Monday, February 12, 2018

Cycling Europe 2017 Days 14 & 15: Dusseldorf To Maastricht - Exploring Maastricht

                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2017 Days 14 & 15: Dusseldorf To Maastricht - Exploring Maastricht
United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands & Germany : Day 14 & 15 - Sunday & Monday,  10th & 11th September - Dusseldorf to Maastricht
This is part of cycling tour of Western Europe, covering from Düsseldorf (Germany) to Maastricht (Netherlands):
Cycling Distance - 113.17 km.     Level: Hard.
Cycling Time : 8:30am to 8:00pm
Time Taken : 11 hrs. 30 mins. (inclusive of brunch, rest, re-orientation, visiting the  places of interest, museum, and many photo opps).

This is page 11 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D12&13  Dusseldorf    |    Go to Other Days     |      Go to D16-18 Brussels >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
        On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route from Düsseldorf to Maastricht was fairly flat, but strong headwinds made cycling difficult.
    For planning cycling routes in Europe, Cycle Travel which has a very user-friendly cycle travel trip planner, routes using this planner can be saved and also converted to GPX format for use in GPS devices.  

3. Weather
    AWaldfeucht (about mid-way through our cycle journey). the day weather was a cold in the early morning at 14°C with a peak of 25°in the afternoon. Wind speed averaging 19 kph with almost continuous gusts up to 32 kph.
   At Maastricht the following day; morning temperatures averaged between 16°C to 25°C.
   It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather and Weather Spark.

4. Places of Interest
Enroute from Düsseldorf to Maastricht:
   - Josef-Kardinal-Frings-Brücke (Josef Cardinal Frings Bridge) (GPS: 51.19872, 6.73125) at Düsseldorf.
   - Pilgrimage parade to the Friedenskreuz Wassenberg Shrine (GPS: 51.10965, 6.18267) at Wassenberg.
   - Flyover viewpoint (GPS: 51.02778, 5.89662) at Selfkant, a last view of Germany before crossing over to the Netherlands.
   - St. Petruskerk (St. Peter's Church) (GPS: 50.99882, 5.86795) at Sittard.
   - Koepelkerk (Sacred Heart of Jesus Church) (GPS: 50.84727, 5.70739at Maastricht.
   - Maastricht Old Train Station (GPS: 50.84972, 5.70534).
   - Sint Servaasbrug (St. Servatius Bridge) (GPS: 50.84942, 5.69625).
   - Stadhuis van Maastricht (Maastricht Town Hall) (GPS: 50.85136, 5.69176).
   - Sint-Matthiaskerk (Saint Matthias Church) (GPS: 50.85273, 5.6908).
   - Basiliek van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw (Basilica of Our Lady, Maastricht) (GPS: 50.84737, 5.69363).
   - Helpoort (Hell's Gate) (GPS:50.84547, 5.69444 ).
   - Oude Minderbroedersklooster (First Franciscan Convent) (GPS: 50.84596, 5.69265).
   - Sint Martinuskerk (Saint Martin's Church, Maastricht) (GPS: 50.85067, 5.69826).

5. Food
10th September:
   - Breakfast: Take-away sandwiches & pastries.
   - Lunch: Brunch set at Bäckerei Pesch (GPS: 51.1973, 6.46038) in Mönchengladbach.
   - Tea: Take-away sandwiches & pastries at picnic spot (GPS: 51.09449, 6.03233) near Waldfeucht.
   - Dinner: Pizza at Stayokay Maastricht cafeteria.
11th September in Maastricht:
   - Breakfast: Take-away sandwiches and pastries.
   - Lunch: Chinese dishes at Yong Kee Cantonese Restaurant (GPS: 50.85392, 5.68988).
   - Snack: Ice cream at Pinky Vrijthof (GPS: 50.84968, 5.68931).
   - Dinner: Emergency Rations take-away which we bought at start of our tour.

