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vrijdag 15 november 2013

snapshots: Saint Peters’ hill (sint pietersberg)

It’s a 45 minute walk from my doorstep to the summit of St. Peters’ hill; a walk through Wolder, a small farmers village, today a part of the Maastricht agglomeration; one straight line crosses Louw hill and passes winery Apostelhoeve. Downhill again, over Bieslanderroad, one of the “slow-roads” into Belgium. Viticulture on both sides of the path, the grapes already picked; maybe even fermented, ready to bottle.

I see a man in overall with a pruning-knife cutting loose branches. He greets while I pass over the track that leads to the Jeker river. Stone walls, built from marl, to protect the slot-house, where the water whirls in wild vortexes. One can drown here in the useally slow floating Jeker. Old buildings alongside on the banks, but what I don’t understand is that no-one exploits a terrace for the thousands of strollers that yearly pass.

After crossing a last small road a muddy path goes uphill; narrow climbing between hedges to the summit of Maastrichts’ highest point. About 10 minutes to reach the top, but it’s steep, breath taking! Wooden poles as stairs for the last meters to make it easier, but not to easy...

At the top are too many strollers to see or hear the wildlife that lives in the tight bushes and on the rich slopes. A ring of stones marks the absolute summit of 171 meters. Several paths lead downhill, back to Wolder or into the former marl-pit, used to dig the commodity as a basis for cement. In the past people used the stone to build; today they grind and mix it until they can glue bricks of clay to get the same result. Old caves like wounds mark St. Peters’ hill as witnesses of where once the stones have been harvest; now a paradise for bats and Europes’ largest: the eagle owl.

A girl on a pony approaches laughing; her horse curious after the lonely hiker, armed with a small and old camera; ready for a museum, but still useful for my goal; just taking snapshots of the steps I leave in the landscape. For the views and marks around; to gather the autumn colors and shades of green. Every day is different; even when shooting the same pictures at the same spot.

I don’t want to walk too far; just after five o’clock it will be dark and I don’t want to get lost in the woods which cover the Dutch, Flemish and Wallonian slopes of the hill, that is not only divided in two countries but also in several languages: Dutch, Limburgian, Flemish and French. It’s a strange  neighborhood I live in...

At the old fort St. Peter, once important to defend Maastricht, but now just an old monument of brick walls looking over the river Meuse, is a cafeteria that sells coffee and cake for just 2€, trying to attract the last tourists.

After the break I walk downhill through St. Peters quarter, back to the Jeker. A few late and lost sheep are left in a meadow. In Spring and Summer the meadows in this area are full of them, but at the moment it is a rarity to spot; back to stables I presume; warm and cosy, like me in 30 minutes with a cup of coffee sitting behind the computer and scrolling today's snapshots to choose what will be posted...

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