On the second of January, I jumped on a plane balling my eyes, because I already missed my family. Some members of my family were having health problems and had just been admitted to hospital in another state, so while I was in the airport saying goodbye, we were also frantically booking flights for my fiance to travel the next day. Flying normally doesn’t bother me, but this time was a little different.
Previously, all my flying experience has been to and from Asia or over the pond to New Zealand. I have never flown 23 hours before, nor have I ever flown across the Middle East! I’ve got no advice or wisdom, sorry! Despite flying out around 10:30pm and being more than ready for bed, I think I only caught about an hour or two of sleep the whole flight.
My train instructions
I flew into Brussels where the train station is conveniently right under the airport terminals. The train caught me a little off guard, because my trip involved changing trains and therefore platforms twice. That might have been ok, except I struggled to find station names and the announcers of course spoke French! A lovely gent and his little son offered to help me at one stage, or at least I think that’s what they were offering! You see, the trains here have small narrow staircases in and out, and I was carting one giant suitcase, one little carry on suitcase and backpack! All in all though, I muddled my way through without too many dramas. I opted to catch a cab from Maastricht Station to the Guesthouse, because I was of course exhausted. The cabbie was lovely, although he was a bit perplexed by my request to go to ‘Maastricht Uni’. ‘Which one?’ was essentially his reply.
I loved the first few days of exploring and sightseeing. Within two days of arriving I had helped myself to three different types of Vlaai; sour cherry, apricot and custard. I’m not sure I could pick a favourite to be honest. My sour cherry vlaai came courtesy of my attempt to find somewhere open selling coffee near the guest house at 7:30am. I had no luck with coffee, but did find a little bakery where I bought the mini vlaai! I’m positive the bakery-lady thought I was nuts getting that for breakfast. I really think food is the key part that makes travel so much fun. I’ve been just as confused as my cabbie was, by the Dutch predisposition towards cold drinks and cool foods for lunch. I think I assumed that cold weather would mean rich and hearty food for every meal! Although in terms of warm foods, it is possible I may have already overdone it with fritjes, curry ketchup and mayo. I’m currently not considering eating any more of those for quite some time!!
Curry and mayo fries!
Ollibollen New Years treat!
More on food, I was really grateful that despite it no longer being New Years, that I was able to find ollibollen. I of course made a big mess of myself with the powdered sugar, yum! Luckily, I’m getting in plenty of exercise walking around the city. I haven’t worked up the courage to jumped on a fiets. I’m still barely remembering which way to look when crossing the road! But, I do fully intend to get into the cycling soon.
European Commission visit
I did a beautiful walking historical tour with a hilarious gent who was born in Maastricht 7 days after the American liberation, following the landing in Normandy. He too pointed out some great food places to try, including a local establishment serving horse stew?! I haven’t tried that, but I did try wild boar and deer steaks! Not bad. While the Sint Petersberg cave tours didn’t include food highlights, they were incredibly fascinating. Definitely something I would do again!
Just before classes started, I snuck out of town with my roommate Amy across to Belgium. We had an awesome (but insanely freezing) day exploring Brugge. Turns out we chose the perfect day to go, because there was free music festival on in the town. We got free fritjes, and I’m pretty sure there were free beer and wine going on as well! We visited a cute little old-school tea house, and bought a Belgian Waffle. It was ok, but seriously the Liege Waffle I had in Brussels the following weekend was sooooo much better. It was just plain, from a little van on the street. Wow! Life changing.
Visit to the European Parliament
I had the best time in Brussels. The hot chocolate is amazing! And in all seriousness, the European Parliament and European Commission were incredibly interesting places to visit. I felt humbled and astounded at the efforts to ensure each member state has a genuine seat at the table. The language diversity and technology in place to ensure Commissioners and Parliamentarians can all understand and participate in debates are amazing. It was so impressive, and really instructive on what genuine diplomacy can achieve. Tomorrow we head off to Planete Chocolat, for chocolate tasting and a chocolate museum… I cannot wait!
Hi, I am Kirstie. I’m here studying International Relations and Politics in the EU at Maastricht University. At home, I study a Dual Bachelor of Laws and Arts majoring in International Relations, at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). I am a Munujali woman from South East Queensland in Australia. I am also the Careers and Education Officer for USQ Law Society, and a volunteer with the Dignity Project.