I recently read The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, and one of the many ideas it left me with was that travel almost forces us to be interested in a wide variety of things simply because they are all there and we’re not sure if we’ll ever be back again. So we go from medieval churches to modern art museums to war landmarks in a single day without really thinking about what it is we have a genuine interest in. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong withs topping by at landmarks if you are in the area and have time, but we should be guided on our journeys by something more personal than an obligation to see what everyone else thinks is important and geographical proximity.
That being said, my adventures this semester have been influenced a great deal by my love of books, and the driving force behind my outing to Maastricht this past Saturday was no different. I’ve had the idea for awhile that I wanted to go to The Netherlands, but wasn’t quite sure where. Amsterdam is a bit far for a day trip, so I did some research and, with a bit of luck, found my destination: a bookstore in an old cathedral. How awesome is that? Bonus points for the trip came when I learned that Maastricht is allegedly the oldest town in The Netherlands (sharing the claim with one other town) and only about three and a half hours from Luxembourg City.
Armed with a book for the train rides and my camera, I set out around 7:00 on Saturday morning and arrived just before 11 to find a lovely little town. A market greeted me as I walked out of the train station and towards the river on my way to the bookshop. Maastricht has a rather large shopping district and was preparing for the opening of the Christmas market this Friday, so there were plenty of people milling about. I found a few other churches (including Saint Severus) before locating the one I had come for, but it was definitely worth the trip.
Selexyz is a chain bookstore, from what I can tell, so it wasn’t quite as snuggly as it might have been had a used or independent bookstore been housed inside, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Bookshelves and stairs had been erected in the middle of the building, while cozy couches and more shelves filled with books in all different languages line the alcoves. The English Department at LCD has a book club meeting this Friday, and I had decided to buy the book—The Absolutist by John Boyne—at the store. I found it rather quickly and then spent some more time just milling about, sniffing books and exploring the store.
After purchasing my book and heading back outside, I continued to pop in and out of stores, just exploring the city. There are two nice plazas in Maastricht, one of which was pretty much closed in preparation for the Christmas Market, but I found both plazas, some churches, the government buildings, and an abundance of nice little shops as I wandered about, exploring one of the oldest towns in The Netherlands.
I didn’t really learn much about Dutch culture or traditions during my visit, but there’s only so much you can do or learn when you visit a place for an afternoon, and I was pretty satisfied with my (long) trip to the bookstore. There was no need to visit Maastricht, but I wanted to because I had an interest in things that were there, and that in itself made the trip worth it.