Maastricht, The Netherlands
Posted on 8/16/03
Maastricht was exactly what I had hoped for. A small city with
a lot of character and gelato stands everywhere. Despite my nightmarish experience
with them in The Hague, I decided to book a bed at the Stay Okay in Maastricht
simply because it was the only Maastricht hostel that I could find on the
internet. The staff in Maastricht were infinitely better trained and helpful.
The only thing the two hostels had in common was that they both charged way
too much for food and drinks. While this was easily side-stepped in The Hague
by walking out the front door and sauntering 10 minutes to the city center,
Maastricht was another story. The Stay Okay in Maastricht was located outside
of town and was totally isolated. To make matters worse, I discovered quite
unpleasantly that the buses stopped their service out to the hostel at 6:30PM.
After that, you either had to take a cab or a night bus that dropped you off
about a 20 minute walk away from the hostel, down a busy country road with
no pedestrian walkways.
I learned on my first night that being forced to retreat to
the hostel at an uncivilized hour didn’t matter much in the way of missing
out on the Maastricht nightlife. There wasn’t any. When I sat down at
a crowded sidewalk restaurant for dinner, Maastricht’s city center was
packed with locals and tourists shopping, eating and drinking. By the time
I finished dinner and looked up from my book, I was alone. The city center
had been totally vacated and only a scant few stragglers and teenagers were
hanging around with me. All the shops had closed up and while the bars remained
open, they seemed to be mostly empty.
I didn’t stick around to find out if the nightlife jump-started
later on. I had work to do back at the hostel. I found my way to a bus stop
and made the unhappy discovery about the early termination of my bus route.
Suddenly I remembered why I avoided small towns. After much back and forth
between my map and the night bus routes - many of which required that you
call them to get them to show up – I managed to find a “night
bus” (it was only 7:30) that got me within walking distance of the hostel.
The big perk that was not listed on the hostel web site was
that it was connected to a huge sports facility and as hostel residents, we
had free access to all of the facility’s offerings which happened to
include two outdoor pools and three more inside. As I thoroughly learned in
Prague, nothing beats a heat wave like two hours in a unheated pool. I earmarked
the afternoon of my second day for the pool.
Other than wandering around the city a bit and catching up on
email, I spent the vast majority of my time in Maastricht in front of my laptop
writing like a madman, with my headphones on and the volume jacked up to ‘11’
as the hostel was swarming with 341 screaming, spastic Dutch kids on a summer
August’s glut of tourists in Europe was causing me endless
problems on the accommodations front. I was able to eek out a solution in
Amsterdam on Sanne’s floor, but I had absolutely no friends with floors
in cities like Antwerp, Edinburgh and Glasgow which were coming up fast on
my itinerary. I solved the Antwerp problem by totally skipping it and going
to Luxembourg instead, but the others were still sitting there with big red
‘X’s next to them on my accommodations schedule. It went against
every fiber in my being, but I decided to invoke the good ol’ show-up-and-wing
it approach which was what I always used to do before there was an internet.
I figured the worst that could happen would be that I would have to get back
on the train, buy a couchette and go somewhere that would allow me at least
seven hours of sleep or the even worse option, paying an assload for a hotel
room. Actually, both of these possibilities terrified the living doo doo out
of me. How in the Hell, Norway did I ever handle this apprehension before
I could just point-and-click and have a hostel reservation in 30 seconds?
Well, it was time to let go of my feelings and use the Force. Obi-Wan if you’re
out there, I could use some guidance. Thanks in advance dude.