All paths lead to Maastricht

I spent my final week in Europe in the city I love best with the people I love most - Maastricht. Eight exchangers planned to meet back in Maastricht after our individual summers of backpacking. Most of us had intercepted paths once or twice along the way - but everyone came back to Maastricht with stories to share. I came rolling into Maastricht after an overnight stop in Cologne, Germany:   We all meet by the Maas Lake and spent our first afternoon outside in the sun cheering as each new face made it to our meeting spot. Over mint lemonade and stroopwaffles we laughed, cried, and lived through the adventures of each other. Pat rocked up with painted toes: Pat's blue toenails are Read more

Alternative Culture with Berliners

Traveling solo is the least lonely way to travel. With each new city come new faces, new friends, and new adventures. In Budapest I met Cassy and Mitch form Australia. Then, I ran into them in Prague. In both cities, we had a wonderful time and decided to meet up in Berlin. Around 4am we met a group of Berliners and decided to all take our photo in a photoautomat - an outdoor photo booth popular throughout Berlin. Six people in a small photoautomat, especially when one person is approaching 7ft tall, proved impossible. Instead, we opted for a photo with the photoautomat. At 4am, you never expect plans to actually happen (or even be remembered) but partly out of politeness Read more

Returning to Berlin

I've said it before in my Paris v. Berlin post, and I'll say it again. To travel to Berlin is to be inspired - creative minds flock to Berlin. I made sure to again return to Berlin and explore all the history, innovation, and art in every form. Everyone, from every walk of life, can be found on the streets of Berlin. The sidewalks are shared by blue-haired punk-rockers, young German yuppies in suits, dreadlocks, piercings, covered in tattoos, the elderly in grayscale simple clothes, fashionistas, big thick framed glasses. It is an organic city – filled with thinkers and alive with new opportunities. Berlin is a city in transition, a city regaining an identity after its long, turbulent history. Read more

Czech out Prague

The day I arrived to Prague happened to be the same day a major heat wave engulfed the city. With relentless high temperatures and air conditioning but a luxurious dream, shade and cool places became the main tourist attractions. I chose my hostel based solely on its name - Czech Inn. The most clever punny hostel name of all hostels to ever exist! After booking the hostel, I discovered that it is considered one of the finest hostels in all of Europe. Indeed, upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the upscale bar area, luxury showers, and overall trendiness of the accommodation. Though, no air-conditioning. On my first day I planned a big walking trip of the city but could only Read more

Caving in Budapest

Budapest - the city of caves, stalagmites and hotsprings! After a big night out in Budapest I ambitiously started my day early and took a long walk through Heroes Square, the museum area and Central Park as well as to the Opera House and a second hand book store. I was exhausted by the time I arrived back to the hostel mid-afternoon. My intention was to take the rest of the day easy, which was really an unrealistic luxury at my particular hostel. Every hostel has a unique culture, and my hostel in Budapest (Carpe Noctem Vitae - highly recommend!) was all about having a good time. So, instead of relaxing, I found myself on a bus on the way to a cave. Myself, Read more

Budapest Thermal Baths and Ruin Bars

There are bits of travel books that I simply skim over, some parts I skip entirely, and some that I circle, highlight and sometimes even accidentally break the book spine by reading that page so many times.  The section on Budapest Thermal baths had coffee stains and crinkled pages because it was this section that I poured over when reading about Budapest. Budapest is known as the 'City of Spas' and this reputation dates back to the 16th century with the Turks constructed public baths throughout Budapest and other parts of Hungary. These baths are built over hot springs that bring mineral rich waters into the pools. Many Hungarians believe that these waters have medicinal powers to help ailment such Read more

Mizzou Collides with Budapest

Traveling long-term includes a conscious decision to push through exhaustion and continue forward with exploration, socializing and general traveling fun. When on short-term trips, you have the capacity and energy to travel 100% all day every day because you know that you can crash when you get home. Long-term travel is a different case - and I figured that out on my eighth day in Bulgaria. Besides my illness in Spain, I sacrificed no moment to sleep in or to excessively relax. Yes, I maximized my time in each location. But also, yes, I wore myself out. I had to spend a full day sleeping at Dilyana's apartment to recuperate. The next night I caught a night train back to Read more

Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria

Dilyana said that the "spirit of Bulgaria" can be found in the small town of Koprivshtitsa located in the Sredna Mountains. The town was the center of the April Uprising in 1876 in which the Bulgarians carried out an insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. This time period is known as the Bulgarian National Revival, and Koprivshtitsa was the center of it all. The town now represents traditional Bulgarian architecture, way of life, and is the home to many monumental works of art and culture. The boy with us is Dilyana's friend, Gueorg, who is now a member of the European Commission. I had the privilege of helping him edit his English cover letter that he then used to be hired! He Read more

The Black Sea: Nessebar

  The city of Nessebar dates back 3,000 years ago with architecture reflecting the many different masks the city wore over the centuries. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.  Charming, traditional and serene - Nessebar earned a big heart around its dot on my tattered travel map. For my journey around Europe I hardly spent anytime shopping besides looking for one, elusive item: an apron. My mom's birthday was to take place while I was abroad and with her recent gluten-free cooking hobby, she had requested an apron for her birthday. First off, an apron might be one of the most difficult items to explain to shop owners with broken English and I with very limited foreign language skills. Second of all, Read more

On the Road: Rotterdam, Delft and Den Haag

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Albums, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Eight girls, three cities, and one crazy adventure.

After carnival, my new friends and I set out on a very affordable tour of the Netherlands. Originally, we had planned to travel to Paris to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The only thing more depressing than celebrating Valentine’s Day without a Valentine was how much money the Paris trip added up to be, so we opted to stay within the Netherlands and see what our host country has to offer.

In retrospect, exploring the Netherlands should’ve been our first thought before Paris. It is easy to get lost in all the grand cities that Europe has to offer that we forget to appreciate the cities, the local people and the country that we call home while on exchange. It felt right to first travel Holland, my temporary home, before exploring other places.

Meet the group:

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Camilla – Italy

Riikki and Karin (not in photo) – Finland

Dilyana – Bulgaria

Reagan and Kristen – USA


Rotterdam is often called the “Gateway to Europe” because it the center of a massive air, rail, road and inlwand waterway distribution system that reaches throughout Europe. In 2004 Shanghai passed up Rotterdam as the largest port city in the world, though Rotterdam is still the largest port city in Europe. The port in Rotterdam was one of the six vital ‘chambers’ of the Dutch East India Company.

During WWII, German troops bombed Rotterdam in what is now referred to as The Rotterdam Blitz. The city crumbled to the ground, killing nearly 900 Dutch citizens and leaving another 80,000 homeless. Holland surrendered after the bombing upon threats of an additional bombing of Utrecht.

Unlike other cities in the Netherlands, the quintessential old European charm is not found within Rotterdam. All the traditional buildings were destroyed in 1940 from the Rotterdam Blitz, and have been replaced with modern structures. Post-war mentality in the Netherlands is best described as a postmodern ‘anything goes’ mentality, and these sentiments are reflected in the architecture of Rotterdam. Most notable, the Kop van Zuid reflects the “new” Rotterdam architecture and personality. Cranes and unfinished scaffolding dot the ever-growing skyline – Rotterdam is still far from complete.

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Modern art lined most large streets

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Rotterdam is truly a city of personality. I took this inside a small restaurant we enjoyed lunch in. The walls were lined with pop art and the building is structurally fascinating. The entire city feels like it is trying to be more sleek and unique than its neighbor.

Pancake Boat Tour

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For 13 euros we toured Rotterdam from the water and enjoyed an unlimited pancake bar!

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This is Lexie, a resident at ROOM Hostel Rotterdam – a super trendy independently run hostel in the heart of Rotterdam.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! A girls night with wine, cheese, chocolate and lots of laughter!

Boijmans van Beuningen Art Museum

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 You can check your coat by lowering down a hanger then hoisting it back up again with your jacket on it! Functional art.


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Casually hanging out in the Romantic era gallery.

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Dali is the man.


(Located between Rotterdam and Den Haag)

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The famous Delft blue ceramics!


The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, though Den Haag is the seat of the Dutch Government, Parliament, Supreme Court and the home of Queen Beatrix.

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We found these 12 euro roses at Haagse Markt – the largest outdoor market in Europe.

With roses this cheap, there are NO EXCUSES BOYS for nobody in our group receiving flowers for Valentine’s Day…

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Peace Palace

Overall, this was a great trip with a great group of new friends. I plan to return to Den Haag to visit the International Criminal Court, and I also plan to visit Ultrecht and Amsterdam since we did not get to those cities on our trip. Loving the Netherlands for its blend of quaint towns and cosmopolitan cities!


