It’s been a rather crazy winter in the Netherlands this year. Two weeks ago I distinctly recall photographing daffodils along the Amstel River, today we’re one week into the longest cold stretch in a decade and people are walking and skating on the canal outside my apartment!
Things kicked off yesterday, when I rolled out of bed to discover that there were people skating where water used to be! (This is a bit of luck actually because the city decrees that boats aren’t allowed to go on some canals in winter, such as my stretch of the Keizersgracht. The next canal over is filled with broken up ice from the tour boats.) Not too crowded as yet, but that’ll change once the word gets out…
It should be noted that these pictures were taken on Monday as today was far sunnier. The Dutch basically take the afternoon off when there’s natural ice to be had, and there’s even a word for it, ijsvrij. I mean how could you not?! Natural ice just doesn’t happen every year, certainly not within the city of Amsterdam.
By the way, as a friend pointed out there’s definitely something a little forlorn about parents dragging their offspring around on sleds in a country with no hills. The Dutch will promptly tell you this is silly of you to note as there are canal bridges to be had, but this is just basically them revealing that they don’t know what they’re missing.
I have to admit that this looks really fun if you’re a kid though-
Another rather interesting thing spotted on the ice is the hot chocolate stand set up by some enterprising teenagers! The most amusing detail to me though is the kids had a bottle of rum and they’d give you a shot in your drink for 2 Euro extra. After all no one’s getting hurt and there’s money to be made, so who would let a pesky thing like liquor laws get in the way of that?
So anyway, this winter wonderland the Netherlands has fallen into is definitely lekker and I feel rather fortunate to have seen it. The good news is there isn’t a real thaw in sight for the next week or so, meaning more and more sections of canal are becoming skateable- the problem is it’s usually weaker under bridges, but the first bridge is now skateable next to me so more are sure to follow (yep, I took this picture under the bridge!). What everyone’s really hoping for with bated breath however is the Elfstedentocht will happen, which is a giant 200km-long race in the eastern Netherlands that was last held in 1997. In fact, the committee that decides these things met today for the first time in 15 years with plans to meet again in two days, so fingers are crossed around the country! (Though, mind, mine are doubly crossed that they do it after this weekend because I’m going skiing!)
So hey, good times had on the ice by all! And if you are in or near Amsterdam at all the next few days you really have to check this out, the longest stretch right now starts on the Keizersgracht not too far from the Anne Frank museum.