It’s coming to an end

With only less than a month left in Maastricht and 2 weeks left until my final exams for Period 2, I have started to get very nostalgic about the city. My days in the city have been cut short, especially because of my wild travelling plans I have coming up.

With the days getting shorter and the weather getting gloomier I am starting to feel like Maastricht is sad to see the end of my time here too. I’ve come to love and appreciate this beautiful quaint city. The city has the most elegant river site, walking paths to luschious green parks and serene sunsets and sunrises.

The view from my room has been an absolute delight to wake up to. I watched the magnificent tree in front of my window go from being a green giant to an autumn beauty to a naked tree. The beauty of nature is something I have never been able to appreciate back in Dubai due to the lack of proper greenery, but I’ve fallen love with the nature here. With the tree in front my room dying, I feel even more sad to leave this city.

The Dutch way of life is something I have embraced. Eating Dutch foods while pronouncing the names almost accurately and riding a bike to every location has been easy to get into. Kruidnoten, Hagelslag, Stroopwafels and Dutch cheeses have made their way to my grocery lists. I even have managed to actually learn and follow the proper bike lane rules (including using my hand as an indicator and riding the bike with one hand). I feel pretty accomplished in that sense, but I worry that it’s going to be hard for me to go back to driving a car.

With Sinterklas and Christmas around the corner the city has been adorned with beautiful lights and Christmas decorations. Walking through the streets in evening really makes you feel the holiday spirit.

The Christmas Market in Maastricht is absolutely beautiful. They have a Ferris Wheel, Ice Rink and multiple food stalls to fill your bellies. A specialty of the Christmas Market is the Wine drink they serve. It’s a sweetened, warm and diluted rendition of wine that has a slight medicinal aroma, but it tastes great.

This entire exchange experience has been a rollercoaster of experiences, with me discovering things about culture, people and myself. It’s sad to see this entire experience come to an end but I am grateful that I had the opportunity to explore this experience.


A Traveller’s Food Guide

I don’t know if my food obsession came across enough in my previous blog post, but I thought that it deserved a post of its own. One thing that I am passionate about besides travelling and exploring is food. It has been my mission to ensure that I had a taste of the local foods at every city and country I visited. I truly believe in the importance of food tourism. It’s another way to learn and experience the culture and habits of the people (while also filling your belly).

It has been two months into my exchange experience and things keep getting exciting. I have been able to visit Liege, Antwerp, Bruges and Gent in Belgium, Cologne and Munich in Germany, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I ensured to make a list of tourist spots and food locations to check out at every location. This post is going to have a lot of drool-worthy pictures depicting my journey to possibly expanding my waistline (fingers crossed), so be prepared.



I was under the impression that Belgian Waffles were just the ordinary waffles you would get at a diner, but I was wrong. So the first kind of waffle is called the “Liege Waffle” and it has a thick and fudgy texture. Its usually served with cinnamon and sugar and it is very filling. The other kind is called the “Brussels Waffle” that I ate in Antwerp (Brussels is yet to be visited). It was lighter and fluffier than the Liege Waffle and not at all filling. My friend and I had decided to eat that for dinner but we ended up going to McDonald’s (the obvious cheap option) right after since we were still hungry.


The fairytale city of Bruges was filled with multiple Belgian Chocolate stores, and entering a store and not buying something seemed rude to do. So obviously, I got myself a good bag of Belgian Chocolates and Truffles to please the Chocolate Lords.



Germany is known for their style of cooking sausages. Bratwurst is a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, pork or chicken. They usually serve it as a hotdog in bread with a sauce of your choice (as in the first picture) or chopped up in a dish called Currywurst with fries and curry sauce. During my travels, I have come to learn that the Belgians, Germans and Dutch really like their fries and they usually sell them with a variety of sauces.


The warm day in Cologne called for ice cream so we made a stop for gelato at one of the most popular spots in the city. Dulce Ice cream had a wide variety of flavours to pick from but I decided on getting a scoop of raspberry and hazelnut because two scoops are better than one.


