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Trip Report Maastricht to Brugge to Lubeck to Copenhagen

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We happily spent the first two weeks of June visiting a couple of midsize cities (Maastricht, Netherlands, Brugge, Belgium, and Lubeck, Germany) and one large city (Copenhagen, Denmark). We love going to Europe and always enjoy ourselves there. This varied group of cities made for a good trip, with two of the cities making up a mini theme of “Hanseatic League” grand towns. We spent a comfortable amount time in each of the cities and appreciated all of them for various and different reasons.

We arrived at the surprisingly small and well organized Brussels airport, took the train into town, and transferred to the train to Maastricht (via Liege). All of it was easy, efficient and we were grateful for that. We had a Benelux-Germany rail pass which I believe also contributed to making our train travel connections easier (more time-flexible), and I would encourage anyone to pre-purchase a pass if it is cost effective for their travel itinerary, as it was for ours. We activated the pass at the airport and were on our way, simple.

Maastricht
We met friends in Maastricht, our first city. As their place is very small and they have a new baby, we stayed in a hotel convenient to the train station, the Amrath Grand Hotel de le Empereur. It used to be a Best Western, but recently became part of the Amrath hotel group. It was nice; think Best Western and you get a pretty good sense of what it was like—comfortable, clean, neat. We chose it because of its location near the train station. And as our friends say, everything is close by, in Maastricht. It is truly a very walkable, lovely, medieval type of city, with a compact pedestrian town center. We walked all through the town, along the top and the side of the “old town walls” and ate in a wonderful café “Sjiek”. Asparagus was in season so there were several entries with it on the menu. I had an asparagus quiche and it was delicious!

We had drinks at the rooftop café of the department store/ grocery store/ restaurant, V&D. (Great views of the town from up there) Maastricht was a short visit, but an enjoyable one, especially with seeing old friends. And, it gave us a nice, quick sense of daily life in a midsize city.

On a side note, if I were to recommend a place for college students to study in Europe, I could highly recommend the Maastricht University. From what our friends say, it seems to be a highly reputable, forward thinking, relatively young university, and is located in numerous historical buildings in the heart of town—convenient for everyone and with a beautiful central campus.

Brugge (with Damme and Antwerp)
After Maastricht, we hopped on the train to Brugge. What a magnificent, old, Hanseatic League town—touristy, yes, but so beautiful and so manageable, making the total experience a quality one. We loved Brugge! We spent four nights in a wonderful hotel, the Patritius. Their breakfast buffet was luscious: eggs cooked to order and coffee gourmet brewed to your liking, pastries, breads, fruit, etc. Our room was nice, old world style furnishings, with a modern, recently renovated bathroom. We highly recommend this hotel. It also ended up being relatively near to a great little pub, the Café Vlissinghe (the oldest pub in Brugge - dating from 1515), where we enjoyed several Westmalles. Brugge has been covered on this forum a lot and I totally agree what all the accolades that have been said. We enjoyed renting bikes (independently, not with a group) and biking to the nearby town of Damme, home of Till Eulenspiegel—the merry prankster made by famous by Richard Strauss. We purchased the museum pass for Brugge, which I highly recommend since it gets you into so many places over a three day period. It’s a good bargain. Initially, we purchased it to go up the tower and maybe visit one or two museums. Since we enjoy museums, we went into a few more and loved it. The museums are not to be missed—especially the Groeninge, the Gruuthuse, and the Memling.

Before the end of the Brugge stay we took the train to Antwerp for the day—an enjoyable time walking around and touring a couple of notable churches, the Cathedral of Our Lady with its Rubens works, and another Rubens in St Paul’s.

Lubeck (with Cologne)
We left for our next city, Lubeck, Germany, very early on a Sunday and stopped mid way to see the incredible cathedral of Cologne. Huge place! We got there while services were still going on, so we visited to the Roman-Germanic museum just next door. It was well worth the one hour we spent there—gorgeous mosaics. Then back to the cathedral for a thorough, very interesting visit. And of course, then to the Fruh brewery for a good German style Bratwurst sandwich, fries and a Kolsch. Did I mention that each and every day for this first week we had fries and brews with each main meal of the day? We loved it. No regrets there.

The baggage storage at the Cologne train station (which, too, is next door to the cathedral) is one slick system. It’s so efficient. Just deposit your money, store your luggage, and then retrieve it—totally self-service, no waiting, no problems. We got back on the train after our 2-3 hours break and continued on to Lubeck.

Lubeck! What a pleasant surprise. What a lovely medieval city. Think Brugge without the tourists and without the town being set up only to facilitate tourists. It felt very real as a city, and that was nice. We stayed three nights at the comfortable and staff friendly Hotel Zur Alten Statmauer. Our trim, clean, updated room was large, one of the largest on the trip. The breakfast was, again, bountiful with, among other items, hearty breads, eggs to order (once more on this trip) and wonderful coffee. We love starting the day with a good breakfast and this budget priced hotel did not disappoint. The hotel was centrally located within the old city but a bit far to walk from the train station with luggage, so we took a cab. Everything we wanted to see regarding the city’s glorious medieval past was very close by. This city was once the grand queen of the old league and that history and wealth could be seen in the old town structures, the town hall, the twin gates ‘Holstentor” at the entrance to the old city, the churches and many other town buildings. There were several noteworthy churches—too many to discuss. It was a beautiful experience—well worth the time it took to get there. We spent our two full days just exploring the city and didn’t take a side trip as we had intended. We had a notable meal at the recommended Schiffergesellschaft restaurant, and delicious Marzipan at the Café Niederegger.

Copenhagen
We took the train to Copenhagen (getting a supplement for the Denmark portion of the journey). We arrived and checked into the Grand hotel, located near the train station. It was a very nice hotel and one of the designated hotels for conference attendees. We had our very best breakfasts here, continuing with the group of good hotel breakfasts on this trip. It really had everything that anyone could want in a breakfast buffet. Our room was okay, but we had an issue with too much light coming in from the outside lighting from the hotel’s night illumination. The staff offered to move us, but we were too busy, so just kept the room. We got used to it. If we were to visit Copenhagen again, we would probably pick another hotel since there were many nice ones near the train station from which to choose. The conference we attended kept us busy so we had limited time to explore, but we did do some. We took a quick trip to see the Christiania area (did nothing for us), spent an evening at Tivoli (pleasant, but it rained on and off throughout the time), went to see the old harbor area (very nice and had a really good ice cream cone there), and walked all through the town central area—weaving through numerous bikes and baby carriages. The National museum is absolutely extraordinary. It had exhibit items from pre history up through and including every age.

Thanks all for the help and valuable information that helped make our trip so enjoyable. I’d be happy to answer any questions about the trip.

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