If you look at a map of the Netherlands, you will see that the country is shaped roughly (very roughly) like a parallelogram. But if you look at the lower right-hand corner of this parallelogram you will see an oddly-shaped appendage dangling like a swollen tail down into a bit of left-over landscape between Belgium and Germany.
This appendage is the landstreek of South Limburg. It is connected to the rest of the Netherlands by a narrow strip of land which at its narrowest point is less than five kilometers wide, just enough space for a river, a harbor (Holtum-Noord), a town, a motorway, a double-track railway, some fields and a patch of woods.
Down towards the bottom, the appendage widens out a bit so there is room for some hills (more hills than in all the rest of the Netherlands put together, in fact) and for the city of Maastricht. This is a pleasant old city of 120,000 people on the banks of the Maas River, better known in French and English as the Meuse.
Maastricht is a lively university city with a high percentage of foreign students. Because of its location, Maastricht is predestined to be a very international place, since it is only 26 km from the Belgian city of Liège and 30 km from the German city of Aachen, but over 70 km from Venlo, the closest city in the Netherlands that has over 100,000 inhabitants.
Today Maastricht is best known as the place where the Treaty of Maastricht was signed by representatives of twelve European countries in 1992, setting the ground rules for the creation of the European Union and the Euro as the common European currency.
People in Maastricht seem to be quite proud of this — even when the Euro is the throes of some sort of crisis, which it usually is. There is even a big new square in Maastricht called “Plein 1992” (Plein meaning ‘square’) in honor of the Treaty and the Euro.
My photos in this post are from 2012 and 2015. I revised the text in 2019.
See more posts on Maastricht, the southernmost city in the Netherlands.