Time’s Running Short!

What have i been up to lately? Well, I’ve been travelling quite a bit this period and travelling does in fact take a toll on your health especially when u wake up at odd hours just to catch ur planes/trains. But its all worth the trouble especially when you get to see new things and enjoy local delights.

Some of my favourite places include (in no particular order):

Edinburgh with its medieval old town and castle:

Edinburgh Castle

The Scottish Highlands, just pure serenity:

Eilean Donan Castle

Barcelona, especially Parc Guell and the awesome food (tapas, churros, etc.):

Parc Guell

Berlin, especially meaningful since i did take modern history in high school/ secondary school:

Brandenburger Tor

Oxford, UK, just being there makes you feel a 100 times smarter! No kidding! And also cuz of the places which inspired some Harry Potter scenes:

Christchurch College Dining Hall aka The Great Dining Hall in the Harry Potter films

Konigssee, Germany, where i made an impromptu decision to hike up a forest trail to a glacier:

Konigssee with the Bavarian Alps in the background

Well yea, theses are just some of the places which I very much enjoyed!

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On another note, I did not have the chance to celebrate Queens’ Day as i didn’t plan ahead enough. The accommodation prices double during the Queens’ Day weekend! However,when I did get back from my small trip to Munich (where oddly so, accommodation was hard to find because Bayern Munich was having a match that weekend..), I was treated to a spectacular display of fireworks by the river Maas (river which flows through Maastricht)!

Fireworks Display by the River Maas
Fireworks Display by the River Maas

Well, apart from Queens’ Day, the Netherlands does have other events you could enjoy!

The 5th of May is a very significant day in the Netherlands. It marks the end of WWII. And to celebrate this, the Dutch basically hold many outdoor concerts and events throughout the day in Amsterdam! Most of the concerts, although in Dutch (but hey! its music so everyone can enjoy it no matter the language and who can ever say no to free concerts?!), are held in Dam Square and many other parts within Amsterdam. So be sure to catch them when you’re there! It was only by chance that I was in Amsterdam on that day as I had only intended to visit the Keukenhof Gardens (via a shuttle service from Schiphol Airport). So I count myself lucky for being able to chance upon Liberation Day.

Tulip fields just behind the Keukenhof Gardens
Liberation Day Concert just off Dam Square

Either ways, there are tons of events which happen all over the Netherlands so be sure to check out or ask the local students about them.

In slightly over 2 weeks time, the exams will be over. Well, I’m feeling quite mixed about that. While not having to study for the rest of the summer sounds like an awesome plan, the fact that the end of school also marks the end of my exchange semester at Maastricht makes it all so bitter-sweet. Of late, when I talk with friends, I subconsciously refer to my little room in the Guesthouse as home. How time flies, in a little over one month, I’ll be back in tropical Singapore. Whilst I do miss the Singapore, I am sure that I’ll also miss the fun times I had in Maastricht. Well, all good things must come to an end i guess?

Well if you ever do come to Maastricht just be sure to enjoy the city itself and not just study your semester away. Afterall, you are on exchange for a reason! And if you ever do visit Singapore or have any other questions about Maastricht, you could contact me on Facebook! I’ll be glad to help!

Eugene

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I need a doctor…because I have Orange fever!

Welcome back, loyal followers! (Actually I’m uncertain if I have any so don’t hesitate to show your presence by commenting under the blog posts for any questions or comments!)

Don’t worry, I’m not really sick. Orange fever is real, but totally harmless. Orange fever contaminates the whole country every spring, on April 30th, for Queen’s Day. What is Queen’s Day? Basically it’s a Dutch national holiday where people celebrate the birthday of the Queen (currently named Beatrix), and do so by partying everywhere dressed up in orange, and of course by drinking for the occasion (Dutch people never miss an opportunity to drink beer).

Side note. I went biking with a friend to Roermond and Thorn, cities at the North of Maastricht, still in the Limburg province. We saw an old man driking beer on a terrasse at 9h00 AM. hahaha

OK! So back to Queen’s Day. You will ask me, is it really her birthday. Not really. But it was a long time ago. Back in the days, Queen’s Day was during the birthday of the Queen. Then, the next Queen (Beatrix’s mom) changed the date for her birthday. Finally, the current Queen, Beatrix, decided to keep Queen’s Day at the same date.

If you wanna experience the orange madness to the fullest, the craziest place to go is definitely Amsterdam, where a wave of orange invades the city streets and canals (yes people party on boats on the canals too!).  Be careful though, plan your trip in advance. Getting to Amsterdam on Queen’s Day is not a piece of cake, and almost impossible if you don’t leave early. Moreover, hostels get really expensive for that weekend, and mostly, fully booked as well, so plan ahead!

Queen’s Day at the Museumplein. A picture of Beatrix is hanged on the Rijksmuseum.
A canal in Amsterdam. Party boats cruising around.

Before Queen’s Day, I went to explore Utrecht, an important city of the Netherlands, with a significant historical value as well. I think it’s worth a visit. You can climb more than 500 steps up to the Dom Tower, the highest church tower in the Netherlands.

A view of Utrecht from the top of the tower.

Finally, I went in a little town near Rotterdam called Kinderdijk to see 19 well preserved and authentic windmills. I went there by bike from Rotterdam, but you can also reach this place by bus from Rotterdam. Windmills are a symbol of the Netherlands, but why were they so important. You might think the primary purpose of windmills is to mold the grain, but in this case, windmills were mostly used to pump water.

Have you ever wondered where the name NETHERLANDS comes from. Netherlands literally means “low lands”. 25% of the land is under the sea-level. Normally, those lands should be covered by water, but with a complicated system of pumps, canals, dams and the ingenuity of the Dutch, these lands are now available for agriculture. In fact, there was a point in history where the Netherlands gained so  much land using this techniques that they created another province. Therefore, those windmills actually served as old-fashion water pumps, powered by the wind. They would pump the water out of the desired land and direct it in canals.

A picture perfect view of some of the Kinderdijk windmills.

After all this great travelling and amazing time in Maastricht, I realize my exchange is almost over. In less than a month, I’ll be back in Canada. To be honest, I wished I could have stayed here longer. My home university doesn’t allow more than one semester abroad, but I would finish my bachelor here if I could. When you spend so much time with people, in a proximity that you can only experience in a guesthouse, the bonds between the exchanges students are strong and goodbyes will be hard. But forever will I remember this incredible time in my life, when I did an exchange semester in Maastricht. It’s the best decision I ever took in my life. If you have this opportunity, don’t think twice and go for it.

That’s all for now, in between my studying for final exams, I’ll try to live the time that I have left to the fullest!

Take care and farewell,

Mathieu