Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Four day trip to the Netherlands (Day 1 afternoon cont.) - Maastricht - Saint Pietersberg caves and Nolenspark - The 14th of May 2015


We reached St. Pietersberg hill with the 1701-1702 fort on its right, whose layout is considered one of the most striking features of the defensive works of Maastricht but because there was a visit to the caves in English we opted to go "underneath" instead.

Bearing in mind the labyrinth of tunnels and the possibility of getting lost in it we had to gather in small groups of twelve people each and thus follow a different guide, who in turn took different paths under the hill so that each group could have access to the various drawings made by so called "block breakers" (manual labourers who cut out blocks of marl used to build houses, castles  and churches, who had to venture underground on a regular daily basis a few hundred years ago) and other interesting spots.
Photography was rather difficult because each group was only allowed three lanterns (one for the guide and the other two for visitors positioned strategically within the group, so that we could all make our way underneath in such a pitch black environment).

Somewhere along one of the paths we stopped at a former storage location - Number 9, better known as "the vault" where during the second World War approximately 780 works of Art (including Rembrandt's Night watch) were stored in a rather complex grill-like safe type of storage room which included an incorporated ventilating system so as not to damage the canvases. It was quite impressive.

The guide proved to be quite an humorous person and a playful one as well. He had most of the group follow a  ten minute path in absolute darkness just by touching the walls along the way, which was quite challenging for those who adhered to the "game", according to their opinions (an Asian couple with three children, Mia and I were the only non-participative visitors). 
Prior to leaving we were shown the layout of the former mine galleries that once used to have 20,000 passageways covering a total of 200 kilometres as against the actual 8,000 measuring around 80 kilometres one has access to. Well preserved  findings of fossils of mosasaurs or better said Meuse lizards date back to 1770, 1998 and 2012, which in itself is rather interesting.

As we finished the visit and rather than climbing onto the fort we decided to head down in the direction of the city's main park, where we were told a fair was being held, in order to take advantage of the cultural event.
The weather was really warm, which was clearly distinct from the cool atmosphere we had just left behind.

(To be continued)

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