Photo courtesy Wikimedia, author Maurits Vink
In Winter, as soon as its starts freezing, the Dutch get very excited. Maybe, we can go skating. Of course, nowadays you always can skate at one of the may artificial ice halls. But skating outside on natural ice is different experience.
Because there is so much water, there are many opportunities. For kids there always is some water near home. If you are experienced, you can make tours of 10,20 30 km or more. Skating has become rare in the recent years due to the climate changes. So people are inclined to take more risks (ice still too thin to be safe) for their madness.
When it freezes a little longer, the Dutch start dreaming about the possibility to organise the famous "Elfstedentocht". This is a 199 km long trip in the province Friesland, visiting all eleven cities in the province (Elfstedentocht means eleven city tour). This tour is a combination of a match, who is the fastest? and a recreative tour with up to 32.000 participants. No, you cannot just come to Holland and join. If you want, you must be a member of the Eleven City Society. The membership is much wanted but restricted because the capacity of the tour is limited. Once you are a member, you must wait till the weather allows it. People that win the match, remain famous for the rest of their lives in Holland. We especially remember the tour of 1963. It was very bad weather and only few participants reached the finish. Reinier Paping won the match. The last one was in 1997, so already quite some time ago.
In the mean time people get excited for the many skating championships. Also internationally the Dutch are surprised if they do not win the all round European and World Championships.