Faces of Maastricht Carnival

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Albums, Part I, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

These are the faces of the Maastricht Carnival. The faces of hearty street dancers, of shameless drunk singers, of new friends and fellow celebrators. Together, these faces create the perfect madness that is Vasteloavend in Mestreech.

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The history of carnival in Maastricht

February 10, 2007 by Hennie Reuvers 

During my childhood years in the late 1950’s, carnival didn’t start earlier than one week before Ash Wednesday. Our schoolmaster at the Saint Francis primary school, in the Maastricht district of Nazareth, would set out to teach us the new carnival song in Mestreechs, the dialect of Maastricht. These songs were often inspired by some local event and I still remember one in particular about the dustmen (or ‘drekmaan’ in dialect) who went on strike…

Carnival 1930, photograph: courtesy of Hennie Reuvers

My mother would stitch cowboy fringes onto our trousers and buy us new snap cap pistols. Donning the old cowboy hats that were still lying in the loft, we were soon ready for the school carnival on Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday morning, we went to watch the Big Carnival Parade (‘groete optoch‘). Shiplike floats displayed topical subjects, such as political events in the Belgian Congo, and funny individuals called Einzelgängerwere said to be dancing about with turds in their nappies.

During the next two days all the children were off school and passed the time playing ‘cowboys and Indians’. Then, on Ash Wednesday, Lent began and carnival was over.

I didn’t spend my adolescent years in Maastricht, but my children did. My daughter took part in the carnival festivities with her girlfriends disguised as a geisha or a samba dancer. Much to my grief, the feasting lasted all day and a large part of the night. After carnival, she was always ill. Nowadays, she’s had enough of these three days of madness, and flees from the city in good time.

What is carnival? 
Sober outsiders can’t easily understand what is going on. Where the hell does this folly come from? A bit of reading into the matter quickly made me realise that carnival is celebrated in many places all over the world, but not nearly everywhere. In the northern part of the Netherlands, it actually falls under the realm of ‘popish naughtiness’. (‘paapse stoutigheden‘)

Moreover, there are wide differences in the way the festival is celebrated. For example, the exuberant summer carnival of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil bears little similarity with the Farmers Wedding feast (‘Boerenbruiloft’) typical of the Dutch province of Brabant.

The origin of carnival appears to be mainly threefold and can be traced back to:
First, the Roman Saturnalia, Bacchanalia, and Lupercalia festivals. These were fertility rituals connected with the succession of the seasons. Slaves and women were sometimes allowed to be the boss for a while, or conversely, had to endure even more hardships.

Wodan, source: WikipediaSecond, the Germanic-Celtic pendants of the Roman festivals. These were also linked with fertility, and hence with death: for instance, the Wild Chase (‘Wilde Jacht’) represents a procession of slain warriors, led by Wodan. (This gives me a nice idea: why not go to carnival disguised as Wodan, the one-eyed supreme god with a wild beard, a soft hat and a wide mantle, riding on a white horse and flanked by two ravens?)

Third, the ecclesiastical feasts of fools. These held a reversal of the normal hierarchy as well. Since medieval times, the Catholic Church has gradually substituted Christian counterparts for the old heathen customs. Accordingly, Shrove Tide was the last occasion for pleasure before the beginning of Lent.

The Carrus Navalis 
The Dutch words for carnival are ‘carnaval‘ and ‘vastenavond‘.

There are two possible explanations for ‘vastenavond‘: First, it can be understood as ‘Fast evening’, meaning the eve of Lent. Second (as in the German word Fasnacht) it can refer to the Indo-European word stem ‘pes‘, and our word ‘penis‘, and thus to fertility.

For the word ‘carnaval‘ there are three explanations from Latin: First, carnevale – meat farewell, referring to the approach of Lent. Second, related to the first, carnelevare – to abolish the meat. Third, carrus navalis – ship cart, or float, and that’s something quite different.

Carnival float, photograph: http://hetiscarnaval.homestead.comFloats have been present in fertility festivals from Norway to Greece since pre-Christian times. Some historians think that the carnival float is a remainder of the ancient Indo-European brotherhoods. Other people consider it as a parody of the Ship of Saint Peter, which represents the Catholic Church. And that isn’t improbable either, because carnival has always been the festival of parody and reversed relationships.

