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Dutch "Bermuda" triangle between Monnickendam, Volendam and Marken

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Please take your time... and enjoy it large on black


Each winter I wait for the first glazing of ice across the canals and lakes. As the temperature drops my hopes rise. By the time the ice is a few centimetres thick, I keep my skates in the back of my car. Today I could use my skates on natural ice at the Gouwsea. Ice skating can be done from Monnickendam to Marken and from Marken to Volendam. Infinite sea of ice is perfect for ice skating journeys. Ice skating is not only a Dutch sport, it also underwrites the history, art and culture of the Netherlands. Perhaps most importantly a good freeze provides the Dutch a chance to discover the wilderness and an outdoor challenge within their own landscape. Slashed by rivers and canals, pocked with polders, meers and lakes and meshed in a web of interconnecting drainage ditches, the Netherlands are a long distance skater's dream. Thousands of kilometres of potential routes can carry the skater to the heart of a wild landscape, unsuspected and inaccessable, except when frozen. But at the first scabbing of ice across the canals, the Dutch, normally so earnest and responsible, abandon jobs and universities, uttering the traditional schoolchildren's demand of We willen ijs vrij - we want ice time. In the Netherlands everybody skates. Speed teams, in tight lines, nose to nape of neck, legs pumping in a powerful unison, set the ice whining and vibrating like the rails under an approaching train. Children on double-bladed, tin skates push chairs ahead of themselves for balance. Unlikely looking people in town clothes shiver past. And veteran couples in sensible woollen jackets, arms entwined, sway along like ballroom dancers. According to Richard van Ammerzoden, a skater from Rotterdam, skating in Holland originated as a poor man's sport. Isolated by mud and water in the damp winters, rural farmers prayed for ice. When it came, just like Hans Brinker, they strapped on their wooden skates with leather thongs, and traveled great distances to visit friends and relatives they hadn't seen in months. Then they skated home. Perhaps that explains the origin of the Elfstedentocht or Eleven Cities Tour, a 200-kilometer mega-tour in the province of Friesland known as "the mother of all skating tours." In the 1890s, some Frisian farmer with well-developed leg muscles tried to skate through all eleven cities of Friesland in a single day. He succeeded, and the rest is history. Perhaps there will be an Elfstedentocht this winter.


Photo taken on the Gouwsea between Monnickendam and Marken. Immersing in Dutch winter culture. Speed skating on the Dutch 'Gouw sea", Holland's own Bermuda Triangle between Monnickendam, Volendam and Marken. A historical moment since crossing the gouwsea by skates is such a rare occurrence. On 25 december 2010 I skate from Monnickendam to Marken such a beautiful sea of ice to enjoy. As temperatures plunge across Europe, many are cursing the cold. But not in the Netherlands. Many are hoping for further frigid conditions. It was a cloudy day and sometimes it was hailing but in the end the sun came through which gave a lovely light. It was my first Christmas 2010 weekend on ice. Waterland in the winter is a real skater’s paradise.


Eindelijk weer een weekend zelfs een Kerst weekend waarin Waterlanders de ijzers konden onderbinden. De Gouwzee helemaal dichtbevroren en dit is nu al drie winters achter elkaar gebeurd. Maar het blijft een historische ijstocht. Vele honderden schaatsenrijders zoeken vandaag de bevroren oppervlakte van de Gouwzee op voor een schaatstocht langs alle havens. Mensen kunnen een rondje Gouwzee schaatsen. Een groot ijsoppervlakte tussen Monickendam en Marken met prima ijs. Een oneindig mooi gezicht op deze ijszee anno 2010. Het was genieten. De weilanden zijn hier wit, de Gouwzee totaal bevroren en de adem komt in kleine grijze pufjes uit mijn mond. Handen op de rug. Rustig ademen. Ik geniet van het geluid van de ijzers over het ijs en het prachtige uitzicht over de besneeuwde weilanden. Het is min één graden het is bewolkt maar aan de horizon komt uiteindelijk de zon nog door. Af en toe een hagelbui maar dat mag de pret niet drukken. Het ijs is door de sneeuw helaas te dof om het licht te weerkaatsen maar levert toch prachtige plaatjes op. In de verte kan je de flats van Almere stad zien aan de andere kant van het IJmeer. Vandaag op 25 december 2010 een lange schaatstocht gemaakt van Monnickendam - Uitdam - Marken - Volendam - en weer terug Monnickendam - 20km. Jong en oud staan op het ijs, zelfs koek en zopie is present in de haven van Monnickendam, Marken en Volendam. De warme chocolademelk smaakte heerlijk met een beetje rum erbij. Ik ben blij dat ik vandaag geweest ben, het was fantastisch.


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Taken on December 26, 2010