Old Maastricht is a city of definite quarters, one being the Jeker Quarter. This is Maastricht’s Latin Quarter and home to Maastricht University and many student-related activities and services. Jeker is south of the main square (Vrijthof) and the main shopping streets, and is bordered on the south by the large city park (with a mini zoo) and on the east by the Maas River. The Jeker River flows right through it, and the old city walls and ramparts bisect it too. This is an old part of the city, and so has many old houses, small parks, narrow streets, and remnants of centuries-old crafts and trades (notably tanneries). It’s a district of mill streams, almshouses, and ruined fortifications.
Helpoort (Hell Gate) is a gateway marking the medieval boundaries of the city. Beyond it, a peaceful walk leads along the top of the city walls to Hekenstraat (Witches Street), so-named because of a witch carving on a doorway, and to the University Quarter. The National History Museum is in Jeker, and west of this, just outside the city walls, is a statue of French musketeer d’Artigan and beyond that the casemates—a reminder of the turbulent history of this town (see pics in following post on D’Artignan).
The casemates are a 14-kilometer-long system of defensive tunnels under the western side of the city, built mainly in the 18th century, but started in 1575. During times of siege, these tunnels were used to approach and surprise the enemy from under the ground. During WW2 and the Cold War, people of Maastricht also used them as air-raid shelters, and a place of refuge and safely. Since then the air-raid shelters have been dismantled, but the passageways still exist and visitors can tour them.
So much history around every corner, but it’s incorporated so easily into the daily life and the modern city that after a while it just seems to be normal.
Wander the streets a while, then head for Café Tribunal, at Tongersestraat 1. This café is a regular meeting place for students and faculty, as it’s right in the center of the university area. If the weather is good you can sit outside at one of the few tables for a drink and/or to eat, and watch people ride by on their bikes, or walk their dogs. Inside has a very convivial and lively atmosphere, making you feel right at home. We had a beer there (2 Brand Weizen for 7.50 euro) but didn’t eat there. However, the plates of food we saw looked really good! The café has an interesting logo; a man with a cross over his mouth. Meaning perhaps “keep your mouth closed, or be careful what you say?”
Open daily, Mon-Sat 8am-midnight, and Sunday 9am-8pm.