Amsterdam is experiencing its hardest freeze in 15 years. The winter had been remarkably mild up until a couple of weeks ago, but all of the sudden, the city is frozen solid.
It’s hard to understate the level of joy and fervor that such a hard freeze brings to the people of the Netherlands. It’s an iconic part of Dutch culture — the whole skating on the canals thing — yet it happens so infrequently these days that it’s both nostalgia and novelty at once. I can’t completely explain it, but this classic Dutch Winter taps into a deep sense of sentimentality for an experience that very few of my generation (or younger) can actually tie to specific memories from personal past experience! I know it sounds silly or sappy — but when we go skating on the canals of Amsterdam, we feel like we’re living in a storybook or some kind of grainy sepia-toned antique postcard image.
For the first time in all my ten winters here in the Netherlands, there’s skatable ice on the Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, in the heart of old Amsterdam… And amazingly, this week also happens to be the first week of Dutch winter that our visiting friends from Florida have ever experienced (it just so happens that they’re also ice-hockey fanatics)! Suffice to say: it’s really been a special week of experiencing Amsterdam on ice.
Like every other person with a digital camera here in Amsterdam, we’ve got lots of great pictures to show for the week.
The pictures from the Keizersgracht are probably the most beautiful — or at least the most iconic.
But the ice and the lighting conditions were actually better when we visited the pond at the Oosterpark.
The skating itself is fun. But I think it’s even more fun to watch the way other people respond to the experience and to enjoy the other experiences that go along with the classic Dutch Winter, like warming up with hot chocolate or pea soup, and eagerly discussing the possibilities for the epic Elfstedentocht, the “Eleven Cities Tour,” in Friesland (which unfortunately, doesn’t look like it’s quite going to be able to happen this year).
I’m really glad for the opportunity to experience a classic Dutch Winter.
Depending on how many Facebook friends you have here in the Netherlands, you may have already seen a million-and-one photos of everyone-and-his-brother out on the ice. Even so, I couldn’t stop myself from creating a collection of my own selected images here. There are more of my favorites posted in the Amsterdam Pictures section of my website.