Last day of ice

We wanted to take in the ice today before it all starts melting away again. Thawing temperatures have already started, so pretty soon the ice won’t be any good to stand on anymore. Mr. Esther, mini-me and I decided to drop off my younger brother who had spent the night at our house and then drive on to Delft, which is close to where my brother is now staying. Delft always is a little special to us, as we got married there. Anyway, once there, we saw that the ice was not very good anymore in many places, the thawing had already begun. Some people did still go out on the ice, but it wasn’t busy on the canals in the center by any means…

We stopped in the central square between the old city hall (where we got married) and the old church where several of our kings and queens are buried and picked up a hot drink and poffertjes (these mini pancakes with some butter and powdered sugar). Due to Covid 19 restrictions we couldn’t sit anywhere, so we had to drink and eat standing up. It was quite funny to see groups of people standing separate from each other in the square, wanting to be out but also keeping a distance from each other in small, restricted groups.

Businesses are trying to stay afloat during the Corona restrictions where only food and essential shops are allowed to be open. I saw a souvenir shop with a sign in the window saying you could order online and they would deliver orders (free of charge) in a 5 km radius. Another shop said to take a picture of the window display and then e-mail or phone your order in if you wanted to buy anything from that display. Our parking garage ticket also warned us to keep a 1.5 meter distance to others, using a famous Delftware kissing statue as their image, keeping the kissers apart…

We walked around Delft for about an hour, then drove home. We needed a few groceries which I said I’d do, in defiance of the worsening vertigo. Reclining on a couch so much is taking it’s toll and I just wanted to be moving a bit more. I took a very small detour to the shop (saw a heron on my path as well) so that I could take a peek at the frozen pond near our house before getting those groceries. Now, with the vertigo more prominent after all that activity, I’m back to reclining on the couch again.

It’s been a lovely Sunday and I’m off to chocolate eyed Yannick Bisson land again after I post this (I’ve been avoiding disappointing impeachment politics in the US with Yannick). Seriously, those big brown eyes with the thick lashes surrounding them do something to me, they are so full of expression and warmth…

I even made a fan video of his old Sue Thomas F.B.Eye show a few days ago…

… and am working on another one, so this Sunday also looks to be ending very nicely.

Frozen canals

The Netherlands is caught in winter weather and ice fever right now. The canals freeze and everyone takes to the ice. I don’t skate, have never really been able to and won’t learn now with my vertigo, but I do love the seeing all the skaters on the ice. My husband can skate, as can my kids, and on Friday Mr Esther and mini-me braved the ice together…

Today Mr Esther went skating on his own and sent me this…

Tomorrow we’ll have one more day of ice, after that it will start thawing and all this will be over again. It’s been beautiful while it lasted.

The big freeze

While the UK has been disrupted through all the snow, across the pond over here in The Netherlands it has been exceptionally cold as well. We’ve only had a dusting of snow but most of all it’s been like living in a freezer here the past few days. When that happens, the Dutch get excited as all the water we have in this little country starts to freeze. We have lots of canals here and once it gets this cold for a few days, the Dutch take to the ice on skates! I blogged about the Dutch passion for ice once before. Alas it happens so little now, that skating can hardly be called a national pastime anymore. For the past 4 or 5 days, however, the water has been freezing and as it’s the weekend now and probably the last day of ice before it all starts to thaw, lots of people took the opportunity to skate today. Like here, close to where I live…

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Even closer to home, there’s a pond right near our house where I took a moment to stand on the ice myself (my ankle has been healing quite well after I chipped it two weeks ago, so I dared it)…

… but at the edges the ice was already cracking when I stood on it and a little further on there was some open water near and under a bridge that the ducks took to…

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I never learned to skate properly, so I’m more of a moral supporter of skating. My son had to work today but my husband and my daughter did take to the ice on skates. Mr Esther took a few pictures of my daughter in action…

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It’ll all really start to thaw properly tomorrow, so I’m glad we at least got this little glimpse of Dutch winter on camera today. 🙂

More ice ice baby!

Christmas has come and gone and for me and my little family that means that we head off for some peace and quiet at the little family cottage my parents bought in the north some 12 years ago or so. December is so full of parties and being really busy, that we crave that down time here!

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Some 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 have is speed ice skating championships. It’s one of those sports that ‘we’ excel at here, our skaters win gold medals at Olympics and world championships! Every year at the end of December the national Dutch speed ice skating championships are held here, not that far from where our cottage is at. We’ve been to the championships before but that was quite some years ago so this year we decided to go again.

So, yesterday we went to Heerenveen, to the Thialf stadium, and we saw our greatest speed skating heroes live!

First up was the women’s 3000 meters race. The coaches on the sideline for this race were right near where we were sitting and one of those coaches was Gianni Romme who has won gold medals (also in the Olympics) some years back…

Participating in the race was Ireen Wüst, our most succesful winter sports athlete who has won pretty much everything there is to win several times! We saw her do some warming up rounds…

… and she did her race…

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… which she also won! She waved and blew kisses to the audience after her win…

No one could beat her time, so she had earned her umpteenth gold medal! In the distance we could see the medal ceremony and we all dutifully stood up for our Dutch national anthem.

The next race was the 1500 meters for men with our other speed skating superstar Sven Kramer in it. He too did some warming up laps…

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The start for the 1500 meters was right near where we were sitting, so we were able to see Sven Kramer getting away up close! A lot of power goes into that.

The race was fast…

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… and he too won his race…

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… he waited on the side opposite from where we were sitting to await what happened in the other 1500 m races. Another skater who had come in 3rd overall, Patrick Roest, joined him for a bit…

When it turned out Sven Kramer had won the 1500 he was congratulated by his coaches…

And there was another medal ceremony with the Dutch sports news TV crew situated right in front of them…

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The last race was the 500 meters for women. I didn’t take great pictures of those races and they were over really quickly too but nonetheless fun to watch!

I felt very Dutch yesterday with an afternoon spent on the ice. 🙂

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):

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

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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:

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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.

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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..

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… 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…

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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…

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… 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)…

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… 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.

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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…

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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…

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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)…

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