6. Accommodations
    We stayed two nights at the Stayokay Maastricht (GPS: 50.84353, 5.69771) which we had pre-booked online a 5-pax family room with ensuite bath & toilet at €274 total for two nights. 
    Address: Maasboulevard 101, 6211 JW Maastricht, Netherlands
    Phone : +31-43750 1790

7. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We got pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three under the All-in-One #15 deal for only £15/= from one of their outlets in Bristol (GPS: 51.45735, -2.59074). This plan lasts for 30 days and allows for 5GB Data, 3,000 minutes of call time & 3,000 text messages within the system. More importantly it has their "Feel At Home" which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countires (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

8. Communicating with Locals
    In the Netherlands, almost all the locals can speak English.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

9. Navigation
    As Bill had pre-planned the route and had loaded the GPX route file onto his Garmin GPS unit. I was the assistant navigator and had loaded the route maps onto my unit too.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.


The previous two days we had taken a train from Arnhem to Düsseldorf and had enjoyed a whole day of exploring Düsseldorf.
This today, we continue our cycling to head back to the Netherlands. At 113 km. it will be one of our longest leg. With the long distance and anticipating strong headwinds, keeping fingers crossed that we can cope.


 Cycling route: Düsseldorf>Neuss>Mönchengladbach>Wegberg>Wassenberg>Waldfeucht>Selfkant>Sittard>Beek>Maastricht.
The route heads south-westerly from Düsseldorf towards Maastricht passing by farmlands and several towns. It crosses national borders three times: from Waldfeucht (GermanytMaria Hoop (Netherlands), from Koningsboscht (Netherlandsto Havert (Germany) and finally from Selfkant (Germany) to Sittard (Netherlands). The route was generally flat, but cycling was made difficult by strong headwinds especially at the open farmlands.

Hey! Isn't that an orange tree?
8:30am - We left Dusseldorf via the Josef-Kardinal-Frings-Brücke (Josef Cardinal Frings Bridge), it was quite and easy ride until we passed by Neuss. After that it was wide open farmlands; as we headed south-westerly, we started facing stronger headwinds which first lightly brushed our faces and later more forcefully blew through our jackets.

It was a Sunday, and from our previous experience we knew that it would be difficult to find food along the way. Two and a half hours later we saw this cafe, the Bäckerei Pesch, at the road side just out of Mönchengladbach. We already had pre-packed sandwiches before we left our hotel and it was a bit early for lunch, but not wanting risk not finding any food further on we stopped for brunch.
AND we went for their largest breakfast set (at €7-95) that included salami and ham cuts, slices of cheese, generous helpings of scrambled eggs and lots of buns. We were not greedy but were more worried about being able to find food later on. Though we could have finished the lot, we left some buns to take away for eats later on.

Out in the open farmlands, the headwinds lashed out onto us. It was not that strong, but it hit us continuously; and we soon adopted crouching positions, draft cycling and maintaining our momentum (with minimum stops) to ease off the strain on our leg muscles.

Somewhere before Wassenberg we had to slow down, there were a group of people taking a morning walk, there were so many of them that to took out not only the width of the pedestrian walkway but also the width of the bike lanes. But the odd thing was - they were carrying crosses!

Hah! They were not out for an exercise but were in fact pious people on a pilgrimage, the penitential pilgrimage for the peace in the Passion Night. Their destination the Friedenskreuz Wassenberg shrine was just ahead. This was not just a local parish event, but an annual pilgrimage - their destination can be found marked on Google Maps!
And this Passion Night pilgrimage has been done regularly since 1947, when 105 people took part in the first pilgrimage for peace.
This crucifix was carved by the then young architect and sculptor Paul Wollenwerber from wood obtained from a 400-year-old mill. On September 13, 1953 the Domkapitular Rupertzhoven from Dalheim blessed and inaugurated the crucifix.
I went to the wayward cross, that stood out conspicuously a bright orangish-brown amidst the green of the surrounding farmland, to say a prayer to thank God for having kept us safe on our tour.