The carrus navalis appears early enough in the written history of the Maastricht carnival: in 1133, a blue ship on wheels arrived from Aachen into Maastricht, dragged on by members of the guild of weavers, and continued its way to Tongeren. Scattered reports about vastenavond in Maastricht from later years exist as well. But how did the modern carnival festival come into being?

The Momus Society
The retreat of a strict government in favour of a more lenient one has always given a strong impulse to carnival. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, and the resulting Congress of Vienna, there was room for new associative life ‘for instruction and pleasure’ (‘tot lering ende vermaak’).Various carnival associations burgeoned in the Rhineland and the newly chosen carnival princes wore a fool’s hat that bore an uncomfortable resemblance with the Napoleonic bicorn, placed crosswise. Of course, the alert Maastricht people didn’t fail to notice this.

The Momus Society, named after the Greek god of satire, was founded in Maastricht in 1839. During its hundred years of existence, the Society organised many events in the fields of sports, charity and culture, among which also historical ‘cavalcades’ (historical parades with many horses) on the occasion of carnival. The first carnival parade organised by the Momus Society was a parody of the ‘entrée solennelle’ in 1520 of the emperor Charles V in Maastricht.

After buying the Momus House, located on the eastern side of the city centre’s beautiful Vrijthof square, the association refurbished the building, basing all the measurements on the number eleven, a symbolical number for carnival. Its front façade was adorned with the well-known stone fool’s head. In its 1872 association rules, the Momus Society speaks of “really-fine folly, but not beyond the boundaries of decency”.

Momus House in Maastricht, photograph: Herman Pijpers

Many humouristic orators gave addresses in Mestreechs. Mounted on a winged horse called Pegasus, the poets were allowed to escape from reality, but upon reaching the star constellation of the same name, they were met by eleven elves who would bring them back to Mother Earth. (In Dutch the number eleven is elf, which is also the word for the well known nature spirit, in English and German and Dutch. One of the (many) explanations for the symbolical carnival number eleven is that it comes from the name of the nature spirit (in old-German: alf).)

The carnival festivities 
Alphone Olterdissen, photograph: M.Reuvers-HendriksAt the beginning of the twentieth century, the Big Carnival Parade was organised by the unforgettable pacemaker Alphonse Olterdissen, whose cast iron statue stands in the Grote Looiers Street. Special committees were responsible for the other activities, both indoors and in the open air. Stately halls were reserved for high society, while the lower echelons would feast in the streets and pubs.

After 1936, a growing number of individuals started taking part in the carnival parades (a phenomenon known as the ‘Bonte Storm van Einzelgänger‘), and the mayor of Maastricht officially welcomed the city’s Prince Carnival at the municipal hall. More often than not, some ministers of the national government were present at the reception as well.

Momus cannon, photograph: Tempeleers websiteDuring the Second World War, the German authorities banned the festival, so it returned with new vitality after the war.

Every year the city’s carnival festivities are organised by Maastricht’s main carnival association the Tempeleers and the people of Maastricht choose a new carnival song, composed in Mestreechs. The Prince heralds carnival with eleven shots from the old Momus cannon, and hoists up a large papier-mâché puppet, the Mooswief, which represents the patroness of the Maastricht carnival. This is the well-known woman selling vegetables at the market, whose stone statue stands on the Market square. She guards the festival from above. At the closing ceremony marking the end of carnival, the Prince hauls the puppet down again.

In the 1960’s, young people began to challenge authority all over the western world, and carnival developed even further in Maastricht. ‘Drunken’ wind bands (‘zate herremeniekes‘) increasingly began to contribute to the colourful street festival.

The meaning of carnival for the people of Maastricht
Mooswief, photograph: Tempeleers brochureAn elderly Maastricht resident told me that in his early days, people used to pray the forty-hour prayer for the poor sinners who couldn’t behave during carnival. In his view, people who didn’t grow up in Maastricht couldn’t celebrate vastelaovond in the right way. As for himself, he had taken part in the organisation of both religious processions and carnival parades. For instance, he had led a group of winged motorscooters, offering a solution for the traffic problems on the old Saint Servaas bridge. He explained that although one could borrow things from the Tempeleers’ storehouse, people usually had to do most of the work without help. He regretted that nowadays, ‘people weren’t patient enough to prepare a nice act for the parade.’ He saw leadership as a serving task. As a matter of fact, carnival pacemakers were often leaders in sports clubs or in youth work organisations as well.