I couldn’t have gone to Oktoberfest and not got myself the typical German beer snack. The Brezel or Pretzel was the perfect match to the ginormous jugs of beer we were all consuming. It was soft, fresh and delicious, although the pretzel was way too big and my friend and I could barely finish it up.



The Dutch Fries were highly recommended to me by the people at my hostel and they did not fail to live up to their expectations. The line for the place was huge, and even though I spent about 30 minutes waiting for the fries, they were worth it. They were warm, crunchy and comforting and put the McDonald’s fries to shame.


The Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch batter treat. They resembled small, fluffy pancakes, but they had a light and spongy texture. I went for the classic version of these with butter and icing sugar and they were heavenly. My plate came with almost 20 of the mini pancakes and I was close to exploding after my 12th piece, but I somehow managed to finish it all up (yes, I’m a bit of a beast when it comes to food).


I could not have left Amsterdam without trying out the best fresh stroopwafels of the city. The stall was in the Albert Cuyp market and they have been listed in multiple food blogs and magazines for their ever famous stroopwafels. I got mine with chocolate and it was warm and not excessively sweet. I absolutely loved it and I almost bought a second one, but I held back on my gluttonous impulses.

My food obsession has most probably come across as very gluttonous and insane but I enjoy experiencing new places through their food too. My upcoming travels have more promising local treats and I cannot wait to talk about them in my next post.

Exploring the neighbourhood

Prior to my arrival, I was told by my friends who had done their semester abroad in Maastricht about the convenient location of the city. My knowledge of general geography is not the best so I did not really pay keen attention to that fact until I got here. I had looked up the map of Europe to get a vague idea about the neighbouring countries of the Netherlands, but I underestimated the proximity of the other cities with respect to Maastricht.MVIMG_20180925_192240 

One month in and I’m still fascinated by the city. Maastricht has a lot of natural beauty to it, and with Autumn kicking in the trees and the parks around the city look absolutely beautiful. The river Maas is always glistening and has become one of my favourite spots in the city. I have to admit, I get bothered by how fickle the weather is. With occasional rainy days and sunny days, I’m always confused about how to dress for class. There was a day when I only wore a sweater and didn’t carry a jacket (since it seemed to warm), and when I was done with my tutorials it got extremely cold and breezy. I nearly died on my bike ride back to my guesthouse.

During my second week in Maastricht, I decided to go to a neighbouring city on my bike. My trip to Valkenburg was going to be a 45-minute bike ride (according to Google Maps, but little does it know I’m not a professional cyclist). I was all ready to make this trip to Valkenburg, and I decided to do it in the afternoon when it would be the right amount of “warm” for me to ride that far.IMG_20180904_160004_288

I had my raincoat, water and music all prepared for this trip. The first 20-minutes was an easy ride out of the city. The next 40-minutes (yes I took longer than what Google Maps said) was very challenging. The freeway to Valkenburg had a narrow bike lane (the fact that there was a proper bike lane was fascinating). There was a 3km uphill road, which was torture. You don’t really realise the uphill/downhill-ness of a road when you are in a car, but trying to ride on your bike on it makes you regret the fact that you take it for granted. It gets very challenging, and as a novice cyclist, I saw multiple people cross me (kids and elderly people) while I huffed and puffed on the bike. At one point I started walking because it got too hard. After overcoming that feat, I reached Valkenburg.

MVIMG_20180904_161506The city had more residential houses to it and a lot more greenery compared to Maastricht. I cycled around the city and managed to conveniently get lost in the city. I got distracted and found myself next to a farm with a couple of cows on it. Somehow, I managed to twist something on my bike and damage the steering. At this point, I was out of mobile data and did not know where I was. To my minimal luck, I found a park with a couple of Dutch moms who got some tools to fix my bike. I could not have thanked them enough for literally saving my life because if I had to walk back to Maastricht, it would’ve taken me a good 2 hours. I managed to get back to Maastricht in one piece and I am ever so grateful to those Dutch moms for helping out a lost wandering student.

