Resisting change

Starting new was not something that challenging for me. Been there, done that. More than a couple of times. Only one time I did it by myself and I think I handled it better than most. So I knew what there was to know. I had struggled those years to learn and I was proud of myself for having accumulated some life lessons. Read more

Hello friends. Or not friends.

(We shall see.) The name is Sophie.

People in Maastricht are always so preoccupied with explaining where they come from. And granted it’s complicated. So just for the sake of satisfaction I’m going to throw in a few city names as to give you a gist because honestly, does it even matter… Places I call home are Berlin and Hamburg, Germany, and Richmond, Virginia- not always, and not always equally. Maastricht has a special position, but it will continue to be my home for one more semester. And it better be glorious. Read more

Living abroad

It’s been three weeks since I’ve landed in Maastricht, and I’m still having trouble coming to reality.

Am I really here? This is actually Europe. I’m in Europe! Read more

A German fairytale

While y’all were Carnival-ing it away, yours truly was castle-spotting in South Germany over the weekend. It was freezing, tiring and straight-out lovely.

I left from Brussels on an easyJet flight. The people from the Brussels National Airport have an ambivalent attitude towards low-cost airlines. On the one hand, they accept some companies (easyJet, FlyBe and BlueAir, for example) instead of exiling them to cheaper brother Charleroi Airport. On the other hand, they seem ashamed at their tolerance, so they exile the flights to the most hidden corners of the terminal. So I climbed down endless flights of stairs to a basement-like waiting room and then walked for the duration of 3 songs through the Belgian icy drizzle until I finally reached the plane. I buckled up, had the usual argument with the flight attendants regarding the dangers my Kindle poses to air safety and enjoyed an uneventful flight to Basel.

Basel is technically in Switzerland. Basel Airport is just across the French border and serves not only Basel, but also French city Mulhouse and beautiful German Freiburg. So the airport has a Swiss side and a Franco-German side, each with separate car rental agencies,  which seems pointless until you discover the staggering price difference between the sides. So the Boy and I sneaked through the sliding doors of the conventional border, rented a car from the French side and we were off.

First on the list, Sigmaringen Schloss in the city of the same name, slightly south of Stuttgart. Built by an apparently unremarkable branch of the better-known Hohenzollern family, the castle dominates the sleepy town from its hill and charges a bit too much for entrance. So we settled for a walk in the streets decorated for carnival and then left, having laughed at the parking spaces reserved for women.

Renting the car from the French side came back to bite us. We were cruising through the hills when it started snowing heavily. We half pulled over, half almost crashed into the roadside and discovered that French renting companies are not obliged to provide winter tires. So they don’t. For the rest of the day, our driving speed went back and forth between 100-something and 30 km/h, all the while cursing the elements and overworking the windshield wipers.

By the time we reached Burg Hohenzollern, it was too late to visit it, so we just walked around it, laughing at the former kings of Prussia, who apparently thought it fun to have the same name and just change the number at the end. After another few hours of fun-filled drive on icy roads, we finally reached Lindau, our stop for the night. Delightfully placed on the shore of Lake Constance, which the Germans insist in calling a sea for some reason, Lindau looks exactly like I’ve always imagined Bavarian cities. It has cobbled streets, painted buildings and was, at that time, covered in both snow and Carnival decorations. We almost would have stayed.

But we didn’t, since there was still the highlight of the trip to be reached. East of Lake Constance, tucked away between hills and mountains lies the castle you don’t even know you know. Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein looks weirdly familiar until you realize (or read on Wikipedia) that it served as inspiration for the Disney castles. If you remember one thing from this whole article, let this one be it: Go see Neuschwanstein. The guided tour explains its history in a manageable format, the rooms are stunningly decorated with scenes from folk legends and the view down into the surrounding valley makes you feel on top of the world.

After another long drive, we got back to Basel and, disturbingly soon, it was time to head back home. I found Maastricht covered in confetti, broken glass and silly string, so I’m guessing you had a good time, too. But I’ll be honest: I had too much fun to regret missing the Carnival chaos. Maybe next year.

Carnival in Maastricht

Carnival is a three day party that folks in Maastricht celebrate before Lent. For some, it’s a little more than three days, for others it’s a little less. Either way, people appeal to the heart of it all by dressing up in costumes of all shapes and colors.

Last Sunday I put on thermals and thick wool socks beneath a bright blue track suit. My roommate sported a green one to match. My costume made me feel goofy and wonky and not at all to be taken seriously. Yet I never felt out of place. Read more

Letting Go of Sterling

I have never been a frugal person, as much as I would love to be, I’m just not.  I have this habit of having no money, saving up, realising that I actually have quite a lot of money, spending it without keeping track and then discovering that I don’t have any left.  Every time this happens I’m left with an overbearing sense of guilt.  I’m hurting no one but myself by being so financially irresponsible and maybe that’s just it.  My recommended Amazon purchases are a testament to my ridiculous  behaviour; anyone for a rope ladder? Peppermint candle? 400 glow in the dark plastic stars? I thought not.  You’re probably all far too sensible for any of that. Read more

First Impression of Maastricht

I arrived in Maastricht on a cold January morning. I had been told that I would be picked up in the Brussels airport by a student, and I would immediately be meeting the other study abroad students in the CES (Center for European Studies) program at Maastricht. Read more

Adaptive topography and the small-city effect

(Self-imposed challenge of the day: pick a title so ridiculously pretentious that the colleague in charge of SEO-ing the blog will sigh audibly in frustration. Achieved, I’d say.)

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