Monday, 10 March 2014

Carnival and Countdowns

Once a year in the Netherlands people in the southern part of the country party to their hearts content while everyone “above the rivers” continue along with their normal lives. March means it’s time to celebrate Dutch Carnival and southern cities like Breda, Tilburg, and Maastricht go into full festival mode, with everyone off work for the full four days of celebrations.

Of course, if you’re in Utrecht the only way to see a bit of the action is to head south.  Hop on a train in that direction during Carnival season and you won’t be able to miss the fact that festivities are going on all around. To see what all the fuss was about and lured by the promise of outrageous costumes and Dutch folk songs, I headed to Maastricht (as far south as it gets) on a train full of pirates, clowns and everything in between.

I had been told to bring a costume or risk standing out in the sea of highly thought-out Carnival gear and it was good advice. It’s hard to imagine you can walk through the city center in a full monkey suit and still look so plain, but you can tell some Carnival costumes have taken serious preparation. Kudos!

The Sunday parade, the official opening of Carnival, was a long line of theatrical costumes and floats, from giant walking clothes pegs to oversized ghostly headless men in suits, with a constant stream of Carnival inspired music to add to the mix.  It’s got a light-hearted family atmosphere and people, young and old, line the streets decked out in the most exciting costume they could get their hands on. After the parade, I topped the day of with a bowl of delicious Dutch pea soup (why not make an intensely Dutch experience that little bit more Dutch) and got back on the train with all of the slightly worn-out looking “Hollanders” heading back north to Utrecht for the start of the work week, most likely wishing we also enjoyed all those days off work.


March in Master’s student life means quite the opposite. It’s crunch time and the countdown to the end of Block 3 is on. It’s just five weeks until the end of the block, the end of the required courses in our Master’s, and the start of thesis time. You can still take classes in Block 4 alongside your thesis, but I haven’t yet heard from anyone in my class that they are going to take on that challenge. For me, the thought of thesis at the beginning of the year filled me with a slight sense of dread. Now, coming to the end of busy classes, it feels like a bit of a relief. I welcome the thought of being able to work on one project and fill my days with a mix of studying and enjoying the city. With warm sunny days, the park around the corner from my house filled to the brim over the weekend, full of students lying out in the sun, painting, reading and having a barbecue with friends. It’s window-open, balcony-reading sort of weather in Utrecht and somehow that makes studying a little easier and a lot more pleasant.

Until the next time/Tot de volgende keer!


Flowers popping up in the nearby Wilheminapark

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