Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice Skating the Dutch Way

Before February's Winter flies off the map and gives way to the month of Spring, here's a post on Holland's ice skating as I know it...the first winter they've had it in three years.

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But first, some shameless advertising for my Vision and Verb post today:

What's in a Name?

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Okay, back to ice skating. By now you probably know we had a very small window of opportunity here in the Netherlands this winter season. Winter itself, with sub-freezing temps, lasted only two weeks. By the time the canals froze, you're talking about only 10 days of ice skating. Remember that as you picture Astrid's enthusiasm in the following images!

We first went to Kinderdijk (19 windmills, remember?) to try out the ice there on February 5 (the Sunday of our anniversary weekend). We always start with our favorite place if possible.

First, the skates get put on...DUH...
right there at the side of the canal with everyone else.
And no one takes your shoes, no matter where you do or do not hide them.

But after 5 minutes, the verdict was out: there was too much snow on the ice.
Astrid couldn't see the cracks and said it was too dangerous.
If you can't see the cracks, your blades can get stuck and flip you over!
But at least we saw the wonderful windmills, right?

And even had time to eat some erwtensoep (the Dutch pea soup I love).
While inside the café, I saw a photo on the wall of a burning windmill.
I sat there shocked...having never thought of such a horror.

But...on we went to see what skating we could find elsewhere....

...and found it in Bleskensgraaf, one of the villages on the way back home.
Talk about hitting the jackpot!
Not only the Hofwegensemolen windmill but a bridge for ambiance.

I love watching families sharing their past-times!

Memories for these kids!

Memories for Astrid and me!

And another chance to eat, there on the ice!
What's not to love about this way of life!
The Dutch live for this when winter comes
and are so disappointed if/when they don't have ice!

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The following weekend, after a week of work for Astrid, and with predictions the temps would rise above freezing, it was then or never for any last-minute skating. Almost on the spot, that Saturday the 11th of February, Astrid decided to skate the Molentocht (mill tour)...or at least part of it.

Instead of explaining what the Molentocht is, this YouTube of the very same day says it all.
It's not a race per se, but is a chance to get a medal for what you accomplish from between 25 - 75 km on a prescribed route, from village to village.

(I only processed and collaged them for her.)

Each participant starts out at a booth on the route and pays a fee: €7,50/adult.
At that point you get your Molentocht card (below) that has to be stamped at consecutive booths.
Without the stamps, you can't get your medal.

If you looked at even part of the above YouTube, you can see how Astrid saw the same thing!

She got enough stamps on her card (above left) to get her 25 km (15.5 miles) medal.

This is her second Molentocht medal of 25 km,
the last one being from 2 February 1985 (27 years ago!).
[click image to enlarge]

I mentioned last post that Astrid wrote about this on her guest Vision and Verb,
in case you missed it. It really was a big deal!
However, it's her last time, she says.
It's not worth the possibility of breaking bones while she still has to work for a living.
That day alone there were almost 100 hospitalizations.

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That was Saturday morning, when Astrid went off by herself to skate the Molentocht. Why didn't I go with her, you ask?
  1. I grew up on figure skates which are NOT the same as Dutch speed skates.
  2. I skated on smooth, "artificial" ice, not on canal (bumpy-with-cracks) ice.
  3. I would have slowed Astrid down, who was on a mission.
  4. I'm too old for this sh**.
But that afternoon, as we drove out through the polder to our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant, I got my fill again:

It's like every family has its own skating rink in front of their house!
And did you notice the chairs?
They're not only for changing skates/shoes but aiding kids in learning to skate.

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Now, one last thing for this ice-skating saga: sharpening the blades and putting them away for the next time (which may not necessarily be next year, you understand).

Astrid bought her skates 27 years ago for €150 ($200).
This Viking brand has made many Dutch[wo]man famous in races everywhere
(that's basically what the box is explaining, top left!).
BELANGRIJK (Important): you buy one size smaller than your shoe size
because you do NOT wear thick socks, if any at all. Many pros go barefoot in them!

