The Netherlands is currently occupied not so much with the severe weather in Europe, but rather that this may allow the skating race known as the Elfstedentocht to be run. This race has been referred to as almost mystical. It is a 200KM (125 mile) race between 11 Frisian towns in the north of the Netherlands. It is not very often that the weather conditions allow the race, since at least six inches of ice is necessary across the complete route which includes canals, rivers, and lakes. It is expected that more than 16000 skaters will take part.
The first mention of an 11 city race was in 1760 and it became an organized event in 1909. What helps to make it so special is that since 1909, conditions have only allowed the race to be run 15 times. The last time was in 1997 with the fastest time of 6 hours and 49 minutes.
Now you may be wondering why this is a topic in a RV blog. In 1997, we were living in the Netherlands and were one of the many who braved the freezing conditions to watch the race. We were up before dawn to head to the town of Balk, so that we could watch the lead group of the race come flying through the town’s main canal.
I had purchased a sweatshirt from the 1987 race, so I would look like an old hand. Later we learned that the reason the shirt was so cheap was because the race that year did not actually took place. It had to be cancelled due to unsafe ice. It was so cold that we went back to Anneke’s parent’s house and watched the race in comfort. Later in the day we followed along the route to see the race at various points.
It is truly a Dutch tradition that is not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be there in one of the years that it occurs.
We are hoping that the weather continues to get colder, so the race can be run again after 15 years of waiting.
In addition to the race, this cold weather allowed us to spend some time enjoying some Frisian traditions ourselves, since Anneke’s parents lived on a canal in the boating town of Lemmer.