It wasn't farmland all the way, at some short sections we rode through nice green woods; but here too the wind did not abate and blew in gently through the trees.

3:50pm - At a shady junction with a picnic table, we stopped for a short rest and a quick bite of our left-over brunch. The girls took advantage to do some Pilates to stretch back their muscles. We had been riding for more than seven hours covering just slightly more than half our journey... an yet was still in Germany. Unbeknownst to us, from our picnic point the border was just 200 meters to the north!

Cycling through the many small towns in Germany, we noticed pretty and handsome photos were put up along the streets, these were of people presenting their best front as they were candidates for some regional elections.
Ahead, at Selfkant we quietly crossed over to Sittard in the Netherlands.

In fact we were to criss-cross between Germany and the Netherlands several times as at this region a small part of Germany sticks north-westerly outwards. Our last view of Germany was an appropriate one - near Selfkant, from a bridge over a highway was a very good panoramic view of wheat green fields spreading out to the horizon under dark moody skies.
Two kilometers ahead, at Selfkant we said our goodbyes to Germany and crossed over to Sittard in the Netherlands.

5:00: In Sittard there was this grand looking church, the St. Petruskerk (St. Peter's Church). We would have loved to visit but it was getting late and we still had one-third of our journey ahead.

The church was quite large, and the previous photo did not show this sharp steeple which was very similar to the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn in Prague which was the inspiration for Disney Castle.

Other than the brunch and picnic breaks, every ten or so kilometers we had short rest breaks... so short that they lasted only two minutes and it was time to up and go! At one of these rest stops, I took a photo of Goofy, it has always loved the green fields that contrasted well with its copper color.

7:00pm -  As we entered Maastricht, me and the girls took this memorable photo of us entering the town. Bill and Meng had pushed ahead to go secure our hostel bookings.

In the town we took a wrong turn into Meerssenersweg Road. It was a "good" mistake as we got to see the unique Koepelkerk (Sacred Heart of Jesus Church) church which had a round dome instead of steeples. The church's was controversial design was initially not well received in the traditionally established Maastricht.
(click here for an interactive street view of the church)

We also passed by the Maastricht Old Train Station which was housed in unique dark brown brick building with a gabled roof tower. It really was an old station having been in operationg since 1853, the current brick building was built in 1913. Okay.... okay... my photo was a poor one in the evening light, click here for a better interactive street view which shows the ? architecture of the building.

By the time we arrived at the Stayokay Maastricht hostel it was past eight in the evening. Hungry we went straight for a pizza dinner at their cafeteria without even taking our baths....
No wonder some of the waiters were wrinkling their noses

The following morning we were up early, and decided to leave our bikes at the hotel and take a walking tour of Maastricht, which would be interesting as it's the second oldest city in the Netherlands after Nijmegen. In modern days it is also known as the birthplace of the Euro.
We took a walk through the Stadspark (City Park), it's a lovely park with tall shady trees. No cycling is allowed here so it was a good thing we did not bring our bikes.

A quick stop for some photos at the Sint Servaasbrug (St. Servatius Bridge), boats were moored at the riverside of the Meuse River, which is known in Dutch as the Maas, hence the name of the town. It's going to be a lovely day for a walk, bright sunshine but with overcast skies so that it is not too hot.

From the bridge is an exceptional view of the old houses lining the sides of the river, tall, slender and of differing colors they could just make a postcard picture. The Romans built a bridge at the town in 1 A.D. but it's unclear whether they founded the town as even before that the Celts lived here around 500 BC.
The town was once renown for it's pottery but this declined during the latter half of the 20th Century, and the city shifted to a service economy.

From the bridge can also be seen the Sint Martinuskerk (Saint Martin's Church) which lies on the other side of the river, with it's tall distinct steeple it's one of the most noticeable building in town. The current church of red brick was built around 1857-58 according to a design by the architect Pierre Cuypers. But the church has been around since the Middle Ages. During the demolition of an earlier building, fragments of a Roman statue of Mercury was found, which could point to a very old sacred function of this place.

