Ice ice baby!

So, the latest Mach was’ challenge is all about: ice! I think Die Pö meant ice cream more than just ice and I did think of related images to share from this past summer. For instance, we did have very nicely shaped vanilla ice cream in Wroclaw (Poland):

2016-0729 Wroclaw (22)

And I did have the most delicious iced tea there that I’ve ever had!

2016-0810 Wroclaw (12)

However, these things didn’t seem like enough to really blog about. Then my mind made the leap to what ice means in The Netherlands and that in turn brings on thoughts of winter! Natural ice and The Netherlands have a, well, warm history together. We are now at the end of summer and it seems a little soon to be talking of winter, but when it gets hot outside, maybe just thinking of ice in the winter can help with cooling off as well. 😉

The Netherlands has a close relationship with water. Without our dikes, dams, dunes and floodgates 2/3 of our population, living in flood-prone areas, are at risk. Draining ditches, canals and pumping stations (windmills in the old days) keep our land dry. It’s not only the North Sea we have to consider (a large part of our country is at or below sea level, including where I live), we also have the big Rhine and Meuse rivers that flow through our country into the North Sea. Without protection the rivers can easily flood our lands as well. It’s safe to say, we have a lot of water here. So, when winter comes the whole of the country hopes that it will be cold enough for ice to form on all the canals, rivers and lakes here. 16th century painters have already captured the joy the Dutch feel when winter brings ice: people go out and skate! When you google you can find many paintings like this one:

Hendrik Avercamp 1585

Hendrik Avercamp ca. 1585

Although the buildings and the fashion have changed, this is pretty much an image you can still see here in winter when all water outside freezes and turns to ice.

Every year when it does get cold enough for ice to form on our canals the whole Dutch nation starts hoping for the “Elfstedentocht” (“Eleven Cities Tour”) which is an ice skating race on canals covering 200 km, passing through 11 cities in our northern province of Friesland. It needs to stay cold enough for about two weeks before the ice is safe enough to hold this race.

In the winter of 2007-08 my kids for the first time experienced a winter cold enough to see the canals freeze. We have a little lake very close to our house, and the kids walked on natural ice for the first time. My son was 6, my daughter had just turned 4.

2007-12 IMG_3290

But the ice didn’t stay thick for long and it was a year later when at our holiday cottage in Friesland (yes, the same province that hosts the Elfstedentocht) we had ice again on the little canal next to our cottage. First the kids walked on the ice..

2008-12 IMG_3005

… and then we bought them tie-on ice skates so they could learn to skate! And they learned like many Dutch children learn to skate: holding on to chairs on the ice…

2008-12 IMG_3113

I can’t skate by the way (I didn’t grow up in The Netherlands and I’m too chicken to learn now) so my husband taught them. The ice stayed long enough for the kids to skate on a big lake not far from our home town after our Friesland holiday…

2009-01 IMG_3540

… but this time the ice didn’t hold long enough either for the Elfstedentocht.

The following year we again had a very cold winter and we were in Friesland again when the ice came. There were blocks of ice on the coast of the IJsselmeer (a huge sea between our mainland and the islands in the north)…

2009-12 IMG_1881

2009-12 IMG_1923

… and yet again the ice stayed long enough for skating back home, but not long enough for the Elfstedentocht to be held. It’s not good for the ice if there’s snow on it, the ice can’t get hard enough to sustain a whole race.

2010-01 i00030

The next winter, back in Friesland again, the IJsselmeer was completely frozen and now that they were older my husband took the kids skating quite far out. This picture, next to a buoy frozen in the water, was taken just before they set off…

2010-12 IMG_7659

The winter after that, in January 2012, the ice came later, so there was only skating (and clearing snow off the ice to make an ‘ice rink’) for my husband and the kids back home and not in Friesland…

The ice didn’t stay long, it was already starting to thaw while people still hopefully continued skating…

2012 IMG_8088

So far, that was the last cold-ish winter we had! The past few years our winters have felt more like endless autumn. Our last Elfstedentocht was in january 1997, it’s about time we had another one! Maybe this coming winter? Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, the Dutch will indulge in their ice-passion on TV, following all sorts of ice speed skating championships.

