After renting a car in Rotterdam, on Sunday the 15th, we drove the 2 hours 15 minutes to Gronsveld, near Maastricht. Jim did a good job of driving and I was his navigator, with GPS in the car and written notes. This is the southern most part of the Netherlands and in their “hills.” Very beautiful country with farm land and the green of grass and woodlands. We are staying in a renovated 1700’s house overlooking a courtyard shared by 2 other houses and a stable. The owners, our hosts, Wiet and Carola are very accommodating and have made our stay very pleasant. There are only 2 problems: no freezer for ice (they are supplying it, but we feel bad bothering them and they don’t realize how much we like to use!) and the very steep (almost ladder) stairs between the living room and bedroom floor. Having to be very careful. It is a lovely house and otherwise very comfortable.
On Monday, we were able to observe Gronsveld’s every 4 year festival. It was quite a party. The local guys in their color guard uniforms with rifles and bayonets, marched all over town from bar to bar (and even to neighboring towns), drinking beer. Around 3 p.m., they all marched right by our house. They had a drum and bugle corps, horse mounted officers and even the local community band (which were quite good). All the residents gathered at the bar, just down from us and ate food and drank beer and wine. After the parade passed, we all followed them to the local church. They marched some more and there were ceremonies, but the crowd was so large that we couldn’t see anything. After we left, they had a shooting contest. There was a large wooden bird on a tall pole. A chosen few shot at it until one made the hit; he was then crowned “king” for the next 4 years. Then they partied until after midnight. Luckily, they didn’t keep us awake due to the thick old walls.
Other days, we have been taking it easy. Our host has teased us about just driving around and not parking and walking more. We have found grocery and liquor stores and seen some of the countryside. On Tuesday, we got caught up in traffic, construction work and one way and closed roads in Maastricht. It was very frustrating for all of us, but especially Jim, the driver. I finally figured out how to get the GPS to do a detour (she kept taking us in circles) and we made it out of there. Not a very good first impression of the city!
Yesterday we, by accident due to another detour route, found the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. It is the only one in this country and quite large and well done. Many USA and UK servicemen lost their lives in 1944 and 45 (WWII) in this area fighting the German army. A very moving memorial and we were glad we saw it.
As I said, previously, the countryside around here is beautiful. We are just a few miles from both Belgium and Germany and have made brief ventures into both. One day we drove to Liege, Belgium. Very crowded and difficult to find parking. We did find cheaper gas in Belgium: 1.19 euro for 1 liter vs. 1.48 euro in this area. Our lunch was more expensive, however. Overall we have found the Netherlands to be less expensive than Denmark.
As always in springtime, there are blossoms that set off my allergies. I have seen many of these trees loaded with flowers all over the Netherlands. Although beautiful, I think they are the culprits. (I found out later they are Chestnut trees, and yes a big cause of allergic reactions!)
Today, with help from Wiet, we finally made it to the old city of Maastricht. Some very old churches, the Basilica is dated in 1000 to 1100 AD. Very odd combination of a carnival with gaudy rides and food stands, right next door. Enjoyed our walk in this area.