The beautiful gardens of Ijlst
The third stop in our attempt to follow the route of the Elfstedentocht -the ice skating race traditionally taking place in the northern province of Friesland- brought us to the quite small but picturesque town of Ijlst.
Ijslt or Ddryts in the Fries language, is one of the oldest cities in the province, having obtained its city rights in the year 1268. In the old days, the city was known for its shipbuilding industry and for its importance as commercial centre.
The city originated on the margins of the Old IJ river, from which it received its name. The only part now remaining of that river is the canal that runs through the very centre of Ijlst. The town has many historic buildings that can be visited, such as the beautiful tower mill de Rat (the Rat), built in 1828. This sawmill is still in use and run by volunteers. Have you ever wanted to try your hand at sawing? You might get a chance at de Rat!
Another interesting monument is the Town Hall or Stadhuis built in 1859 in the place where the old council house from the 14th century used to stand.
There are many more monuments worth visiting in Ijlst, a city that lists an impressive total of 43 monuments in the Royal Register, like this typical step-gable house dating from 1669.
But the characteristic feature for which Ijlst is most widely known is for its overtuinen - a line of mostly private little gardens that decorate the margins of what used to be old river IJ. These gardens were formerly known as bleken (bleachers) Can you guess why?
These little gardens used to be frequented by the housewives living on this street, who on washing days would come down to the river, wash their clothes and bleach them -bleken in Dutch- right there on the banks of the Old IJ.
In this photo you can see me standing by one of these bleken with a rather alarmed look on my face: my husband had somewhat tresspassed private property and stepped into one of the gardens to take the shot and I was not very comfortable with him doing that! Fortunately, he did not get caught ...
During the last couple of years, Ijlst has become an ideal location to spend the night in with water sports enthusiasts. An interesting number of cafés and restaurants offer a variety of possibilities for lunch or dinner, such as the Stadsherberg Het Wapen Van Ijlst, which has recently opened its guesthouse where you can take up a room to spend the night during your visit to this area of the country.
Our next stop in the Elfstedentocht will be the city of Franeker. As they say in Friesland: Oant sjens! See you in Franeker!
Stop #1 of the Elfstedentocht was Leeuwarden and you can find the post covering this city here.
Stop # 2 of the Elfstedentocht was Harlingen and you can find the post here.