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Maastricht and back to couchsurfing

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I left Amsterdam for Maastricht the next day, where I had found a couchsurfer to host me. Maastricht is a smallish University town in the far south-east of The Netherlands sandwiched between Belgium and Germany. My host took me around the very compact old town centre, complete with old stone wall and gates. Picturesque place indeed.

one of the old city gates

city wall


Due to the location, close to Belgium, the culture is mixed and this is obvious with the Belgium waffle stands and beer bars. Just what I’d been waiting for. We stopped for one of each on our way around town, then went back to his place to enjoy some more beers.

Despite only staying one night in Maastricht, it’s a perfect example of why couchsurfing is great. My host was really eager to show me around, so I went around town with someone who lives there and knows where to go, learned plenty about what I saw and just the local culture in general. For instance, I already knew about the delicious (and healthy) Belgian waffles but I’d never even heard of the also delicious Dutch stroopwafels my host told me about…


Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

houses across the canal

So after my week of fun in the UK, I flew to Amsterdam to start my ten days of European fun. I picked Amsterdam for a couple reasons. 1, Cheap flights there. 2, The Netherlands is the last remaining country in traditional Western Europe that I haven’t visited. My attempt to couchsurf all the way through Europe immediately failed as I was unable to get a host in Amsterdam so I ended up in a hostel. Stayed for a couple nights, basically a day and a evening since I didn’t arrive until 6pm. I had a walk around the red light district to see what all the hype was about, very orderly, pretty much how I expected it with the main drag right on a canal. It is annoying to keep being asked if I wanted any ‘crack’ though as I walked through with the rest of the throngs of tourists.

The next morning I headed off and walked around the city centre, trying to avoid being hit by a bike, car, tram, bus or falling into a canal. This was somewhat difficult as this is first country I’ve been in that drives on the right side of the road since October and this city in particular has vehicles coming from all directions constantly.

central shopping street


Walked by the central park, the central square, Anne Franks house, across various canals and paused for a lunch of raw herring with pickles and a side of the local ‘frites’. Contrary to what you may be thinking, it was delicious, and I’m calling it Dutch sushi.

raw herring

After that I stopped at one of the cities many ‘Koffee shops’, which you may be surprised to hear, people do actually drink plenty of coffee in them. I followed suit, with a brownie of course. Later on, I sat around in another coffee shop near my hostel, soaked up the atmosphere and this is one of the best places for people watching I’ve been.

inside a coffee shop

Sitting there watching the guy measure out and sell the various kinds of weed to the customers was all very civilized, strange because in any other country he would be a ‘terrible criminal drug dealer’. Here it’s just another business, and there’s loads of them around. Ironically to me, probably more than half the people I saw inside these places were tourists, not Dutch. Contrary to what you may think, most Dutch people are not constantly smoking weed. A basic pre-rolled joint costs around 7 euros here and all that money is going into the local economy and govt as a legally regulated industry instead of a few illicit drug dealers like everywhere else. It seems to me like the Dutch legal take on the matter might make more sense and waste a lot less money than the rest of the world, just a thought…