As the folks over at have pointed out, there is nothing more wonderful to Dutch people than skating outdoors on natural ice.

Now, I don’t feel very Dutch: I talk too much, I eat hot smelly food for lunch and I start conversations with strangers in the grocery check-out line. But back in February, when the temperature dropped below 0 C and a little skin of ice starting to form on the stagnant water, I started to get a case of that very Dutch disease, the “Elfstedenviruus”. The symptoms began as I stared dreamily out the window of the train at the ice accumulating in the ditches. Then I started leaving open on my computer so that I could check the weather forecasts every five minutes.

By Saturday (Feb 4) it had been cold long enough. I convinced my non-skating boyfriend, P, that it would be a great idea to cycle 30 min over icy paths to the Faux Polder just outside of town, which I had been reconnoitering from the train. The residents of the nearby suburb had industriously shovelled a trail along the ice and there were half a dozen enthusiasts making langorous laps. I asked the older gentlemen putting his skates on next to me about the condition of the ice; he reported that he’d fallen through a wak (hole in the ice) the previous afternoon.

I skated that day, and then every day for the rest of the week.

I took the train to Amsterdam Centraal and skated halfway to work.

The boats in the harbour in Leiden were all frozen fast.

I received two compliments on my skating – one from some frat boys who watched me quite skeptically as I laced up my hockey skates and another from a man who remarked with amazement that “even Canadian girls can skate on hockey skates!”

There is no feeling so fine as skating along a city canal as the sun sets, the moon rises and all the street lights suddenly wink on.


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