Maastricht - Gemeente Grot

Nearly two thousand years ago, the Romans had a settlement here in Valkenburg, in the south of what is now the Netherlands. They began mining marl (mergel in Dutch). The mines were in use off and on until the 1950's. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the town decided to do something unusual with the mines: they used the soft stone walls of the mine as the canvas for charcoal drawings and sculpture. The drawings will keep virtually forever in the steady climate of the mine. The mine is littered with art. Unfortunately the tours only take you past a small part of it, with glimpses of shadowed shapes down other corridors. During the Nazi occupation a number of families hid in the mine, in some cases with their livestock. The Nazis knew of their presence, but the network of tunnels was simply too extensive to bother searching for a few people, so they remained in relative safety throughout the war.

baby lizard

While waiting for the tour to start, we went to sit on the rock wall. We were quite surprised to find the rocks already inhabited. There were 3, all about the same size and of the same kind, that were on the rocks. This one seemed to be having a hard time getting back into the bushes... he tried to run from us but kept slipping on the concrete.

baby lizard

So we picked him up and gave him a lift back to the bushes, where he wouldn't get accidently sat upon. Their coloring blended well with the marl, as well as making a pretty convinving imitation of a very small stick.

baby lizard

Once he figured out that Eric was warm, though, he kind of liked being held. We have since figured out that he wasn't a snake, but a kind of legless lizard: Anguis fragilis, or hazelworm in Dutch. The adults get a more lizard-y shape, these guys do a very convincing snake imitation.

dinosaur drawing

Much of the art in the mines commemerates the discovery of the mosasaur and giant turtle (see the Natuurhistorisch pictures) in these very mines. Much of the art in these mines was done by professionals, but some pieces are by amateurs, and some are actually grafitti.


Someone's impression of Spain.

mosasaur drawing

A charcoal drawing commemorating the mosasaur.

mosasaur sculpture

And a 3/4 scale sculpture, commemorating the same reptile. The inscription Plioplatecarpus is another genus of mosasaur. It is possible that there were, in fact, two species found in these caves, but the sources seem unclear.

st george

Saint George and his dragon. Many of the sculptures in these caves were sponsored by businesses. I believe this one was a champagne company.

turtle sculpture

The mosasaurs aren't the only reptile in these mines. This sculpture commemorates the sea turtle skeleton found here.

mosasaur sculpture

Another mosasaur, this one with the artistic license of legs.


This mural was painted in a section of the mine that housed a family hiding from the Nazis. A well-to-do family lived here. There were carved hitching posts for their horses, and carved bunks nearby where the family slept (the mines are damp and chilly, and the warmth of the horses was welcome). There were pits in the shape of bottles carved into the stone, presumably for holding specific bottles safely. And there was this painting, which I can only imagine was a hopeful reminder of the outside world in the perpetual gray of the mines.

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