Saturday, September 26, 2009

Beelden van mijn buurt

Take a look out your window: take in your familiar sights and sounds. Houses, streets, trees, people: you instictively know where to fgo to ind your friends, and where you'd go for good food once you met up. It's become a neighborhood.
Scholars say a neighborhood is more than just a local geographic region, rather, it's a community where you know people on sight and everyday goods are convenient and accessible. It may include elements of culture, trust, heritage, or safety: a place that you fit into. To me, it's just a place that is familliar without thinking about it, where I know where to find the things I need, the people I know, and the services I depend on.
So, this first weekend in autumn, I thought we'd just walk around the block together; taking in some beelden van mijn buurt (images of my neighborhood)...

My immediate block is an area of Dutch row houses along the Maas River. It lies between the De Hoge Brug (the High Bridge) and Sint Servaasbrug (St. Servius' bridge), running two streets back along the shore. The Wyck (from wijk, quarter or district) is a conmfortable jumble of shops, restaurants, and residences with more river traffic than automoble. In the US, we'd somewhat dismissively call this a mixed-use area, unusual as compared to our homogenous and partiitioned suburban zoning.:

The shoreline where I live is closed to cars, so the only sounds drifting up to the balcony are the clatter of bicycles on the cobblestones (left) and the murmers of pedestrians enjoying an outing. The south end of the neighborhood is bounded by 1992 Plein, created by local architecht Jo Coenen during redevelopment of the old ceramic factory site (he also created Amsterdam's Openbare Bibliotheek). In addition to holding the city's library and theater complex (right), the square contains essentials like our Albert Hijn (grocery) and Blokkers (housewares) stores.
Just around the corner from the Plein is the favored ice cream store, Luna Russa. Filled with parents and children on warm aftternoons, its mountains of iridescent flavors are as much a lanndmmark as.the nearby architectural towers.

The street behind the riverfront, Rechtstraat, is filled with specialty restaurants and boutiques, laced with allleyways like Kattenstraat (yes, there are cats...). But I also enjoy the trees, already shading into their fall colors, and the distant view of St. Martinus Church (right, below) each time I come through this part of town. Where the old city can feel winding and close, the gentle curves and longer sightlines keep this area feeling more open and warm.


Left around the corner again is Wycker Brugstraat (right, above), our main thoroughfare linking Maastricht's train station with the city across the St Servius bridge. Bicycles and pedestrians far outnumber cars, especially the mornings as students flow to school and again in the evening after the shops close at 5.
The best thing about the neighborhood is how it's always full of ordinary people and everyday life, whether sharedas a couple, in a crowd, or at a festival.

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