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Maastricht

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About Maastricht

Maastricht is the provincial capital and most Burgundian city in the Netherlands, a sophisticated, open-minded border town, far removed in spirit from the regimented northern provinces. Aficionados of the south consider Maastricht the country's most user-friendly city, combining quality of life with standard of living in a way northerners haven't quite got the hang of yet. In his satirical novel, In Nederland, Cees Nooteboom decries the north as "an orderly human garden" and praises the south as a land of untamed cave-dwellers leading freer lives.

Of all the southern towns, Maastricht has the least trammelled spirit, and as the Netherlands' oldest city, it has been open to foreign influence from Roman traders, Charlemagne's soldiers and Burgundian merchants. The result of such a cosmopolitan history is no bland internationalism, but a relaxed society confident of its traditions and its dialect, which, unlike many parts of the Netherlands, Maastricht has retained. So distinctive is it that locals half-jokingly claim not to speak Dutch. Before the euro the city accepted three currencies, reflecting its position in the important economic triangle delineated by Maastricht, Aachen and Liège. Germans cross the border for art exhibitions; Belgian students for the nightlife and northern Dutch for the hilly countryside and a chance to release their Calvinistic inhibitions.

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