More Maastricht

Trip Start Aug 16, 2007
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Trip End Dec 13, 2007


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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

We visited the Natural History Museum in Maastricht August 26th.  The exhibits were all in Dutch but we did have a separate handout in English that explained most things...very interesting place for those that can appreciate that sort of thing.

On August 29th, Emily and I went on a "Fortification Tour" of Maastricht.  I had gotten a map from the VVV Tourist Info Center one of the first days here and we finally got a chance to do the walk.  The tour started at Hell's Gate (where we had taken a group walk a few days earlier) and went on from there.  At Hell's Gate there was a small museum that explained Maastricht's fortification history...an older Dutch man that was working there was kind enough to give us an explanation in English. 
A little of what he told us:
     Maastricht was founded around 50 BC, when the Romans set up camp on the bank of the Maas. They colonized the area around the crossing of the Maas, refered to as 'Mosae Trajectum ' and established a powerful council. The bridge of Maastricht (nowadays St. Servaas Bridge) formed a vital link in the Roman communication route from Gaul (France) to Germany built under Emperor Augustus (27 BC-14 AD).  Therefore, two camps on each side of the Maas guarded it. The main camp was situated in the area of the city centre. The city center can be seen in the "first week" picture album...look for the statue with a torch. The smaller camp on the other side of the Maas developed into the area called Wyck. I have went walking in this district a few times but have yet to really discover it. With the rise of Christianity in the 4th century, Maastricht became a cathedral city. The first bishop St. Servaas also founded the first church, on the site where the Onze Lieve Vrouwe-church (Church of Our Lady) stands today. You can still find his name within the city: St. Servaas Bridge, St. Servaas Basilica, etc.
     This is when the tour got really interesting...
the Siege of Maastricht (June, 1673) was one of the key elements in King Louis XIV's (aka the Sun King) plans to attack the Netherlands....but there was one problem for the French: Louis XIV had to conquer Maastricht and Maastricht was one of the strongest fortified cities of Europe. It was during this siege that one of history's most famous military engineers, Vauban, synthesized the methods of attacking strong places in order to break down the fortifications surrounding Maastricht. His introduction of a systematic approach by parallels resulted in a rapid breaching of the city's fortifications. (This technique has remained until the 20th century the standard method of attacking a fortress.) After the breaching of the fortifications occurred, Louis XIV's troops started to surround the city of Maastricht. The statue found within the fortification photos portrays the glorious musketeer Charles de Batz-Castelmore, better known as d'Artagnan (Yes, the one from The Three Musketeers), who was killed during the siege by the armies of the French King Louis XIV while protecting the son of the King of England.  
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