A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Late last week in Leiden, temperatures plummeted. It was almost instant. I remember leisurely going to the Digros near where I live, and only a few hours later the same journey became impossible without my scarf wrapped tightly around my head like a ḥijāb (Geert Wilders supporters look away now!).
In England when temperatures drop, quite simply, chaos ensues. Schools, and motorways close, employees bunk off work, and the population panics about our annual salt shortage crisis and why the local councils haven’t prepared the UK for it’s harshest winter yet! The 6 o’clock BBC news bulletin reports from Moscow of how the Russians deal with this weather everyday: chains on their tyres and big bushy hats alike – Why are the British so terribly underprepared we lament…
In defence I don’t watch much Dutch TV or News, so it could be similar in the Netherlands, but that’s not the impression the inhabitants of Leiden give. People delight at the sight of sub zero forecasts, and almost immediately out come the ice skates in all their glory. Sharpy and shiny, almost every dutch person I know has one. Some even possess two pairs: short skates for rinks, and longer bladed ones for long distance ice skating.
Hang on a minute!!!!
Long distance ice skating? How many laps of Alexandra Palace could I do without getting bored I ask myself? (The answer is none, because like every self respecting Brit, I my dear friend, cannot skate. Something which I’m sure will change the longer this Siberianesqe winter lasts).
People pray it get’s colder (:O) so that maybe this year could be the lucky year…don’t speak to loud or you’ll jinx it…. of…an…ELFSTEDENTOCHT! An elfstedentocht hasn’t occurred for over 15 years now (1997 was the last). It is probably the most quintessentially dutch thing that exists. A 200km treacherous ice skate race across the frozen canals of Friesland, which can only take place if the ice is 15cm thick (minimum) at all parts. Don’t ask me how they check but the odds are rare, and if it ever does come to pass, the whole of the Netherlands would probably drop its truckle and flee to the northern cities to view the spectacle. My dutch brother in law informs me that it’s an event that makes the Koninginnedag (usually the biggest annual party) look like an office tea party.
Either way, from my perspective this is all madness, and I personally can’t wait for the snow to thaw and cycle to uni without the wind chill freezing my face every morning. Although I will miss the adorable sight of parents dragging their children to the Albert Heijn across the pavements on miniature sleighs.