I also spoke with a most friendly Tempeleer and former Prince Carnival. He told me that in the early eighties some Tempeleer friends had tricked him into the function of Prince. In his role, he had had to pay visits to all the rest homes in Maastricht for several weeks. During vastelaovond, perfect strangers had poured out their hearts to him. His broad fool’s head has been beaming with festive joy ever since.

Prince Carnival in Maastricht, Carnival 2006, photograph: Tempeleers websiteWhen I asked him about the origin of the Maastricht carnival, he replied that this was a mystery, and should remain a mystery forever. Moreover, he presently had more important things to think about. The Tempeleers wished to proclaim our city’s mayor Gerd Leers the most thorough-going mayor of the whole Meuse-Rhine Euroregion. And this was going to happen during a festal Veolia bus ride along the trenches caused by the inner city works. It had to be an event with esprit, the former Prince Carnival stated, ‘because esprit was the basis of the Maastricht Vastelaovond.’

The Mestreechter Geis
The spirit of Maastricht (Mestreechter Geis) has been greatly influenced by the city’s history.

First of all, we think about Catholicism: severe in theory, but mild for the confessant. The people of Maastricht know that the soup is not as hot when you eat it as when it is served (‘De soep wordt nooit zo heet gegeten als dat zij wordt opgediend’). Second, we think of new rulers turning up again and again throughout the centuries. They come with awful war violence, proclaim severe laws, and depart to be replaced by new rulers with other laws. The people of Maastricht have learned to consider how to ignore the new rules without offending the authorities. This is how they played off the rulers from Liège against those from Brabant for many centuries.

The spirit of Maastricht (Mestreechter Geis), photograph: Sueli Brodin

Humour and practical jokes are a necessary part of this way of being. Maastricht humour is mild and doesn’t violate other people’s dignity. The people of Maastricht will not directly confront another person’s viewpoint, preferring to demonstrate in a subtle way that their opinion differs.

And for Maastricht, dialect is indispensable too. No other city in the Netherlands cherishes its dialect to the same degree. Mestreechs is a ‘sweet language’ (‘zeute taol’ ) indeed. Both high and low society speak it, much thanks to the Momus Society and Olterdissen!

The popularity of carnival
Carnival in Maastricht, photograph: M.Reuvers-HendriksThe Indo-European brotherhoods may be the forerunners of freemasonry, but not of the modern carnival associations. Of course, it is in the character of men to gather in clubs, lest they should always sit at home (which reminds of a nice movie: Sons of the Desert, starring Laurel and Hardy.) And it is no secret that women enjoy dressing up. Seen in this light, carnival is an excellent occasion for young men and women to contact each other in a virtuous way.

But in my view, a more important reason for the popularity of carnival is the opportunity to be creative among friends: just think of the costumes, the floats, the puppets, the music, the speeches, the magazines, the comical acts, the organisation, and so on.

However, our Catholic writer Bertus Aafjes once formulated the most important aspect of carnival: the opportunity to let the soul tread outside of the body. This is quite unlike debauchery. When people from the north of the Netherlands come to celebrate carnival in Maastricht, they often make this painful mistake.

So all in all, it appears that historical circumstances in Maastricht favouring the development of a strong carnival tradition were just exceptionally good!

By Hennie Reuvers

Dressing up for carnival in Maastricht, photograph: M.Reuvers-Hendriks


Where can you find my photos?

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Albums | Leave a comment

Previous travel photos can be found by going to My Travel Maps –> Previous Travel.

Click on each city to see photos from that trip! For my trips with multiple destinations, all photos are in one album. If you’d like to browse photos outside of the slideshow setting, simply exit the slideshow to access individual photos and quickly find the specific destination photos you are looking for.

Previous destination photos include glamour shots of me with braces, some absolute gems of my sister Robyn in a beret, Morgan posing like a supermodel, my mom with a perm-gone-wrong and 6’5 dad towering over crowds. Enjoy some of the best Payne family moments in the Europe Trip album!

In the China and Japan albums you can find my attempts at taking @rTzY photos. Leave comments with any photographing advice you have! I will forever be a ‘point and shoot’ camera user, but am interested in learning more about composition, lighting, ect.

Photos from this adventure can be found here, under albums. Check in weekly for uploads.

One, two, three say CHEEESSEE!