The parking at the Vrijthof is the center of Maastricht is empty when we jump into our car. The parking Oog van Sint Pieter is empty when we leave our car a few minutes later. It’s almost nine in the morning, but it looks like Maastricht is still asleep. We’re not. We’re up, out and running around the Sint-Pietersberg.
Or running, more walking as we’re starting out with a nice climb up to the fortress on top of the Sint-Pietersberg, which bears the same name as the mountain. The fortress is more than 300 years old. It was built after Louis XIV, the French king, attacked the city in 1673 and placed his cannons on the mountain to target the southern city walls of Maastricht.
Now-a-days it’s a tourist attraction. But not for us, we’re here to run this morning. So we follow our way past the fort, and take the first right over the Northern Plateau, over muddy paths that look out over the Jeker valley.
After 20 minutes of running, we pass by the Devil’s cave, a cave with two big, round holes in the wall. Long, long ago shepherds would use this cave to spend the night. When they made a fire to stay warm, the people in the city would just see two fiery eyes staring down at them from high up the mountain. The eyes of the devil.
Now this place is paradise. A new paradise, because for long it was a desolate landscape. From 1926 onward the Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie (the First Dutch Cement Industry) extracted lime to make cement. However in 2018 this area was redeveloped into a nature reserve.
We leave the quarry for next time, and follow our way through the forest, which has become an important habitat for bats and butterflies, like the Jersey Tiger (Euplagia quadripunctaria), a protected butterfly. In the forest we crisscross over the Dutch-Belgium border. Then running again in the Netherlands, then again in Belgium.
Halfway through our trail we leave the forest, and make our way back to the start over the boulevard next to the Maas, the river that gave Maastricht its name. Back at the parking lot in front of the Sint-Pietersberg fortress, we happily sink in the comfortable chairs of our car. Now we know that Maastricht isn’t just an amazing city for culture and shopping, but also to go for a run. So soon, very soon, we’ll be back here.