started out as a small learning school now has 60,000 students, most from outside the country. The Dutch have a very high regard for Canada after our participation in liberating them from the Nazis during World War II, and the guide praised that action, but lamented the lack of understanding amongst younger people, though we believe it is taught as part of the mandatory curriculum in schools.
After the tour we spent some time in a Church which has been converted to a bookstore. The guide indicated many Churches have been turned into apartments, theatres, restaurants and put to other secular uses. It was somewhat depressing to see a building constructed to the glory of God being used as a retail outlet, and the apse for the altar a cafe. It did not stop us having coffee and hot chocolate there before browsing some stores in the shopping area then taking photos of the river on our way back to the ship.
We sorted out our photos, had showers and went for dinner. After dinner they played a DVD of an Andre Rieu concert. Maastricht is his home town and every year he holds a concert in the square. Last year was the 25th anniversary of doing that and the DVD was of that concert. Apart from being enjoyable music, it was interesting from other aspects. The introduction was a helicopter view over the city zeroing in on the square, but started over the River Maas, with the DaVinci (our ship) docked there. It happened to be there when the shot was made. It was also fascinating to see the square where we had stood just a few hour previous, now crowded with people, but with the surrounding buildings clearly visible and recognizable. The DVD was quite long and the audience melted away as it progressed. Some are still recovering from jet lag from their flight on Sunday and Monday. We are fortunate having come two weeks ago and become acclimatized before embarking on the cruise.
Tomorrow we are off to Ghent on the ship then by bus to Brussels, rejoining the DaVinci somewhere near Antwerp which we will reach by dinnertime.