Winter in Amsterdam

Ice-skating has a long history in the Netherlands, and there is no child in this country who didn’t grow up learning how to skate! Of course this would happen the old-fashioned way: on ‘botjes’ (double-bladed skates) and holding on to a chair to remain balanced.

Traditionally, children living alongside the many rivers or canals in the Netherlands would be very pleased when they could skate to school instead of walk – it would save a lot of time! (And, of course, not everybody owned a bike like in modern times!) Their parents would strap on their wooden skates with leather thongs and skate for miles to go and see family they hadn’t seen in months.

On the weekends big tours would be organized, and alongside the canal one could find little stands selling ‘koek en zopie’ – cookies and hot chocolate (or gin for the dads). After the tour, the family would come home to a big pan of ‘snert’, the traditional Dutch pea-soup …

It’s been a while since it has frozen in the Netherlands, at least enough for all the natural waterways to freeze. In fact, the last ‘Elfstedentocht’ (Eleven Cities Tour), an ice-skating race that takes place in the north of the Netherlands and keeps every Dutchmen captivated as soon as the temperature drops under zero, was in 1997!

Thankfully every city in the Netherlands will make sure there is an artificial ice-skating rink in their centre. Here are a few that are still open in Amsterdam:

Skating Rink Museumplein: 17 December 2008 – 22 February 2009, open daily from 10 am until 8 pm. My absolute favourite Skating Rink, to be found at the foot of the wonderful Rijksmuseum!

Skating Rink Leidseplein: 1 November 2008 – 11 January 2009, open daily from 10 am until 11 pm. Not far from the Vondelpark. Set up in the middle of the cafés and restaurants of the Leidseplein.

Well, we say: when in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch. So take your children for a skate on one of the many skating rinks (but don’t be afraid to show off your own skills as well)! You can rent skates at the rinks.

Esther writes for Babyccino from Amsterdam.

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