On a cold April Saturday as a sad-eyed woman lets me in to see the flat she is giving up to move back in with her parents, leaving only advertising brochures for baby furniture behind, I spot a metal bridge over my shoulder at the end of the street. It’s doing the everyday things that pedestrian bridges do: holding up a sign announcing Praxis’ Sunday hours, and offering access to the exotic Eastern lands on the other side of… well, it seems to be some sort of construction site.
When I return a few weeks later with my suitcases, the bridge is miraculously gone. It’s been traded in for metal-jawed earth movers rolling up practically Praxis-sized hills that disappear one week and reappear the next, and filling in nearly Praxis-sized holes only to create them again. And rows of wooden barriers and metal fencing that throw up new obstacle courses on every late-night visit to my best friend Albert, in his shiny new Scharnerweg store. And dirt; a whole lot of dirt. Less a Groene Loper than a brown carpet, stretching all the way to Galjonweg and Mariënwaard.
On a warm April Sunday a year later that feels like we’ve fast-forwarded to summer, I’m filling up my suitcases again and Praxis is long gone, the building empty. But now there’s nothing, other than a few wooden barriers stubbornly still on duty, to stop me crossing over to the exotic East, to Emon’s Fish Paradise and the Patisserie Noblesse, home of the triple-threat gooseberry/apricot/cherry vlaai, perfect for the greedy but indecisive. (And other than the fact that it’s Sunday, and they’re shut.)
Instead I walk down to the sunny Koningsplein, where just the other week a 3-metre-high metal Angel of Maastricht miraculously appeared, unveiled by a ruddy-cheeked koning fresh from visiting his very own traffic tunnel. I stop and look. A pert bronze bottom – the Angel’s, I mean, not Willem-Alexander’s; I’ve heard all about majesteitsschennis – turns to the Maas. Over an angelic left shoulder, and nearly out of sight of the terrasje-sitters at the gorgeous Gemeenteflat, the eight figures of Charles Eyck’s Limburg Liberation Memorial remain locked in their circle of sorrow and joy.
By next April, long after I’m gone, the brown carpet will surely be green.
Karen Shook, communications adviser/editor at the School of Business and Economics