Margraten U.S. Military Cemetery (tel. 043/458-1208. www.abmc.gov), 5km (3 miles) east of Maastricht on N278, is the final resting place for 8,301 American service members who died in Holland in World War II and whose remains were not repatriated. The Dutch often leave wreaths and flowers behind as symbols of gratitude for the sacrifices that liberated them from Nazi oppressors. The cemetery is open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Jan 1 and Dec 25). Admission is free.
You can get legally high in Limburg. At the Drielandenpunt (Three-Country Point), near Vaals, in the province's southeast corner, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany share a common backyard in the "Land Without Frontiers." The elevation is the highest in Holland, a full 322m (1,056 ft.) above sea level -- a veritable mountain! -- and affords an excellent opportunity to look across miles of countryside in three different countries. From the timber King Baudouin Tower, surrounded by extensive forest, the German city of Aachen merges with the haze in one direction. In another, the green waves of Belgium's Ardennes Hills wash over the horizon. The "Dutch Alps" are behind you. Vaals is 30km (19 miles) east of Maastricht on N278; the Drielandenpunt is a farther .5km (1/3 mile) south.
Maastricht Carnival Capers
The city seems to have gone mad. A tumult of garishly clad people with painted faces dance and sing through the elegant Vrijthof. Crowds flow and sway through the maze of narrow cobblestone alleyways beyond. Music from a hundred bands merges into a discordant medley of tunes and tempos, and blares out into the chill February air. The city's 500 bars and cafes, popular enough in ordinary times, burst their seams and spill revelers onto the streets, in a display of fervid celebration that contradicts the sober-sided character generally attributed to the Dutch.
Welcome to Maastricht Carnival, an event that dates back to the 15th century. On the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the mayor of Maastricht hands over the keys of the city to Prince Carnival, who will reign over it and turn it completely upside-down over the next few days. The populace dress up and bring out colorful floats for the parades that take place each day. When the sun goes down, everyone disappears into the cafes and restaurants, continuing the party with wining and dining.
North Along the Maas
The Maas slides into the North Sea at Rotterdam, but above all it's the river of Limburg -- a silver thread that runs the length of the province, an artery of commerce, and a glistening arena for watersports. The river has its share of day-trippers on tour boats departing from Maastricht. There are marinas filled to the gunwales with leisure boats, stretches for water-skiers and jet-skiers, and fishermen casting such quantities of hooks it seems miraculous if any fish can run the gauntlet. Hop back and forth cheaply on an armada of little car ferries that link the opposite banks along most of the river's length. North of Maastricht, the stream has been diverted into worked-out gravel quarries, creating the Maasplassen miniature lakes.
Northern Limburg shelters vacation parks and villages in a landscape of wooded hills and broad heaths. At its hourglass waist, it almost feels like you should breathe in to squeeze through the narrow gap between Belgium and Germany.
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