Sounds and Smells of Maastricht

As I ven­tured into the cold, over­cast Dutch after­noon upon arrival at Maas­tricht Cen­traal, wait­ing for a taxi to my apart­ment, I was inun­dated by cer­tain sounds and smells that just didn’t exist at home in the States–and ones which I will now always asso­ciate with this city.  Depend­ing on where you are, most of the smells stay the same, yet oth­ers change.  The com­bi­na­tions were intense; so, I decided to write a quick post about these obser­va­tions alone.



The Sounds

  • High– and flat-heeled shoes click­ing on the cob­ble­stone streets

    February 2014 - Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands on the river Maas

    Feb­ru­ary 2014 — The river Maas

  • The revving of moped engines
  • Bicy­cle bells
  • The bicy­cles them­selves (chains, chain guards [mine never stops rat­tling when going over cobblestones])
  • The engines of Ger­man per­for­mance cars bolt­ing down the streets (which often have man­ual trans­mis­sions, by the way)
  • Seag­ulls hov­er­ing over the river Maas
  • Low-pitched horns of cargo ships
  • Street vio­lin­ists in the Markt and the Vri­jthof (two large, pub­lic squares in Maas­tricht), and the Sint Servaasbrug–a bridge which dates back to Roman times


The Smells

  • Per­fume and cologne
  • Freshly-made Bel­gian waffles
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Flow­ers sold in small, local markets
  • Friet - Dutch French fries
    IMGP3809 (600x800)

Becoming Dutch — The Journey There

My three-hour flight from Reykjavik-Keflavik Air­port landed safely.  I made my way to the bag­gage hall, and then to the main train sta­tion located directly under­neath the air­port.  This is where my jour­ney began.

I stepped onto the train from Ams­ter­dam, which would take me to Utrecht Cen­traal Sta­tion.  Once I changed traIMGP3720 (600x800)ins, I was headed for Eind­hoven Cen­traal, fol­lowed by quick stops in the cities of Weert, Roer­mond, and Sittard.

On the train from Ams­ter­dam to Maas­tricht and every­thing in between, here is what unfolded: flat, green coun­try­side; nar­row, reddish-brown, brick houses; and canals which grazed the land­scape.  Icons like these are what are often expected when in the Nether­lands, and I could not have been more in awe and excited that I was actu­ally in this beau­ti­ful coun­try.  It wasn’t only the land­scape which impressed me–it was the peo­ple.  I had the chance to observe Dutch life as it was.  From teenagers on their iPhones, to par­ents lis­ten­ing to their chil­dren about their day at school, it was all real.

When trav­el­ing to the Nether­lands, ask peo­ple ques­tions.  They are gen­er­ally more than happy to help a vis­i­tor.  And, do so in Dutch–their lan­guage.  It’s very com­mon for the Dutch to speak mul­ti­ple lan­guages (Dutch, Eng­lish, Ger­man, and/or French) as a result of early lan­guage edu­ca­tion begin­ning in ele­men­tary school and con­tin­u­ing until the end of sec­ondary school or beyond.  I think that Dutch is under­es­ti­mated and under-learned. In fact, leav­ing Ams­ter­dam, I struck up a con­ver­sa­tion in Dutch with a woman and her sons who were about my age.  The fam­ily gave me hints on which cities and areas should be vis­ited in the Nether­lands, and which ones should be avoided.  I also spoke with two gen­tle­men before we arrived at Utrecht Cen­traal.  As we stepped off the train and went in our own direc­tions, the two friends offered some help­ful advice on how the Dutch train net­work works, as well as a use­ful smart­phone app which maps out your route for you.IMGP3717 (800x600)

It’s these small expe­ri­ences which add a sec­ond, more-refined dimen­sion to travel: liv­ing the life that the locals live and speak­ing their lan­guage, even when you know you’re some­what of a tourist.

Here’s to the Big Leap

Blog by Matthew Rice, Study Abroad–Netherlands

It’s really happening.

As the past few months have flown by, I’ve con­tin­u­ally had to con­vince myself that on the morn­ing of Jan­u­ary 19, 2014, I will have arrived in the Nether­lands; con­vince myself that although I have been accepted to the Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Maas­tricht and my res­i­dence visa has been approved (after a some­what long and tedious process, I’ll admit), there is no chance that the trip is going to fall through the cracks.  It’s for real, and after nearly seven years of study­ing the Dutch lan­guage and cul­ture in light of this jour­ney some­day com­ing to fruition, I have never felt more pre­pared or excited.

My plane takes off 48 hours from when I write this, and it’s extremely empow­er­ing know­ing that I was raised in such a great com­mu­nity: Sno­homish, Washington.

Sno­homish (often called “Snoho” by the locals) is the kind of town where news among old friends will spread like wild­fire in the Fred Meyer pro­duce sec­tion, and the weather just doesn’t please any­one for any amount of time.  Yet, it is the most closely-knit, car­ing, and gen­er­ous com­mu­nity I can think of.  It’s this com­mu­nity that has ulti­mately helped me step aboard this east­bound plane to the Nether­lands for a true journey.

New peo­ple, another lan­guage, and a much dif­fer­ent pace.  I can deal with that.  There is so much about the Nether­lands that I would like to share with the UW Both­ell com­mu­nity in this post, but I’ll save that for when it all begins.

First stop from Sea-Tac Air­port: Keflavik Inter­na­tional Air­port near Reyk­javik, Ice­land (7 hr 15 min); next: Ams­ter­dam Schiphol Air­port (3 hrs); and finally, a cross-country train ride south­east to Maas­tricht (2 hr 40 min).

Ik spreek jul­lie later. 

Met vrien­delijke groeten,

Matthew Ryan Rice