Saturday, January 10, 2009
Where the boats can no longer go
I think it's probably true to say this is my first real winter here in the Netherlands. Having lived here full time now since January 2001, I'm pretty sure there has been nothing like this in all that time. Personally, I find this intense cold quite hard to cope with, but it has its compensations, the principal one being that much of the surface water in the country - and there's a lot of it - is now completely frozen over. Although it means we boat people are a bit stuck (our friend Philip is stranded in a frozen canal in France), for the rest of the Dutch population it's as if their beloved winter sports have come to them. In fact they are flocking with unaccustomed and quite wildly enthusiastic joy to any stretch of ice they can find. They've all dug their skates out of cupboards long since assigned to 'cold' storage on account of global warming, and are taking jubilant advantage of a Dutch tradition also thought to have died from climate change: eating pea soup and drinking chocolate milk supplied from a small stand on the ice.
For me - well, I just love watching them. It's such a marvellous sight to see sometimes even lone skaters skimming gracefully over acres of natural ice, miles away from towns and commercialised ice rinks, just skating for the love of it. It really is very beautiful, and as the sun shines low in the sky, and the light leaves a pearly pink glow, casting golden shadows across this frozen world, I have to agree, it beats our usual mild but miserably soggy excuses for winter by a very long chalk.
The stunning photo at the top and these last two are Koos's. I think they just say it all. The other two are my takes on the winter scenery!