A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
While initially downcast at the prospect of waking up early to go on a two and a half hour walking tour, our group made our way to meet the guide with high spirits. The guide was a friendly Dutch man who met us in the city’s Market Square, one of the several famous squares of Maastricht. We were fortunate to have lovely weather that day.
The guide pointed out aspects of the city’s architecture that might have otherwise gone overlooked – such as the significance of a slab of stone at the entrance of a church or the marking on the side of a small residential building. He even delved into how the architecture in certain neighborhoods serves as a reflection of the opinions of its residential groups over time!
The tour brought us to the main sites of interest in Maastricht such as Onze Lieve Vrouwe square, the station, beautiful bridges, and ended in the Vrijthof square. We were all famished and gathered at a cozy café for coffee and a light lunch.
My friends and I snuck away for a bit to visit what’s frequently listed as one of the prettiest bookstores in the world, Polare. It was soon time to make our way to Maastricht University where we were treated to a lecture series by the linguistics department.
We had five lecturers, one of whom was a professor and the rest being PhD (or soon to be PhD) students. The professor gave a short introductory presentation on language culture in Limburg, and the rest followed by discussing their topical PhD theses in short, 20-minute presentations. They described their research on topics such as how Frisian is used in social media, language practices of various groups such as coal miners in Belgium or elderly citizens in nursing homes, and we learned quite a bit about dialectal differences within Limburg. The lectures stretched to around 3 hours in total including discussion and questions. We were given an assignment to find instances of “language culture” in the city.
Later that evening we reconvened at a pub, which was painfully difficult to get to considering the streets were littered with peculiar people dressed up in (what I hope were) their Halloween costumes. They stood around menacingly with creepy, vacant stares, with some holding props such as butcher knives, and it took us some time to dodge them. Our discussion of the assignment included language culture visible in signs, street names, menu listings, etc. that reflected historical and hybrid elements within language use in Maastricht. And that concluded our itinerary, and just in time, because the noise and vibrations from the lively party downstairs were beginning to drown our discussion – which was a sign it was time for everyone to go and enjoy their Halloween night. It was a great trip – and I’ve put together a video to show for it!