Having only been in The Netherlands a week everything is totally new and interesting. At first I loved exploring the streets in the warm evening sun, walking over the canals and becoming mesmerized by the sheer number of bicycles in one city!!! Now, with night temperatures dropping to -14 and below, I have something else to me mesmerized by…ICE-SKATING! Unlike the lame miniature and over-priced, fake ice-rinks we have in Ireland, in Holland it is all natural!
I spent the weekend wandering through Noordersplantsoen Park, walking across the frozen lakes as locals of all ages skating around me in circles and young kids climbed any hill they could find and rode their sleds down into the frozen lake! A pretty amazing sight.
This all seemed very impressive until the sight I saw today when walking home form college… The main canals that surround the city that are home to tall ships, house boats and the odd broken bicycle were no longer peacefully undisturbed, but brave souls were crawling down the canal walls, onto the ice and cautiously walking into the middle of the canal on top of the ice.
Within 20 minutes there were people everywhere walking on top of the canal and then out of nowhere people started speeding past them on skates, skating their way around the city! Was craziness…might be brave enough tomorrow to walk on water myself!
With all the canals and lakes frozen over, everyone is starting to talk about “Elfstedentocht”, an almost mythical skating event that hasn’t taken place in over 15 years! Elfstedentocht (or “Eleven cities tour” in English) is the longest and largest race of its kind and involves 1000’s of skaters speed skating over 200 km across canals, ditches and lakes and through the 11 cities of Friesland in Northern Holland. The race is unique as it can only happen when the weather conditions are perfect and the ice is over 15cm thick across the whole course.
Talk of Elfstedentocht is reaching fever pitch at the moment with temperature dropping to -14 at night, perfect weather for creating thick ice, horrible weather for everything else!! Our lecturer even told us that she will broadcast the skating during our lecture if we have a class on the day the event takes place. Fingers crosses that this legendary event gets to take place in the next few weeks…watch this space for updates!!