Friday, January 2, 2009


The Elfstedentocht or Eleven Cities Tour celebrates its 100th anniversary today. When it happens - only 15 times in its history - it's a grueling 200 km ice skating race.
What makes an Eleven-Cities Tour win so unique is the fact that the race cannot be held on anything like a regular basis. Dutch winters are usually too mild to allow thick enough ice to form for outdoor skating. For this reason, alternative races are organised in Austria or Finland. However, Dutch enthusiasts maintain that there is nothing like participating in the tour when it is held in Friesland.
A few of my Dutch cousins have skated it. The Prince of Orange - registered as W. A. van Buren - participated in 1986.
"It has be minus ten degrees for at least seven nights in a row for the event to go ahead," says a spokesperson in Friesland in De Telegraaf. He warns people to stick to official ice rinks, as the ice on the lakes is not safe. He could be right, as on New Year's Day the body of a 58-year-old man was found by his friends under the ice. And four people were saved from certain death by the quick thinking of a local man who used his surfboard to reach a group that had fallen through thin ice after he heard their calls for help.

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