You might have heard of this name: Onno Hoes. Whether have heard about him in positive or negative aspect, this doesn’t justify who he really is. The mayor of Maastricht, whose private life regrettably played a big part on his term in public office, welcomed us with open arms to do this interview. It gave us an insight to a man, who is sympathetic, and with whom you can hold conversation about a wide range of topics.
We were invited to the City Hall on the Markt on a sunny afternoon. The time for the interview was not that long, but still enough to ask all the questions we had and take some pictures. We hope you enjoy it.
Ashika Baan: What is your favourite bar or restaurant?
Onno Hoes: It really depends on my mood. When I feel like having a drink I might go to Wyck, the neighbourhood in Maastricht that is considered as a young and hip quarter. It has attracted many young entrepreneurs and you can see that when you walk along the Wycker Grachtstraat. Café Zondag and Café Zuid are both nice places to have a drink with a nice atmosphere.
When I want something more traditional, there’s a wide variety of Michelin-star and highly praised restaurants that Maastricht is known for. It’s good to visit when your parents are in town, for instance!
However, on a Friday night you will find me at home after a long week, relaxing from the busy days that I’ve had.
AB: What is a leading event in Maastricht that is important to you?
OH: This year I visited Bruis, a free music festival, spread out over 3 days. There were people of all age groups and the festival itself was different from anything I’ve seen before. It was refreshing and definitely worth being an annual tradition for Maastricht.
Of course, the concert that André Rieu gives each year are so typical for Maastricht, something you can’t NOT think of when considering Maastricht.
AB: Where do you go to experience culture and art?
OH: I think that with the TEFAF (biggest European art fair in Maastricht) there is a certain expectation that Maastricht is a base for creative arts. This could be increased by opening more galeries, using empty premises and creating pop-up galeries throughout Maastricht. Of course, we have the Bonnefantenmuseum, which has amazing exhibits, definitely worth a visit!
AB: What is Maastricht’s best kept secret?
OH: I think the city wall is a very nice place to go for a walk, and experience the ambiance and history that Maastricht breathes, which you can’t just see when you walk through the shopping streets. When you walk past the University Library you see the remnants of the old, Roman city that Maastricht once was. Very interesting for the international students that come here!
AB: What is your best memory of Maastricht?
OH: The first time I came to Maastricht, was when my sister Isa Hoes (actress, screenplay writer) was studying at the theater academy here. I remember walking from Wyck, over the bridge and loving the short distance between two different parts of the city. The modern and old with a connection through the Servaas-bridge. Another memory I have is when I walked with my ex-husband Albert Verlinde through Maastricht in 2002, I fell in love again with the city, which made it easy to be a mayor!
AB: Which person (historical figure, old friend) would you like to show Maastricht to?
OH: I think I’d like to show the Count of Artagnan (aka d’Artagnan, yes from the books of Dumas, the musketeers..), who died at the gates of Maastricht. I’d like to show him that Maastricht is free of the French reign.
AB: What is unique about Maastricht and the contact it has with the University?
OH: The collaboration that the Municipality of Maastricht has with the University is a very fruitful one. There is a special agena that the Municipal Council has with the Executive Board of the University. They meet once in a while to discuss the growth of the faculties and to tackle the phenomenon of too little student housing, which has been quite successful!
Something that I’d like to see change is that students come from far and close, but never stay in the region. There is a trend of young people leaving Limburg, when the province needs these young entrepreneurs and people of this generation. In my view more could be done to facilitate that more young people staying here.
AB: What do you do to unwind or relax after a long day?
OH: I go home, open a window, hear the church bells and I feel happy. A lucky person to be able to fulfil the position of mayor here. These moments of silent noise (so to speak) make me appreciate every day even more. Like a sunday morning!
AB: What makes Maastricht stand out?
OH: The fact that people value a high quality of living, is something that can really be felt here in Maastricht. People want quality in their living experience: food, clothes, going out. There is attention for you as a person here, there is room for entrepreneurship, good service and Maastricht provides that, which I think is special!
AB: Can you describe Maastricht in 3 words?
OH: International, young, dynamic.
AB: What would you recommend people that are new in Maastricht to do?
OH: I would tell them to give yourself to the city. In order to experience the city, don’t plan, just go into the center, walk around and see the churches, shopping people, beautiful architecture and history that the city oozes. This will make Maastricht worthwhile 🙂
Interview and text by Ashika Baan, Photgraphy by Brian Megens