You may hear Dutch people grumbling about how cold it is, how the snow is slowing down trains, how flights are not taking off from Schiphol, how long it took them to get to work and how it makes for treacherous biking - but secretly they
like love it.
They love the cold temperatures, the frosty wind, the snow capped canal houses and the gleaming sunshine. They love the excitement it brings; the excitement it adds to an otherwise gray and dreary endless dutch winter.
Couple the snow, the sun and the cold with the anticipation of….wait for it… skating on natural ice, and collectively you have almost 16 million people on the brink of a national orgasm. Dutch people love to skate but more importantly they love the elusiveness of skating on natural ice in the great outdoors.
Of course being able to skate outdoors for a few days every few years is one thing, but add the Elfstedentocht to the mix and you have an entire country in the grips of joyful anticipation.
Haven’t heard of the Elfstedentocht yet? Why, you must be walking around with your hands firmly on your ears this week then! Will it or won’t it happen?! Oh my! Oh my!!! The Eleven Cities Tour, the Dutch’s national pride, is an ice-skating marathon held in Friesland with participants joyfully skating through 11 Dutch towns in a mere 200 kilometers of natural ice paths. In the past 20 years, the Elfstedentocht has happened all of … once (in 1997)! Therefore the thought of it possibly happening again this year is pretty darn freakin’ exciting to those ice-loving Dutch people!
The odds each year are pretty bad, but that doesn’t stop Dutch people from wishing and hoping, and more importantly – practicing! Go to any rink or body of slightly frozen water in the middle of a cold Dutch winter and you will see scores of Orangies sharpening their blades and practicing their moves in hopes of the great 11 city race!
Coming from a country that has Siberia-esque winters, outdoor activities (including skating on endless kilometers of outdoor ice) are not special and certainly nothing to write home about! However, I must say that a palpable vibe of happiness and excitement has swept the city. One which I am quite happy to see stay for a while.
A press conference was held yesterday to address the rumours that the big race was indeed going to happen. Nothing has been confirmed, as of yet, but the Dutch wait with high hopes and bated breath…
UPDATE: What a difference a day makes! Yesterday, 16 million Dutch were on the brink of a national orgasm. Now they’re just plain old sad. No Elfstedentocht 2012 :(