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Day 4: Schaatsen!

February 4, 2012

Welkom naar de Vierde dag van: 29 Days of Dutch.

(welcome to the 4th day of…)

These are Schaatsen.

Schaatsen: Ice skates. * PS-Jasper, do these look familiar??

Pronounced: “shots-un”…

But instead of saying it with the kind little silence “shhhhh!” that reminds Americans to use their “inside voices,” you actually need to cough and clear something out of the back of your throat while you say it.  For example, try saying: “schchchchgghxx-ots-un”

Nicely done. 🙂

Schaatsen means both the noun, “Ice Skates,” and the verb “to skate”

Kids skating on the Buitenwatersloot (Canal) by my huis.

So what makes skating so Dutch?

Every kid in Northern Michigan (and probably Minnesota but I was never there), upstate New York, and much of Canada skated on their frozen pond growing up. So why is this actually differ?

Ice skating IS Dutch culture.  If you can picture how many people live near canals in the Netherlands (many many many)–that’s how many people are with in walking, biking, or…sledding distance of a place to go ice skating.  As soon as the first frost comes, the people in villages and cities alike start buzzing about with excitement;

Will the canals freeze over this year enough to go skating? 

(if  yes, many Dutch people skip work and to skating on the canals).

Skating at Delftse Hout

Will they run the Elfstedentocht this year?

Check this out– it means, 11-cities-tour. It’s a 200km long race/tour through northern cities in Friesland. The moment the cities decide that the ice is thick and safe enough, thousands of Dutch people arrive ready to participate and a couple of million arrive just to watch. You end up with a blauwekruis (blue cross) at the end. Or if you’re unlucky like in 1963 you mostly end up with frost bite, a gash over your fore arms, and kicked off the ice early.

You can feel that excitement at this moment. And I think the wikipedia page already has a section on Elfstedentocht 2012 despite that it hasn’t been decided upon yet.


Here are a couple of vignettes to illustrate the importance of and appreciation for ice skating in the Dutch psyche.

1) The second question I have been asked from just about everyone I met when I  moved here in August was, “Do you have skates yet?”  (You’ll of course recall that the first question I always got is/was, “Why did you move HERE from California? “)

2) Last Tuesday  I received an email from a Dutch friend here in Delft about a recent newspaper article describing the overnight soaring increase in the demand for skates.  Yes, they write about it in the newspaper.

3) Ten minutes later, I received a second email from a Dutch friend who  lives in San Francisco telling me even he had heard  there would be frost for 4 weeks and that I must buy skates now. Specifically not hockey skates. His mother (who lives here) had called to tell him the weather report–and that she had size 38/39 skates all ready for me (see in the above picture). Thanks Jasper and Marjo!

4) Lastly, this morning, I awoke to a note from my neighbors that read:

Dear Jessica, tonight we will make Erwtensoep (pea soup), would you like some? Also, do you have skates yet? 

4b) Further, my neighbors were insistent in lending me their car this morning to pick up my borrowed skates in Kijkduin because 90mins one way (via train) was simply too long and I had to get out on the ice immediately.

I'm half excited, but also half- blind. Staring directly into the sun so mind the facial expression. Also Nevermind the oversized scarf. I could really do without these things, but as it turns out--they're warm.

It was a fantastic day. There were dozens and dozens just on one small set of canals in a park near by. Only not-so-cool-part was hearing cracking in the ice.

Here’s some video–

You know, just incase you’ve NEVER seen anyone ice skate before. And in that case I hope you appreciate the excellent skills in filmmaking, skates, and obviously sarcasm. Mind the nausea. Enjoy the kids nailing each other with snowball and another face down in the snow bank… to get a taste of the flavor here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jan permalink
    February 5, 2012 00:31

    As always I love reading your blogs!! Your love of life is great! Your skating skills are pretty good too :).
    Thanks for sharing!
    Love you!

  2. February 5, 2012 03:08

    The kids are hilarious. And yes I recognize those old “hoge Nooren”. For some odd reason the skates are called Norwegians.

  3. britta permalink
    February 5, 2012 04:27

    I have heard so much about ice skating there, thanks for your post. You look great on the ice, by the way. I am Norwegian and can skate like a Viking…let’s do this Ludy! Miss you and love reading what you post.

  4. Captain No Beard permalink
    February 6, 2012 00:32

    That was the most anticlimactic video ever.

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