The Dutch are quite dominant in the speed skating scene. During the last winter olympics in Sochi the Dutch wons tons of medals, mostly for speed skating and the nation loves it. Due to our history with water and ice, it’s become a Dutch tradition. We’ve been to the Dutch speed skating championships in Friesland ourselves a few times (nowadays only held indoors)…

2011 IMG_7816

… and if there is no ice outside yet again this winter, I guess watching speed skating inside will have to be enough for us!

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19 thoughts on “Ice ice baby!

  1. Great post — I love the pictures and all of the detail about your kids’ relationship with skating. It really does have to get cold for that race (I think I told you I was in Ostfriesland around the 1997 race and that was vicious cold). A stupid question: do Dutch children read Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, or is that solely an American story?

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    • I could have written even more, like the kids going ice skating with their school classes at an open air ice rink they set up in town here around Christmas each year or that my daughter once celebrated her birthday with an ice-skating party. But it was getting late and the post was getting long, so I decided to keep it shorter.
      Yes, you told me before about 1997, I remember. 🙂
      I have often been told that no questions are stupid, and yours isn’t either! To answer your question: nope the Hans Brinker book is totally unknown here! I just now even had to look it up on Wikipedia and see that that book also features the finger in the dike story. That’s another story that’s American and that people here don’t know – if they do know about it, it’s because tourists mention it and there is some tourist marketing towards it. The book sounds intriguing, though. I might just go find it and read it someday!

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      • more stories …. another post …. sometime!

        I had the Hans Brinker book as a child and I enjoyed it, but from my perspective today the story is CRAZILY sentimental. Much worse than Dickens, lol 🙂 Like everything written in those decades (Uncle Tom’s Cabin is another example). The US bestseller of those years is this book called The Wide, Wide World and there’s a reason to sob on practically every page. Hans Brinker isn’t that bad — but definitely in that direction.

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        • Ok, very saccharine then! Still, I am curious.

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          • Like all those stories, it’s supposed to inspire and strengthen character.

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          • There’s a 19th c. rhyme:

            The children of Holland take pleasure in making
            What the children of Boston take pleasure in breaking.

            Louisa May Alcott cites it in “Little Men,” but I’ve never known the original source. I’m sure you know that “Dutch” has interesting connotations in the US (“going Dutch (treat),” also “Dutch courage,” “in Dutch” (and some of these were probably originally Deutsch and not Dutch, like “Pennsylvania Dutch”). But there’s definitely a connotation of hard word, living simply, frugality there.

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            • At the very least frugality is true for a lot of Dutch people today. I think that may be what the Dutch may be best known for. 🙂
              I’d never heard of that rhyme before, cool! I do know the other Dutch treat and Dutch courage stuff.

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  2. Beautiful pictures! This looks like fun! ❤

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  3. Another great #Machwas!-Post. Thanks for sharing your memories and the beautiful pics with us!!!!

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  4. A different take on “ice” than I had expected. (Hehe, a bit too early for that in September 😉 ) So in NL, the kids are literally born with ice skates under their feet? 😉 Having grown up close-ish to the Dutch border, I knew about the frozen canals and the race already, but I loved seeing your pictures! –

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  5. I didn’t know that the canals freeze! What fun! My husband grew up in a city with lakes in Wisconsin, so he learned to skate, but I grew up in Florida –no ice!

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    • Yeah, I grew up with no ice either, but my husband did and now the kids are as well. However, it has been a few years since we’ve had any ice on canals here. The winters have just been too mild of late.

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  6. […] months ago I wrote about the importance of ice in The Netherlands during the winter season. Alas, it isn’t cold enough yet for the water in the canals to freeze here, but what we do […]

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