My other trips to neighbouring cities were not as eventful as the one to Valkenburg, but they came close to it. A couple of us exchange students took a day trip to Liege in Belgium.MVIMG_20180908_123001

We used Google Trips (my new favourite Google App) to find touristy locations. We went to La Boverie (an art museum) and an Aquarium, both of which had free entry. We even visited St.Paul’s Cathedral, which was magnificent, and the Montagne de Bueren, the landmark city staircase of 374 steps (we survived the climb). We even treated ourselves to a delicious Belgian Waffle, since food plays an important role in my tourist activities.


The following week, we went to Cologne in Germany. We signed up for a free walking tour but we conveniently lost our tour group an hour into it. We explored the city ourselves and went to the Cathedral, Hohenzollern Bridge and Willy Millowitsch. Since it was pretty warm that day we got some gelato and even had some of the local delicacies of Bratwurst and Currywurst. An exciting thing that happened was that we almost missed out FlixBus back to Maastricht since the train we had to take to the bus stop had been delayed, but we took another train and ran for our lives to get the bus (all the food I had during the day were not a good idea at this point) and we got the bus back.


I have had a fair share of interesting day trips so far and I’m excited to make some weekend-long trips to the neighbouring countries.

Until next time,



Becoming a local Maastrichtenaar

Hey there,

Welcome to my blog posts where I’ll be sharing my exciting yet strange experiences during my time abroad. My name is Rachana Pillamari and I am a 21-year-old Indian from Dubai. The first thought that comes to everyone’s head when they hear “Dubai” is that I probably roll around in a Lamborghini back home while I pet my tiger. Well, I am just an average Indian expatriate who was born and brought up in Dubai (there are a lot of Indians in Dubai) and I have had the opportunity to experience a wide range of cultures.

I am currently studying at the American University of Sharjah with a Major in Finance and a Minor in Theatre and Actuarial Math (yeah I know, it’s a strange combination). I am in my 4th year and I will be studying at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics as a part of my exchange program. I had decided to embark on this exchange experience to challenge myself and discover what the world had to offer. Since I had already been to places in America and Asia, my options were narrowed down to the ones in Europe. Moreover, I found the Problem Based Learning system at Maastricht University very intriguing, and just as nerdy it may sound, that’s what made me decide on coming to Maastricht. The whole decision to study abroad was a big life decision since I had never been away from home for so long, and excitement, anxiety and nervousness were the only emotions I could feel up until the time I left from Dubai.

I had to take a flight to Amsterdam and then catch the train from the Schipol Airport to Maastricht. I had a stopover in Turkey, so my entire journey was about 9 hours. Taking a train from Amsterdam with a ginormous 30 kg suitcase was quite the challenge since it would barely fit through the aisles in the train. After I arrived at Maastricht Central Station, I met with a couple of students from the ISN who were providing a shuttle service from the station to the UM Guesthouse. I was going to be staying in the P-building. I managed to get myself a bicycle on my second day at Maastricht and I went around exploring the city.


During my first few days at Maastricht, I was keen on exploring the city and finding good spots for purchasing my groceries and other necessities. My friend and I would ride our bicycles to the city centre and check out the stores there. I learnt about the Market that happens every Wednesday and Friday in the city centre where they sell fresh produce at inexpensive rates. I even went to a couple of grocery stores to figure out which of them had the best prices, considering that I am a student living on a budget. So far, Jumbo and Aldi seem like promising spots for inexpensive groceries.


I found it fascinating as to how many people use a bicycle as a means of getting around. Initially, I found the transition strange, since I was very used to driving a car around, but with time I managed to get used to that lifestyle and now every time I go out I am always looking for the perfect pole or gate to lock my bicycle too. I found carrying my groceries on my bicycle a hassle (and my basket was not enough to hold all my things), but I have managed to figure out the art of carrying my groceries in a tote bag on my shoulder and cycling at the same time. Another thing I really loved was how most of the local people have pet dogs, and as a fellow dog-lover and dog-owner, the sight of the little dogs on the streets remind me of home.MVIMG_20180904_152511

Upon my arrival, I was fascinated (and a little overwhelmed) with the newfound independence and responsibility I was feeling in Maastricht and I am looking forward to the many adventures I am yet to experience during my semester abroad. I am in awe of the natural beauty that Maastricht has to offer and I can’t wait to explore more of the city.

Until next time,

Rachana Pillamari