Friday, February 10, 2012

Not Happening: The Eleven Cities Tour

I get the same question from my fellow Americans all the time: "Do you ever skate on the canals in Holland?"  Me personally?  No, I don't.  I'm not crazy about falling and breaking something I vitally need on the hard, unforgiving ice.  However, many of my friends and in-laws do skate whenever the opportunity arises and I say more power to them.  The Dutch call it ijskoorts or "ice fever."  Funny enough, there always seems to be a direct correlation between the number of employees calling in sick and the thickness of the ice. Hmm....

Whenever we experience extended periods of chilling weather in The Netherlands with the temperature remaining below 28 degrees fahrenheit, the Dutch begin to long for the Elfstedentocht or the "Eleven Cities Tour."  This is a world-famous ice skating tour organized by a club whose sole purpose is to organize the race. Problem is, it really has to freeze for several days in order for the ice to be thick enough to permit the vast numbers of skaters gliding over its surface.  The last race that was organized happened back in 1997, so you can probably imagine just how exciting it is to be a member of that club.

In recent weeks, weather conditions have been cooperating and Holland began to experience a real "ice fever" once again.  The tour takes place in the Dutch province of Friesland which is so over-full with provincial pride they even have their own flag and language. ("I'm not Dutch, I'm Fries!")  This is something akin to the same pride I've experienced while being amongst my Texan buddies, but I digress.

The eleven cities that are part of the tour look on hungrily with euro signs in their eyes as the race approaches. For example, the Fries company that distills the alcoholic Beerenburg drink which is synonomous with the tour experienced a tremendous boost in sales as the people ran out to buy a bottle.  The result?  Hours later, there wasn't a bottle of the Dutch gin in the country to be had and we didn't even know yet if the race would take place.

To the disappointment of many, the tour club held a press conference this week to announce that there would not be a race held this year due to the inadequate thickness of ice.  People publicly twittered their despair in record numbers and the sales of Nordic skates dropped dramatically.  The country began to descend from its ice "high" and people got on with their lives.  The good news is that there is now plenty of Beerenburg again for those still wanting to warm themselves from the cold!


  1. I wonder what Beerenburg tastes like now...
    I have a good friend from the Netherlands. I'm going to have to ask her about this annual cultural event!

  2. I'm kinda sad, but glad it's warming up a bit.

  3. oh man, now i really want to go ice-skating! But we've had such a wimpy winter this year, i haven't had the opportunity