It's an exciting time to be living in Maastricht! The weather has been gorgeous the past few days, reminiscent of summer in Florida even. The streets are filled with tourists and everyone is wearing summer dresses, flip flops, and shorts. All of the sidewalk cafes are filled and the entire city feels like it's on vacation-- relaxed, lazy afternoons whiled away on blankets in the park, and couples and families eating waffle cones overflowing with gelato. This is exactly how I imagined Europe before we moved here.
Maastricht is in the running for the European Capital of Culture. Several other cities in the region are participating in this "Summer of Culture" and the winning city will be announced in 2018. With its rich selection of museums, galleries, restaurants, and festivals, Maastricht is a tough opponent. There is always something happening here! I frequently hear the sounds of marching bands wafting up to my windows from the Vrijthof. All sorts of street musicians provide a soundtrack in the cobblestone streets. It's not uncommon to pass a folk singer and then a few steps later, a classical violinist. Speaking of violins, Andre Rieu is in town.
Rieu is Maastricht's rock star. He's a violinist, conductor, and composer from Maastricht. Every summer he brings his orchestra back home from their worldwide tour to play concerts in the Vrijthof. The Vrijthof concerts are his most popular and people come from everywhere to hear him play in his hometown, against the enchanting backdrop of the "twin churches," Sint-Servaas Basiliek and Sint-Janskerk.
I don't have tickets this year but I do have a bird's eye view of the rear of the stage. I can hear the music clearly and I feel so lucky to be able to enjoy the concerts gratis from the comfort of my own apartment. I know a few people who have gone this year and they say much of the concert is devoted to the celebration of the coronation of newly-crowned King Willem-Alexander. His beautiful wife, Queen Maxima, is Argentinian. A resounding edition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" is a staple at each concert. By now, I've heard it five times and I still think it's amazing.
Each concert ends with a spectacular fireworks show and then all of the concertgoers file out of the Vrijthof, quietly and obediently. The stadium lights go out and the streamers and confetti are swept from the streets before the next morning's hustle and bustle begins. We still have next weekend before the stage is removed and the Vrijthof goes back to being the Vrijthof. I'll be sad to see it all go. My weekend dinners will be much less exciting without the sounds of a live orchestra, and a fireworks show to send me off to bed.
Though Andre and his orchestra are packing up soon, Maastricht's Summer of Culture is just beginning. Forecasters are predicting a warm and sunny July and I've brought all of my sandals, dresses, and sunscreen out from storage. It came late this year but I'm glad it's finally happened-- Welcome, summer!