Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Maastricht Christmas Market and St. Servatius Basilica

Now that we're back from our Christmas Market venture last weekend, you know we are full of Christmas cheer.  We got our "fix."

Let's start with Maastricht, which was our Friday afternoon arrival point.  And since I took only 3 photos before we sat down to eat (it was time!), I'll start with this "fix," which was a must for the trip:  brats! 

Gotta always have a brat at the Christmas market.  It's what you do.

THEN we were ready to start the day.

No Bah Humbugs from us.

Because most European Christmas markets are situated at city center,
the biggest church of the city is usually right there in plain sight.

And because the European churches are more important to us than even Christmas markets,
we pretty quickly veered off from the Christmassy "fix" to make sure we didn't miss this Basilica.

Actually, there are two churches next to each other, separated by a street.
The red spire is the Dutch Reformed St. John's Church from the 14th c. and wasn't open.
The humongous church next door is the Basilica of St. Servatius from the 11th-12th centuries.

It's easy to tell this is a Roman Catholic church.
And yes, I lit a candle and prayed for special people that day!

Opposite the altar view in the former collage is the organ/back of the church.
What a treat to hear it while we were there.

It was the crypt, however, that grabbed me the most.
Soulful.  Cozy.  Meditative.
St. Servatius, the Bishop of Tongeren, died in 384 and is buried there.

That's the reliquary bust of St. Servatius, 15/16c., bottom-left.

From inside the church, we looked out to the Christmas market Ferris wheel....

which, of course, totally got our attention.
We've never seen a Christmas market with a Ferris wheel, so we had to ride it.

The contraption itself always fascinates me...and this time more so because of the colors.

How can you NOT love  it!
And yes, that's how big the basilica is (bottom-right).

I had fun making this collage on my iPad for Facebook.

It so happens the toilets were next to the skating rink,
so we watched for awhile.
I loved this wee family, with mommy showing how and then older sister doing it.

As the afternoon wound down, we sat long enough for stir-fried mushrooms with garlic sauce
and the prerequisite glühwein.  

We were totally satisfied.  We didn't need more.  It was time to leave.  

As we left the market and wandered to our car, past the city hall (top-left and center),
we were reminded that Masstricht is André Rieu's city, for those of you who know him.

In case you don't know him, here's my favorite of all the videos I've seen.
He's Maastricht's favorite son!
To be honest, he's all of Holland's favorite son!

On that note, we crossed the St. Servatius Bridge across the Meuse/Maas River to our car.

Enough "fixes" to last the weekend...but it was only our first day of three....

Thursday, December 07, 2017

In the Christmas Spirit

Because I want this in my In Soul archives (and not just on Facebook), here's a story to make your heart melt in these chaotic, messy times around the world.

It's about the second cat, Oscar, who found a home with daughter Amy back in Atlanta:

Here's the story in Amy's own words after finding him dirty at their patio door in 2012 (top-middle):

"We knew we couldn't take him in, but I wanted him to be safe. I brought him into the garage with a blanket, food and water, and left the door slightly ajar, deciding that if he was still there in the morning, we would take him to the vet to get checked out before taking him to the same shelter where we got C.C. [their female cat]. He was not in the garage, but instead roaming around out back in the morning.

When we took him to the vet, he was diagnosed with FIV, the feline version of HIV. We had already decided we didn't want another cat, but that was confirmed by the vet who expressed concern about C.C. being infected. I believe there are meds that have a possibility of reversing the diagnosis, but if I recall correctly, it wasn't a strong possibility. And because he didn't have any symptoms, there were no other meds needed. Just a diagnosis he would have for life, and similar to HIV for humans, weakens the immune system, making him more susceptible to infections or other illnesses.

When we left the vet, we took him to the shelter and were informed that they literally did not have a single spot available for Oscar. They also were adamant that C.C. would be fine. They said there is a lot of fear and misinformation around FIV (similar to HIV) and that the only way for Oscar to infect C.C. is via a vampire-like bite, enough to pierce the skin. Given Oscar's sweet temperament, we didn't think that would be a concern. But what made the decision for us was when she said: "No one will adopt a cat with FIV. He'll live here for the rest of his life." Ugh, I couldn't bear the thought! I called Dennis (he was out of town) and he simply said, "That's our cat. He found us, he showed up on our doorstep. That's our cat."

So, we decided to keep Oscar, but given how dirty he was and the fact that he needed to be neutered, we paid the usual adoption fee to the shelter to take him in (they found a cage in the surgery ward), clean and neuter him [bottom center image], before bringing him home. After only a few months of good food and being indoors, he quickly shed the straw-like fur for rabbit-soft hair. And now he is the whitest of whites, fluffy love-bug!

I can't remember when exactly, but I believe it was earlier this year (or maybe last year just after the move), when the vet ran the FIV test (twice) and both times it came back negative. He's never showed any symptoms and doesn't take any medication.

Can you imagine him sitting in a shelter just because of a label?"

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And now a couple of add-ons to the Christmas spirit:

A Canadian friend of mine makes mugs as a business venture,
so, to support her, I bought one that says "bow-chi-chihuahua."
Just the other day we gave it to friend, Coby, who has two of her own chihuahuas.

Merry Christmas!

Here's a better pic of the live Christmas tree that Astrid decorated for us.
We had it up by December 1st, believe it or not, because of Christmas dinner guests on the 2nd.
Traditionally the Dutch do NOT put up their Christmas tree until after Sinterklaas on December 5th.

Speaking of which, Sinterklaas marked my 8th anniversary of moving here to the Netherlands!
And because of our dinner guests, Astrid was the one who suggested putting up the tree early.

Merry Christmas!

And then, just yesterday, when we went to get our biennial mammograms, 
(government freebie for women aged 55-75),
we found these workers putting up their plaza tree (the day after Sinterklass!).

Normally such a big tree is purchased from Norway and shipped for a gazillion euros.
To get around that cost, look at the ingenious Dutch way of doing it:
they build a tiered stand on which they mount, in this case, 43 smaller trees,
to make it look like one HUGE tree.
As I often say, leave it to the Dutch.

Merry Christmas!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And to celebrate the season, Astrid and I drive to the south of the Netherlands tomorrow
to visit the Christmas markets in both Maastricht, NL, and Aachen, Germany,
right across the border from each other.

This map gives you a feel for our trip:
Gorinchem (middle red dot is where we live) to Maastricht = 168 km (104 mi.).
Maastricht to Aachen = 39 km (24 mi.).
We'll be staying at a hotel in between the two till Monday.

Merry Christmas!