About Elfstedentocht and Elfstedenkoorts (*) or snow hopes

So yesterday I've passed through freshly white covered landscapes and through sunny green fields, I drove through hail showers and I've been blinded by the sun.The temperatures are milder and make me long already for spring, tempted to leave my jacket off after the previous cold wave. And yet it's freezing again at night and the Ardennes got a layer of fresh snow and the cross country ski pistes have been  opened today! Now I'm praying for 2 weeks of freezing weather in vain so I can go and do some cross country skiing of my own over there.

In fact I was disappointed that it warmed up last week and that the serious winter seemed over . I enjoyed the freezing period early February. Hey winter must be winter with snow and ice  and summers should be summers: hot and sunny.  So you didn't hear me complaining when the temperatures plumbed down and down...except when the office heating was broken for a day (and ours in the Ardennes was at risk of breaking down as well). It's nice to throw all style overboard and simply show up with a comfy thick sweater at work.  Longer periods of freezing are usually dry....and are therefore much nicer than a mild drizzle like we had last week.

Nice too is the fever that hits the low countries when the temperatures plunge down....ice skating fever. The Dutch have a reputation of getting all overly excited as soon as it freezes a little bit, praying collectively for all their little creeks and lakes to freeze solid so they can bind up their skates.  Cities compete to organize the first skating races on natural ice and it becomes the topic of the day.  Especially the "Elfstedentocht " (Eleven cities tour" in Friesland is famous and is only ridden on average once every decade....so every temperature drop makes the skating fever hope rise that this year might be the year.

The funny thing is that I had the feeling the fever was just as big in Belgium as it is in the Netherlands. Besides hundreds of Belgians risking to go on the local lakes before the police authorised it, the Belgian newspapers were just as much tracking the progress of ice in the north of the Netherlands. Our main late night talkshow in the evening also hosted some previous champions  and the weather man also proclaimed his opinion if the Dutch race would be ridden this year or not. I got phone calls at work in the Amsterdam office from Belgian colleagues starting the conversation with the question if the I was coping in the madness there   "which madness?  it's not really a topic of conversation here in the office " (mind you, with 30-40% of the people coming from UK, Ireland, Ukraine, Spain, Austria, Egypt, ....  the office isn't typically Dutch).

But I got infected by the fever...tracking #Elfstendentocht and #elfstedenkoorts on Twitter and I was disappointed to see the press conference that the ice wasn't thick enough to host the 16000 skaters and 1,5 million fans alongside the 200km circuit and that the weather conditions wouldn't make it possible anymore for the ice to become thick enough. Despite hundreds of volunteers sweeping the snow of the ice all week, even the army did their part, and the "rayon heads" that were meticulously measuring the depth of the ice each day. There was even discussions in the parliament whether the Elfstedentocht had to become a national holiday, if it would take place. ....Yep, the fever was definitely on at the end, before all hope got crushed again. I would have enjoyed part of an afternoon in the sofa under a fleece blanket...staring at the orange madness, cheering crowds and skaters. I remember seeing some parts of it as a child in 86 and 87  and I've seen the race more consciously in 97. I must say I find it a heroic tour, especially at midnight when the last skaters are being cheered and pulled over the line to help them obtain the magic cross marking their achievement and you see the tears on the faces of those that barely didn't make it.  Heroic, there's no other word for that.  There's an entire generation who only knows the reputation of the Elfstedentocht...pitty that it wasn't meant to be this year. But hey....next year it might freeze long and hard enough to make it ;)

Yeah yeah, I know, I spend too much time in the Netherlands ;D.  In the mean time I'll simply cross my fingers for some mild freezing and some snow in the Ardennes so I can throw some more snow balls over there. And then I'm ready for spring!  The short bursts of sunshine this weekend also made me long already for crocuses and daffodils popping up and a mild breeze.

(*) Ha how about posting an incomprehensible title for non-Dutch speakers :D.


Brian Miller said…

ha there is your snow ball...smiles....

we ended up getting like 8 inches of snow...4 of them melted today it was so warm...

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