I arrived in Maastricht and was completely blown away by the constant stream of bike traffic. The quaint, tree-lined streets are ruled by bikes, and you better stay on the correct side of the sidewalk! I was being hosted by a Couchsurfer and found his house easily from the station. My host, Dutch #2, greeted me with a smile and a question.... can I ride a bike? Ha. Yes sir, I can. Within that first hour I was handed an orange Holland jersey and a bike, and was headed into town with my new Dutch friend. The bike was made for a Dutchman (the tallest people in the world at an average of 1.85 meters / 6'1") but after such a warm welcome I made it work! It wasn't a long ride thank goodness, and we crossed the river into the historic center. Quaint, narrow streets and historic buildings - all covered in orange. The town was ready for the match!
We found some seats in a bar near the center, ordered some Brands, and settled down to watch Holland vs. Australia. I noticed more female soccer fans here in the Netherlands than I saw in the last 3 countries, perhaps due to the popularity of women's soccer in the country. A big celebration followed the Dutch goal in the 20th minute, but the crowd was quickly silenced when Australia answered right back, making it 1-1 in minute 21. It was a tense half-time, but the bar passed around free snacks and kept the beer flowing to pacify the crowd. Things got even more tense at minute 54 when Jedinak made it 2-1 for Australia, who was definitely playing the better game. Orange were nervous! Four minutes later van Persie equalized and the entire room exhaled. Now relaxed, the cheers were deafening in the 68th minute when Depay put Netherlands ahead 3-2 and they managed to keep it that way. Celebrations continued after the match, but nothing quite as wild as the Spain game where I was told the party lasted through the night. Maybe I need to come back for the next round!
After the match Dutch #2 took me to see Danish electronic musician Trentemøller at the Timmerfabriek Muziekgieterij - a great venue in an old warehouse. The crowd was fired up, and there were many orange fans present. The next day I was given a great tour of the city by Dutch #2. I highly recommend a visit to Maastricht for its beauty, and of course don't forget to enjoy some Vlaai! Can't stay long though - I have to get to Germany for match #5!!