Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Ice-skating Fever in the Netherlands

Ice-skaters on the Thornbecke canal in Zwolle last Saturday during the First Zwolse Grachtentocht.

The period of true winter weather we had during the last couple of weeks seems now to be over and with it, the ice-skating fever seems to have subsided, too.

I have lived in the Netherlands for almost 9 years now and I have seen hard-ish winters (nothing really too extreme) and mild winters; gentle snowfall and a blizzard or two with lots of snow falling in a very short time. I've also seen the Dutch landscape getting totally covered in white and nature going very still under the ice, as if every single creature out there in the open was going to sleep, waiting for the spring to come back alive.

Ice skaters in the main canal around the historic city centre in Zwolle.
 But in the Netherlands it doesn't take too long for that stillness to be broken. The birds may be gone, the wind may blow wild and the ground may be covered in white, but that is exactly when this sort of buzz starts slowly to build up, like a bug getting hold of everyone until it becomes like a fever and soon enough half the nation is out there, balancing on their skates, criss-crossing waterways and city canals over the ice.

Only a few days ago we were all holding our breath in front of the tv every time the word Elfstedentocht was mentioned by the newsreaders. A couple of posts ago I explained how excited everyone was about the possibility of finally seeing a new edition of this Eleven Cities Marathon after 15 years of Elfstedentocht withdrawal, for the race has not been held since 1997 due to the lack of good quality ice to make the event possible.
Unfortunately, by the end of last week the committee in charge of inspecting the ice conditions up in Friesland had decided that it would not be possible to host the marathon this year and everyone was really very disappointed.

Another shot taken during the Zwolse Grachtentocht last Saturday.

But it seems that despite the general disappointment, people across the Netherlands, Dutch and non-Dutch, were determined not to let all that beautiful ice go to waste.Whole families were out there riding on sleds or skating on the frozen canals. Despite the cold, young people were hanging out and having fun on the ice and little kids wrapped up in warm clothes were there too, learning how to stand upright on their brand new skates. Experienced skaters were seen showing off and also first-timers, safely leaning on the back of a chair to keep their balance, carefully taking their first turns on the icy tracks.

Over the weekend there were many tochten (marathons) across the country. Amsterdam had its Keizersgracht tocht; up north in Friesland people were skating on the waterways along the Elfstedentocht route in the places where the ice was in perfect condition. In the beautiful town of Giethoorn the 14th Hollands Venetiëtocht was held; the first edition of this marathon in this century.

A young girl learning to skate on ice with the help of a chair.
It was probably this dad's turn to look after the baby but he could not stay away from all that lovely ice.

In Zwolle, we had the Eerste Zwolsegrachten tocht (first marathon of the canals in Zwolle) last Saturday. In just a couple of days, a number of entrepreneurs from the catering sector came up with the idea of organising our own tocht along the Zwolse canals. The idea was received with great enthusiasm by thousands of Zwollenaren (people of Zwolle)  and 1500 participated in the marathon, making it a big success and of course, heel erg gezellig! (a lot of fun)

A view over the city canal in Zwolle during the Zwolse grachtentocht
 Hopefully, we won't have to wait for too many years to see a new edition of the Zwolse grachtentocht; and to be sure, we continue to wait and pray for der Tocht van Tochten (the marathon of all marathons) to finally take place for the first time in this century - the 16th edition of the Elfstedentocht.


Sil - Simplemente cocinera said...

Impresionante! En la parte de Italia donde vivo nos salvamos de la nieve, pero soplaba un viento al que llaman Bora que llegò a los 170 km/hora. Como Trieste es una ciudad que queda sobre el mar, la cosa que màs se fotografiaba eran los muelles con encima el agua de mar congelada que habia dejado formas caprichosas y lo mismo sobre las playas. Te agreguè en mi blogroll asi te tengo a la vista! Un beso y cuidate! Sil.

Aledys Ver said...

Debe ser digno de ver! Aquí he visto sólo en fotografías el lago Ijssel (que antes era el mar) congelado. Hasta ahora no he tenido oportunidad de verlo en vivo y directo.
Gracias y un beso!

Presépio no Canal said...

Pretty photos, Aledys! :-)
Maybe next year we'll be able to watch Elfstedentocht ;-) Fingers crossed!!

BLOGitse said...

Aaah, I've always wanted to experience that kind of skating. I've done it on ice in Finland but soooooo many yrs ago and not in Holland. Now my legs wouldn't like those hard shoes. :)
But I like the idea of almost flying on the ice...wiuh, wiuh! :)

Aledys Ver said...

There's always next year... but I don't know, the world climate is changing very fast!!

Aledys Ver said...

I would love to do it too, but I have been so unstable on my two legs lately that I don't really dare to even try standing on the ice skates. Indeed, the sensation of flying over the ice must be great!
Are you still in Spain? I hope you're having a good time!

titabuds said...

I love that photo of the skaters passing the boats with their hulls frozen in. That must be such fun. :)

It's too bad the big race won't be on this year, though. (I was just reading about it and now I'm disappointed, haha.)

Aledys Ver said...

Tell me about being disappointed! I just wanted it so much to happen this year!

Katie said...

Oh, I was really hoping for the mother of all ice skating races to happen this year. If I'm disappointed, I can't even imagine how those of you in the Netherlands must feel!

Nevertheless, it's nice to see people out and about, enjoying nature in all its forms. As you know, we never get that sort of weather here in Necochea, and I kind of miss it!

Aledys Ver said...

Can you imagine how we all felt? I was so excited myself! And I don't even skate... It was very disappointing.
Anyway, the ice everywhere a lot thicker than in previous years and people could even skate in places where it hadn't been possible before - for example, the canals of Zwolle. That is something!
I'm sure you must miss real winter down there in Necochea!

Invader_Stu said...

I love the two photos of all the Dutch skating passed the big boat.

VagaMundos said...

Really amazing the ice fever :) The pics are great! Thanks for sharing.

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, that was a good shot to have.

Aledys Ver said...

Thank you, VagaMundos!

Marja said...

Great pictures I always loved iceskating with the koek and sopi although I was never a good skater. I also remeber the excitement around the elfstedentocht. A petty that it didn;t go ahead but as I see everone had fun

Aledys Ver said...

I love the expression, "koek en sopi" :D
It was very disappointing that the Elfstedentocht didn't take place in the end... we'll have to keep waiting.