Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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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 soccer retreat.

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.

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