Why the Dutch love ice skating

When the outside temperature drops, Dutch hearts start to melt; will this finally be the year? Let’s tell you more about a Dutch tradition… or a way of life as some say!

Where it all began
In the 16th century, the Dutch society was ‘pillarising’. Both private and social life were played out in a person’s own “pillar”, for example a protestant school or catholic football club. The only place where this wasn’t the case was on the ice; people were all equal on the ice and they felt free.

Every winter, before the so called ‘climate change’, lakes and other waterways were frozen and ice skating became a way of transport. As soon as kids were able to walk, they were put on the ice with wooden runners and a piece of iron underneath it. It was important to be able to move over the ice, since roads were too slippery for biking – our other transport of choice.

Nowadays, ice skating is no longer about transportation and it has become more of a hobby. Most of the Dutch take lessons and some even become professional ice skaters, performing really well in the Olympics: in PyeongChang 2018 for example, the Dutch team brought 20 medals back home.

The most important question we ask ourselves every year around this time is; will this be THE year? Referring to the Elfstedentocht. A 200 kilometers trip through eleven cities in the province of Friesland, located in the north of the Netherlands. This event, last held in 1997, can only be hosted when all ditches and lakes are frozen with a minimum ice thickness of 17 centimeters.

Last year, after almost 6 years, people were able to ice skate on the Prinsengracht – right in front of the hotel! We keep our frozen fingers crossed that it will be possible again this year.