Get your skates on

Denise Mosbach, dinsdag 16 april 2013

I’ve always been mad about skating, even as a child. Initially, I was only into ice hockey, but later on I started tour skating. The best way, of course, was on natural ice – miles of heavenly landscapes of white snow-topped forests and over endless ice plains. And to think that skating actually started out of necessity. In prehistoric times, our ancestors used cattle or deer bones to cross massive ice fields. These skating bones have been found in many European countries, including here in the Netherlands.

Since then, it’s hard to imagine life without skating. I was even surprised to find that I was following the weather forecast a lot more closely. As soon as the ice is thick enough, every self-respecting Dutchman takes to the frozen water. A colourful mix of the young and young-at-heart, from novices to experienced skaters. The warmth and cordiality of skating, or the "après-skate", is just as important, I think. We call it ‘koek-en-zopie’ in Dutch, which involves replenishing one’s strength with cake and a hot drink, often a brew of beer, rum, eggs, cinnamon and cloves. Cheers!

As I said, I’m a fan of natural ice, myself. The lakes around Amsterdam, near Ankeveen and Loosdrecht, are wonderful to skate on. They offer the ultimate skating sensation in a typical Dutch landscape. The Oostvaardersplassen – a relatively young nature reserve – are fantastic and not too far from Amsterdam as well. For real athletes and if the ice holds out, there’s the Elfstedentocht – the ultimate skating competition that covers 200 km, taking in eleven cities in Friesland. It is not often that the entire route has ice thick enough; the last time was in 1997. I have never skated the entire route myself as you really have to train hard, and as much as I love skating, it would be going a bit too far. But you can also do parts of the tour, so I once skated from Leeuwarden to Sneek. Close enough to picture the real thing.

If you ever have time to put your ice skates on, you can go to the artificial rink at Jaap Eden Baan in Amsterdam. Another must is De Uithof in The Hague – a professional run of 400 metres, where you can go skiing, karting and even climbing, if ice skating isn’t up your street.

Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping an eye on the weather. My blades are sharpened, ready for the first run on natural ice!