Well! After 6 weeks without an internet connection in our house, we are now back up and running. Between unpacking, some visits to IKEA, and much bureaucratic mumbo jumbo with cars, id’s, gate passes, banking, etc, etc, we’ve still managed to do a bit of exploring of our surrounding area.
Sittard is a small Dutch city only about ten to fifteen minutes away. We’re slowly making our way around the square trying their numerous restaurants. (Can I just say how nice it is to have food choices again? Turkish food was lovely, of course, but, most of the time, the Turkish version of other cuisines was not so lovely.)
Aachen is the closest German city of any decent size. The drive takes about 40 minutes, but the charming city center is full of pretty shops and plenty of restaurants. The colorfully painted and ornate facades of the row houses above the store fronts allow you to imagine how the city might have looked with horses and carriages moving along those cobbled streets. The city center’s claim to fame is the Aachen Dom (or, cathedral). One of the oldest churches in Germany, the central portion of the cathedral was first commissioned by Charlemagne in 805 A.D. I have poked my head into a lot of cathedrals and churches over the last couple of years, but this one is most definitely something special. The mosaics that cover the ceilings glitter with gold tiles and give a warmth to the interior that many of the larger, “grander” cathedrals entirely lack. This place is art, and it is stunning.
We also spent a long weekend in Brussels, which deserves a post of its own.
Just this past weekend we visited Maastricht for the first time to check out a little food and music festival in the central square. It was essentially a “Taste of…” festival, where local restaurants set up booths and sample menus. These booths, however, were like mini restaurants themselves. You could even sit and have the food and drinks served to you. Unlike similar American equivalents, I didn’t get a sense that visitors attended with the goal of tasting as many bites as possible. Instead, it reminded me of cafe culture on a more compact scale. Groups parked themselves at a location with bottles of wine in buckets, ready to settle in. Maybe they’d move on, and maybe not. Each booth got more and more crowded as the evening wore on and as visitors packed themselves into the nooks and crannies looking for a place to pass some time. While the event itself was quite over-priced, it was nice to see the vibrancy of the Maastricht restaurant scene. I’m definitely looking forward to going back and checking some of those places out.
Don’t let this post fool you, though, with all of the pictures and the chatter about exploring new cities. Most of my outings for the last month and a half have taken place here:
Sadie and I go on a lot of walks. She meets a lot of new dog friends, and I do my best to use her as a canine ice breaker. I’ve been told many-a-time during our orientation/settling in process not to be offended or surprised if Germans don’t seem as chatty or friendly as Americans (I’m really not easily offended, for the record, but whatever…). However, those people dispensing such “advice” must not have been dog owners. Sadie is a regular international ambassador, apparently. Dogs get the utmost respect in these parts, and that needs no translation.
More to come soon–I promise!