So we went walking in the rain….
It poured and poured in the days leading up to November 11th, when we planned to go and look at Maastricht’s industrial sites. Should we cancel the walk? Postpone it? Nah, this is The Netherlands in fall, we’re not made of sugar as the Dutch say and it is also a very Dutch thing to not stay inside from October to May. Besides, it will rain in any month of the year.
So Saturday afternoon came, the rain reduced to a very fine drizzle, weak patches of blue sky showing in the gray clouds. And a fine group of intrepid internationals came and walked for almost two hours, even if they shivered a bit.
We started by looking around one of Maastricht’s quaint old quarters, now romantic and peaceful; the Jekerkwartier, named after the little river that used to run with three separate branches through this part of town. Also because of this river there used to be lots of industrial activity here: the water power drove mills, which powered mill stones, and saws and presses of all kinds. The river was also used in the process of producing wool and leather. So it used to be very noisy here, and very smelly…We left the lovely winding streets to walk to the northern part of the old town, bypassing the Vrijthof with it’s booming noise of 11-11. It is a recent thing, this gathering of mostly people from villages and towns outside Maastricht, to celebrate the start of the Carnaval season. Most of the ‘Mestreechtenere’ only get seriously into the Carnaval mood after the city prince has been announced, six weeks before he officially takes over power for the three Carnaval days.
Our walking party continued with an exploration of the residential area between Boschstreet and the river Maas. We reached the Bassin, a harbour dug in the 19th century for the new factories there. By women. By hand. The tour was concluded by looking at the new life for the derelict factories; student housing, a filmhouse, exhibition space and a pop stage. After which everyone went looking for a hot drink. Yes, it was cold, but it didn’t rain!
Lucy Willems

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