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Carnival Colors: A Few Photos

Maastricht’s Carnival 2010 took off brilliantly Sunday despite the cold and constant snowfall. I’ll send out a proper write up on Wednesday or Thursday, but for now here are a few pictures.

carnival 2010 Sun dan mandy on the town
Too excited to sleep in, Dan and I changed straight into our costumes and headed out early.

On our way to the Vrijthof, the sound of drums and music lured us down a side street to the front of the Prince of Carnvial’s Palace (well, ok, his house). There we watched a short ceremony which culminating in the unfurling of a banner. There was a little technical trouble, but a trusty ladder was brought in and the problem resolved.

After that little ceremony, we slipped down the Vrijthof early in the, apparently mistaken, expectation that we would need to stake out a space on the square for the official opening ceremony. Fortunately that wasn’t problem and we had time to inspect the wide variety of costumes and get a front seat for the speakers.

The Mooswief was raised.

And the 11 cannon shots were loud.

A few hours later the parade began (at about 3 pm) and we watched from outside John Mullins. Many of the costumes were very interesting; although some groups were a bit dull. Several bands of the ‘drunken’ variety kept things lively.

Afterward we went out with several other expats and joined the revelers in the streets and pubs. I was amazed by the number of families with small children running in and out of the bars. Everyone was clearly having a wonderful time and we bar-hopped around Maastricht, enjoying the traditional music, food, and colors.

Vote Maastricht in the Expat of the Year Competition

Expatica’s Expat of the Year contest is now open for voting in three areas: Expat (individual), Employer, and Expat Services. There are many fine finalists, but I want to draw your attention to a couple of local finalists. I’d love to see one or both of them win and bring a little recognition to our area.

Expat of the Year Finalist: Sueli Brodin

Sueli is in many ways my idea of the ideal expat person. She’s lived in many places and has a wonderful graciousness and generosity about her. I’d be happy if I could have half her confidence. She’s been personally supportive of me and my fledgling writing, and I’m sure she extends that same kind spirit to everyone around her. Sueli now lives in Maastricht with her husband and children and works for the European Journalism Centre and is the Crossroads Magazine editor.

Expat Service of the Year: Maastricht Region Branding Service

As you may recall, I began blogging with Maastricht Region a few months ago, but that’s not the only reason I am pleased to see them as finalists for the Expat Service award. The Maastricht Region site and accompanying International Desk are making a real effort to address the needs of internationals in this area. Certainly I would have been thrilled to have had access to such a regional site two years ago when I started researching for our move. As time goes on I expect the value of Maastricht Region to grow, so I hope they can get a little extra props now as encouragement.

And yes you’ll see me in the video. I won’t be winning any awards, but I don’t look quite as stupid as I thought I would. There was some question as to whether the video should be recorded in Dutch (with subtitles) or in English. I stand by the decision to record (mostly) in Dutch. I think it supports the character of the region.


Voting for the Expat of the Year awards is open until March 14th and the winners are announced on the 23rd. You can watch short videos for each contestant and vote once in each category. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out.

…A vote for Maastricht is a vote for bitterballen. >_>

Logo is (c) Expatica.

What Your Gemeente Can Do for You

Gemeente” (or Town Hall) is probably the third Dutch word you’ll feel compelled to learn (after koffie and Goedemorgen). And it must be your first stop after moving to a new town in the Netherlands to register your residency and, if you haven’t already, get a BSN (personal ID) number. Since your first few visits to the Gemeente can be rather taxing, here are some thoughts on making the process easier; or at least more informative.

volunteer statue

Volunteer statue in front of the Maastricht Gemeente

Know Why You Are There

The Gemeente is responsible for more than just residency. Some other things handled there are:
- Registration for a Drivers License
- Registration for a Green Bin
- Management and billing of city services (for example, sewer, road tax, housing taxes, etc)
- Information about business and residential zoning.
And, of course, they all have a general information desk and Maasricht now has an International Desk as well.

Read the Rest at Maastricht Region: to Live

Places Around Maastricht: Carnival Costume Edition

carnival costumesType of Place: Costume Shops
Location: Around Markt Square

In honor of the Carnival season, I thought this late-breaking costume edition was appropriate. As the actual event draws near several costume shops have popped up in the center of Maastricht; three of which I have visited and will touch on below.

Rode Neus

Located on Grote Gracht 48a, Rode Neus is a temporary costume shop taking up three whole store fronts and filled from tip to stern with all sorts of costumes organized by theme and color. In addition to some off the shelve halloween fashion wigs and scary props, they carry colorful furry coats, shiny ruffle shirts, and big plushy, one-piece animal suits. The popular “Ren Faire” garb is as available here in a variety of styles and price points; making many of the costume styles accessible to a range of people. The prop selection is nice, but if you can’t find what you need definately skip over to one of the other shops for a quick look. Rode Neus does not take PIN or credit card.

Carnival Shop in ‘t Panhuis

In ‘t Panhuis, located on the Markt Square near the McDonalds, is the only permanent carnival shop. It is a long, dark, and narrow space with has costume wigs, props, and add-ons (like wings and hats) to spice up your main costume. The rest of the year the shop carries sewing material and a range of Dutch gifts such as fake delft pottery, tulip bulbs, and clog-shaped slippers. Some of those regular wares are available this time of year too, so if you need some props or are sewing your own costume this is well worth a stop.

