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8 Interesting Facts About Maastricht-->
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The picturesque city of Maastricht is the venue for the 2015 EuroSTAR Conference. It’s the fifth time we’ve visited the Netherlands with the conference but the first visit to Maastricht.
The EuroSTAR team has already taken a short trip to the banks of the river Maas and highly recommend ambling through the narrow cobblestone streets by day or night.
Of course, EuroSTAR 2015 is your number one reason to visit Maastricht this year but here are some other interesting facts about the city as part of our blog series focusing on our host city for 2015:
1. European Union was founded in Maastricht in 1992
The Treaty on European Union (commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty) was signed by member states on 7th February 1992 in Maastricht. The purpose of the treaty was to pave the way for monetary union between member states – later resulting in the euro currency – and greater cooperation on political decision-making.
2. Maastricht is considered the oldest city in the Netherlands… by some
Maastricht is the oldest settlement in the Netherlands but there’s a dispute as to whether it is in fact the oldest city having never attained Roman city rights.
Nijmegen is considered by many to be the oldest city in the Netherlands – it was the first to receive Roman city rights – although there is apparently no known record of habitation there during the Middle Ages whereas there’s a continuous record of Maastricht as a settlement.
French captain-lieutenant Charles Batz de Castelmore was killed in Maastricht. Who was he? The French musketeer was the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas’ character D’Artagnan in the Three Musketeers (one of three novels on the life of d’Artagnan). A bronze statue of D’Artagnan can be seen at the Aldenhofpark in Maastricht.
Pictured: “D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis and Porthos” Image by Maurice Leloir, 1894. Source: Wikipedia
4. Andre Rieu
Maastricht’s most famous son is classical violinist and conductor Andre Rieu who regularly plays open air concerts in the main square in Maastricht, known as the Vrijthof. He has been awarded the Honorary Medal of Limburg and the Knight Order of the Dutch Lion. Rieu followed in the footsteps of his father (of the same name) who was previously the conductor of the Maastricht Symphony Orchestra and his international concert tours are regularly sell-out events.
5. City of Monuments
There are several statues and monuments dotted around the city and each gives a fresh insight into the character of the city and its inhabitants. The various sculptures symbolize different aspects of the local culture including community spirit, support for the disadvantaged and the unique Maastricht sense of humour.
6. Spanish influence
Like a number of territories of the Low Countries, Limburg and the town of Maastricht were once a part of Spain. Maastricht was under Spanish rule for over 50 years (1579 – 1632) from the Siege of Maastricht in July 1579 until the Capture of Maastricht (1632) by Frederik Hendrik on behalf of the Dutch Republic.
The local history museum on the main square (Vrijthof) currently occupies what was once the Spanish Government building.
7. French Influence
The French occupied Maastricht on three separate occasions: from 1673-78 following another siege of the walled city; a second time (1748) during the War of Austrian Succession and finally from 1794-1814 as part of the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte.
French was once the formal language of education in Maastricht and traces of French annunciation and aspects of vocabulary are still evident in the local Dutch dialect.
8. Maastricht Underground
Okay with the concept of no mobile phone signal!? Maastricht has a hidden history underground and it’s really worth exploring – we’ve seen some of it and the caves and underground tunnels are certainly worth a visit.
The Caves of St. Pieter wind through a labyrinth of over 20,000 tunnels and date back to Roman times. Another option is the Casemates system of brickwork tunnels which originate in the 16th century sieges on the city.
It’s possible to get guided tours of these caves but if you book your place at the EuroSTAR social events, you will get to sample Maastricht’s underground as both the Community and Conference dinners include an underground experience this year.