Add to everything else Astrid can do: sharpening skates!
She bought the skate holders for a discounted €9 during one of her window-dressing jobs eons ago.

She sharpens the skates with a whet stone, using the rough and fine sides each.
Within a minute or so, it seemed, she could cut paper like a knife.

Then she did the greese job, to keep the blades from rusting.
Don't you love the leather blade guards?
The skates are now put away for...the next time.

Is it too much to hope for next year?

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Congratulations if you made it to the end of this. Congratulations, too, if you still remember it's my turn at Vision and Verb today: What's in a Name?


  1. This shows how we love to be outside and skate, the moment we have ice. I am very lucky that we live very close by the canals and that I know the backroads to parc the car. I get on the ice in a ditch and go from ditch to ditch to come on the main canal. Very important is to remember your way back!
    The YouTube is amazing, it is the route I took, YES, even with the part of crossing the road, we just put the guards on our skates and walk across. That is why the guards are so important!! You never know when to have to go off the ice to be able to continue the route
    I am glad that we went to Kinderdijk that day, for we would not have been able to reach Kinderdijk by car, the weekend of the Molentocht.
    Thank you so much for this incredible memory of such a special event.

  2. Astrid: This is so YOU and helps me understand the Dutch in riding bikes. I'm just glad I could fit this all together into one post. :)

  3. What a wonderful (and healthy!) way to enjoy the cold weather. We,alas, have had no snow or ice this year, though I'm fairly certain that if our canal froze over there would be no skaters :(

  4. oh my even though i've never skated before i'd like to be there on the sidelines watching everyone's joy plastered on the faces and capture pretty pictures just like you both did.

  5. Anne: It's fabulous exercise, for sure! I'm sure if I had lived here my entire life, I would have lived on my skates in the winter time. :) Thanks.

    PC: You'd love it, Maria. Now at my age, I go the route of taking pictures and watching. That's enough joy for me to last the rest of my days. :)

  6. Impressive at every level, and so so delightful! I love the idea of chairs to aid the young ones.

    Bravo, Astrid! I do hope you get ice for many days again next year!

  7. Ruth: Thank you, dear sister. Even though I have many wonderful memories of skating in Grand Ledge on our ice rink, all of this is very new to different. I love it all. Thank you.

    Astrid will be delighted if there is ice again next year. Me, too. :)

  8. Looks like fun times even though I don't ice skate. Several decades ago, I used to rollerskate; but that's something else. :)

  9. Tim: Oh yes, roller skating. A horse of a different color. I used to love that, too, especially skating to the organ music. HA! Thanks for the smile.

  10. How exciting for Astrid to be able to do what she loves. I am like you – I only skated on ice skating rings that were smooth and that was years ago. I would be too afraid to fall on my knees and then be totally handicapped. Her skates are in a beautiful shape. I had never seen leather blade guards – mine are in the usual wood. The photos are lovely. How are you coming along with your Dutch language?

  11. Vagabonde: It's such a wonderful Dutch pasttime during the skiing is for the Norwegians. It's great to have something to look forward to when the cold weather arrives. I love it. And I LOVE those leather blade guards. But then, I like anything leather. HA!

    Astrid says my Dutch is getting better and better but for me, it's never fast or complete enough. I'm trying not to worry about it but just let it come as it comes.

  12. "I'm too old for this sh**" cracked me up! There is some fine photography here... I watched a bit of the video and I love how just a TON of people of all ages are out and about. The photo of the three kids on the sled is priceless.

    The thought that Astrid has 27 year old skates and not warm socks... is amazing. 100 hospitalizations... I wonder, will she be able to resist temptation next year?

  13. Margaret: Your kids would love skating the canals of Holland, I know. Maybe you would, too! Astrid will surely skate again but she says she has no need to get another medal. I don't blame her.