Big and Small … and Ice

Groot en Klein ... en Ijs
I love these two contrasting buildings across the canal from the Stadsschouwburg. The smaller Breyerskamers to the right is one of my favorite buildings in town. You can also see how parts of the canal were freezing over, which is particularly notable, as these ring canals around the city don’t freeze as easily.

There has been talk these past few days about the possibility of the elfstedentocht finally happening again, but it’s still up in the air as not all of the regions are quite frozen enough. What is the elfstedentocht you ask? It’s an 11-city ice skating race covering about 200 kilometers. As it’s an outdoor race through the canals of 11 Frisian cities, it always depends on the weather. Despite some cold weather the past two years, it hasn’t been consistently iced enough to make it safe. The last time the race was held was 1997. Still, each winter, as soon as a cold snap hits, everyone starts wondering if the elfstedentocht will finally make a return.

Neude on Ice

Indoor Ice Skating
It seems like Neude (one of the central squares in town, in front of what used to be the post office) is never empty for long. The latest installation is a long building taking up most of the square. Inside? An ice rink! From now through 8 January, you can go skating every day, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.

We stopped by Neude yesterday on our way to the kerstmarkt on Twijnstraat and couldn’t resist going in to see what was on offer. Along with the actual ice rink, there’s a very nice looking café serving sandwiches and a few warm food items, as well as a variety of drinks. I was surprised at just how nice it is inside, especially for a temporary structure. I guess this is the winter version of the beach-side restaurants that pop up for the season.

It’s pretty reasonably priced, as well, with skate hire costing €5 and unlimited skating time costing €5. It almost makes me want to go ice skating, despite the fact that I think I’ve only been twice before and that was more than 20 years ago. As with roller skating, I tend to cling to the wall with a death grip for the first hour or so. Still, it always looks like so much fun.

If you do go, I think you’re supposed to have gloves. Also, Norwegians are not allowed. No, really! I checked the rules and it says Noren are not allowed, and that translated to Norwegians! I’m not sure why there’s such specific national xenophobia; maybe they just don’t want to be shown up by their Nordic cousins to the north. Or maybe Noren are a type of those long-blade speed skates, and actual Norwegians are allowed in. 😉 I suspect this to be the case, since the Dutch are no slouch when it comes to speed skating, having won numerous medals.

So, if you’re in Utrecht and want to get in a bit of ice skating while we wait for the lakes and canals to freeze over — perhaps this year will see the Elfstedentocht? — head to Neude and try to keep your bum dry!