The ice skating fever
When winter arrives in the Netherlands, you would expect that the Dutch would settle themselves in their houses to turn on the heat and stay there until the weather outside reaches a more comfortable climate. You couldn’t be more wrong: when temperatures drop below zero degrees, a strange fever is floating over the country: the urge to go ice skating on natural ice.
As soon as the country is covered in a layer of snow, and the ice on the canals and lakes is thick enough, you will see everyone, young and old, outside their houses. Children will go for ‘’sleetje rijden’’ or will be seen on tin skates, pushing chairs ahead of themselves for balance. Local ice skating clubs gather together to organise competitions, and there will always be ‘’Koek and Zopie’’, hot chocolate milk with a small bite to warm up.
As this February turns out to be a cold month, everyone is hoping for the same: the possibility of an Elfstedentocht, ‘the eleven cities tour’, which is thé most famous ice skating tour in the Netherlands, held in the very north of the country. Not so far away from Groningen! There is only one slight problem: the tour will only run when the ice is thick enough to support anything up to 17,000 competitors, ánd their supporters, racing the 200 km course. Since the last tour was held in 1997, you can probably imagine that now the winter is making its entrance, the hope for a tour is rising!
Besides the long distance ice skating tours, people that just want to skate for fun can be found on every pond or canal where the ice is thick enough. This is also the case for Groningen! You will spot people skating on the canals through the city centre and ice hockey matches are held at the pond in the Noorderplantsoen.
So when you experience a winter in Groningen, never forget to buy or lend a good pair of ice skates: you definitely don’t want to miss the chance to skate on the canals of the city centre of Groningen!
By: Petra Vledder