Southeast of the Vrijthof, set in gardens in the Henric van Veldekeplein, is a statue (by Charles Vos, 1934) of the first Dutch poet, Henric van Veldeke, best known for his translation of the legend of St Servatius. You can also see the Sint-Janskerk, one of the most distinctive buildings in the city center. It was erected in honor of St. John the Baptist. The original church was built in the 13th century, but the current church dates back to the 14th century. The church has a distinctive red tower and a small bell called the “gate clock”. The building is one of many Gothic constructions in Maastricht. Next to Sint Janskerk is the St Servaas Basilica, the most famous religious building in Maastricht. It was built on the site of St. Servatius’ grave. The building’s architectural style is Romanesque but some Gothic elements were added later. The church was erected between the 11th and 13th centuries.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.