Carnaval Shop

Carnavalsshop ‘T Mooswief

‘T Mooswief is the temporary brother of in ‘t Panhuis located on Hoenderstraat 5-9 near the river.  The store is smaller than the Rode Neus, but makes up for its size with an excellent selection of fabrics in the back for those who wish to make their own costumes. This is one of the only times you can buy fabric in a store in the center of Maastricht; the rest of the time you must go to the Wednesday Open Market. The costumes in this shop are, unfortunately, rather disappointing; mostly remnicient of polyester Halloween fare. However, the wig selection is different from the other shops, so if you’re looking for just the right hair piece it can be worth the trip.

What Should I Wear

While colorful and foppish 18th century(ish) Dutch garb appears to be very popular, nearly anything goes for Carnival costumes. Unlike Halloween (which is the only other dress-up holiday I’ve celebrated), the costumes focus on fun, silly, weird, and crazy things, rather than frightening ones. Some of the best costumes; particularly the ones in the parade, are very creative and require a team of people to pull off. Many people wear masks or paint their faces as well. Check out this flickr stream for a little inspiration.

Carnival is Coming

Carnival 2009/2010 is coming. It first burst onto my tiny expat radar on November 11th as I tried to walk through the Vrijthof on my way to class, only to be stopped by a huge and colorful crowd of people in cow costumes (among other things). A month ago, we began to hear and see many marching bands and tiny parades kept springing up. Now, one week before the event, nearly every house in Maastricht, and all the stores, are graced with the traditional red, yellow, and green banners.

prince guy 1st's palace/house

We discovered this heavily decorated home around the corner from our apartment. I believe that this is actually the "Palace" of this year's Prince.

Of course Maastricht is well known for their beautiful and gregarious Carnival celebrations; complete with a Prince, several parades, and visitors from all over the country. Being not only from the US, but also from New England where our Puritan ancestors didn’t even go in for musical instruments in Church, I find myself curious but rather baffled. Which is why I’m going to send you to the experts. Go read a couple of these articles from Crossroads to get a feel for the event and then come back for my thoughts and plans.

All done? Ok, down to business.

Like I mentioned before, I find the entire exercise to be a bit baffling, but I am very curious to see what the event and parades are like. so this year we’ll be participating in our visit Carnival to the extent our limited language skills will allow.


dan in a hat

A little hint at Dan's costume.

It has been recommended to us that we should dress up for Carnival so we don’t stand out too badly. Several costume shops have popped up around the city with many costume options ranging from cheap Halloween stuff to some seriously well-made 18th/19th century garb in lots of great colors. The Rode Neus, where we shopped for our costumes, offers several levels of quality in their costumes; making fancy dress accessible to everyone. Anything goes seems to be the theme and facepaint and masks are very popular. I’m disappointed that I can’t wear a mask with my glasses. Maybe its time to get contacts.

Carnival events begin on Friday, but the day when the locals dress up (unless your in an event) is Sunday (according to this article). I’m not sure if people also dress up on Monday & Tuesday. Anyone who want to help out on that question, I’d appreciate it.

Our costumes? They are a secret for now, but we’ll have lots of pictures after Carnival.


carnival band

Many Carnival related bands have been in and out of this pub across the street. This particular one woke us up coming back around 12:30 am.

There looks to be several major and minor processions throughout the event, with the main event being the Great Parade on Sunday. We’ll be attending that one and probably a procession or two and the music event on Tuesday as well.

Drinking & Revelry

pub decor

Several of the pubs and cafes have elaborate decorations in place.

This is the main reason a lot of people, or at least the nonlocals, crowd into Maastricht for Carnival. The local and Belgian beers are great of course and I’m curious to see if the pubs have specials for the event.

Serious Play

Of course the flipside of everyone getting dressed up and having a good time is that Carnival is taken very seriously by those who grew up with it. Everything I’ve read suggests that there are several levels of participation in Carnival. Outsiders (like me) only get to participate in a shallow level of revelry revolving around parades and bars and listening to music. We simply don’t have the experience to do or understand more. Locals and people who participate year after year (and speak the local dialect) are able to delve much deeper into the event and participate in the event the “right” way.

This distinction is maintained both by an attitude that outsiders don’t “get it” (ok, you’ve got me there) and a linguistic restriction due to all the most important events and speeches being held in Limburgish (which prevents outsiders from getting too deep). I’d never suggest events shouldn’t be held in the traditional language, but I doubt I’ll ever be at the point where I learn both Dutch and Limburgish fluently enough to understand these speeches. And that is kind of sad.

Our Plan

train decorations

The Maastricht train station is decorated in the traditional colors and, appropriately, umbrellas.

Naturally the only way to learn more about Carnival at this point will be to participate in it to the best of our ability. I’ve included a barebones schedule of events below (plus a link to the original) and I hope we’ll have the chance to watch the parades and partake of a pilsje or three around the Vrijthof. All you expats out there, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for you.

See you there!

Carnival Schedule 2010 (from the Tempeleers website [Dutch/Limburgish])

Roughly translated. I don’t know which, if any, of these events may be by invitation only.
Saturday, 13 February

  • Festive Presentation with the StadsPrins at the Train Station: 13.11
  • Procession to Town Hall on Markt Square. 13.55
  • Transfer of Power from the Mayor to the Prince: 15.11
  • Reception at the Redot (?) of the Prince: 20.11

Sunday, 14 February

  • Ceremony at the ‘Palace’ (home) of the Prince: 10.33
  • Raising of the ‘t Mooswief & 11 gun salute on the Vrijthof: 12.11
  • Official Carnival Parade

Monday, 15 February

  • Family & Children’s Parade: time unknown.

Tuesday, 16 February

  • ‘Zate Hermeniekes-concours’ (all band concert) on the Vrijthof: 14.11 (until 17.00ish?)
  • Children’s Costume Contest in the Bonbonnière: 15.11
  • Lowering of ‘t Mooswief and official end of Carnival: 23.55

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