After breakfast we packed up and got ready to start the long journey back. We checked out – there was a different woman from the slightly ineffective but politely smiling girl who had obviously been providing cover for the weekend. The proper receptionist knew her stuff better and wore a little lapel pin. An IT bloke was smoking heavily and shrugging his shoulders. So, we checked out, paid the stiff bill, and drove out of Karlovy Vary.
We passed through the more ordinary part of town and found the main road fairly easily. After only a short drive along the provincial Czech roads we reached the German border and after another short stretch on provincial German roads, but much smaller than the Czech ones, we joined the German motorway system. From here on in it was a very straightforward drive of hour after hour on the motorway, driving at 120+ km/hr and still only feeling we were just cruising. Many much faster cars, Audi’s especially, whooshed along in stately fashion but at much higher speeds.
To start with the scenery was quite scenic, woodlands, little villages visible dotted here and there in the German countryside. And while we were still in the eastern corner we came across road works and rather poorer roads in some places, but as the day wore on and we sped further west the scenery became crowded by more towns, junctions, etc. We stopped and swapped a couple of times, the last time was around Köln or Aachen, and by this stage we had well and truly re-entered familiar territory.
The trip was now all but over, only a short hop through Belgium and across the North Sea remaining, but with an intervening stop in Maastricht (it was too far to get to the coast in one day) and we looked forward to a ferry ride, snoozing across the North Sea. We crossed from Germany into the Netherlands, barely registering the fact and reached Maastricht early in the evening. With a bit of to and fro’ing we found ourselves a smart hotel in the town centre, the stylish and very modern, “urbane”, hotel Derlon at a snug little square, the Onze Lieve Vrouwenplein. Excellent. It had a great combination of stylish modernity and friendly Dutch hospitality to go with it, such as parking our car for us, and many little touches around the hotel.
We both felt pooped and were just after a convenient bite and a good night’s sleep, but as we gradually recovered from the long drive we started to think about going out for a bit of a night out, and I had an Indonesian rice table in mind, followed by a night in bed. Anyway, we managed to go out for a very nice stroll through Maastricht’s mostly pedestrianised and cyclistised atmospheric streets, paved and cobbled, with smart shops and that typically Dutch provincial atmosphere. By the cyclists you could tell that this was a university town and by the shops that it was a very prosperous town too.
We both commented to each other that we wouldn’t mind living “somewhere like this”, except that Maastricht is surrounded by industrial areas such as the Ruhr and is very hemmed in. We walked across the Maas and tried to get in the recommended Indonesian restaurant but were turned away as the were full and closing, and instead we ended up back at the square with our hotel and settled for a bit (saté and chips) at a convivial café, sat on the terrace, under the trees, and with tasty beers. Then we finally headed up to our room, crashed out, and dozed off to sleep.