Happy girls at Helpoort (Powder Gate) refers to the last gate of the city's wall fortification. Back in the Middle Ages, the city was fortified by an enclosing tall stone wall with several gate entrances. On May 29, 1867, King William III of the Netherlands signed the decision to lift the fortification status of Maastricht and some other fortifications. In the years that followed, large parts of the medieval city walls and most exterior works were dismantled in by order of the Ministry of War , after which the grounds were transferred to the Registrar and Domain Service. The remaining city gates of Maastricht were all but one demolished between 1867 and 1874. The demolition of the city walls continued until the beginning of the 20th century.

We walked through the narrow streets of the old town and was pleasantly surprised to find them almost devoid of motorized traffic. Although the lane is paved with cobble stones, a center portion was paved with large flat slabs, allowing bicycles to smoothly navigate.

Happy girls at Pinky ice-cream parlor. I like travelling with them, they are always so cheerful and pose for photos so naturally.

As in any old town, we always love to visit the town square where it is usually a happening place. Maastritcht's Town Square (Het Vrijthof). Paved with cobblestones, this square has attracted people since Medieval times when pilgrims came to see the grave of Saint Servatius. These days, Vrijthof is known for its outdoor cafés and events. Along the streets branching out from the square are nice little fountains with statues reflecting the historical people of the city. It was a Monday when we visited and the square was relatively quite and there were only a couple of food trucks at the square. We also missed the regular Maastricht's Friday Market which is held here.
Facing the town square is the Stadhuis van Maastricht (Maastricht Town Hall), a stately building built in the 17th century by Pieter Post and considered one of the highlights of Dutch Baroque architecture.

The girls are at it again, emulating Usain Bolt’s signature move, the “Lighting Bolt”. 💖

We continued on our tour, stopping by at the small square in front of the Sint-Matthiaskerk (Saint Matthias Church). There's a nice little fountain in front of the church, but I am not sure whether that's the statue of Saint Matthias.

Come lunch time and we were craving for some Chinese food and found a good restaurant at Yong Kee Cantonese Restaurant. It served really good authentic Cantonese food ((廣東菜)) like roast duck, claypot tofu, stir-fried mixed vegetables, and .....

... and my favourite Khau Yoke (扣肉). The braised pork belly dish was very nicely done with the pork belly having a good layering of lean and fat meat. The skin was deep-fried and then braised until it was slurpy soft. Too bad they don't have mui choy over here.

More fun by the girls at maternal statue fountain.
After lunch we ventured around the Binnenstad Maastricht (old inner-city district), taking in the sights of the many old buildings and the quaint cobbled stone streets. Passed by the Basiliek van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw (Basilica of Our Lady, Maastricht) and Oude Minderbroedersklooster (First Franciscan Convent) for a quick looks.

In parts of the town, the ancient old building built from stone can be seen sitting comfortably next to sparkling new buildings. There's so many nice blend of the old and the new here.

On our way back we pass by the Helpoort (Hell's Gate)The gate is part of the first medieval city wall of Maastricht and is located in the Jekerkwartier. The gate dates from the second quarter of the 13th century and is therefore the oldest still existing city gate in the Netherlands.

Some relaxing time at the park calmly taking in the sight of ducks on the Jeker River. It's always good to have this non-cycling winding down time after long stretches of cycling and here at this slow-paced old city we did really wind down.

In the evening it was a simple dinner at our room - as we will not be having any more hard cycling ahead, we finished off the emergency rations that we had bought at the beginning of our tour. Tomorrow we will be heading for Brussels.

Goede nacht en veilige reis!
(that's "Good Night and Safe Journey" in Dutch)

(For more photos of the Day 14, Click Here)
(For more photos of the Day 15, Click Here)
This is page 11 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.Go to D12&13  Dusseldorf    |    Go to Other Days     |     Go to D16-18 Brussels > 

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