Get Rolling Logo

Inline Skating Newsletter Article

Skating the Netherlands - Dan's Journal

By Dan Kibler

Day 3 Ferry to Stavoren - Skate to Harlingen - 70.8 km

On the ferrySunshine! Our third day dawned sunny and bright - a welcome change. After the standard breakfast, we hauled our bags down the stairs that seemed to have gotten even steeper and piled them near the van. We walked to the quay where we boarded a ferry bound for Stavoren, across the Ijsselmeer. Many of our fellow passengers were on bicycles that they racked at the stern of the boat. One was on a recumbent pulling a trailer and had his cocker spaniel in a crate behind his seat. He was camping across Holland, but would be joined for a few days by his wife. They would stay in a hotel then. It was a very pleasant crossing. The antique sailboats contrasted with the modern wind-powered electrical generators on the horizon.

We skated out of town and soon were following a narrow concrete path, more a sidewalk than anything, through farmland. I imagined that these paths were for the farmer's equipment. The fields were probably quite muddy most of the time. Back on the roads, we encountered our first cattle grates. The cattle grates were made from rebar spaced about a foot apart and about ten feet wide. We witnessed many ways of crossing them on skates. We could roll around some of them on the grass (Couldn't a cow do the same?) Allan's method was to approach at moderate speed and run across. Most of us walked and a least one crawled on the handrail. Liz said that one of the first week's skaters jumped many - feasible, but it could have a big downside!

Hindeloopen canalThe weather was still nice as we approached Hindeloopen. Hindeloopen, a cute berg on the Ijsselmeer, is a windsurfing and sailing center. It is also home to a hand painted crafts and furniture industry and an ice skating museum dedicated to the 11 Steden (cities) race. We found both the crafts and the museum in the same building. The race is a 192-kilometer classic dating back to the 1700's. It can only be run in years when the ice is thick enough to safely hold the thousands who participate. Recent years have not been kind to the race. It was only run 15 times in the 20th Century. Our guide to the museum was seventy-six year old Willem Augustin, Zephyr guide and nine time finisher of the race. He holds the record for the most finishes including one first place. His last finish was in 1997 - at the age of 74! There was a memorabilia case for each of the winners, including Willem, and lots of old skates and great old photos. Willem showed us some wooden, strap-on skates like the ones he first raced on. It's hard to believe anyone could skate 192 km on those. He also pointed out some ancient inline skates with wooden wheels.

It had clouded up while we were in the museum. On our way to Workum we got caught in the rain. This was the first time I've skated in conditions where the water was spraying off the front of my wheels. We met the van in Workum and stopped for lunch. We were not surprised to find lots of ham and cheese on the menu along with several forms of herring. The restaurant owner was curious about our skating. When we told him we were skating the 11 Steden, he rattled off the names of all eleven in both Dutch and Friesian.

Giving up on the rain we piled into the van - a tight fit and drove to Bolsward. We tried to take a tour of a local brewery, but were too early. We got into a conversation with a local skater who had stopped in to buy a case. He asked if we were "skeelers" (5 wheel racing skates) or "skaters" (recreational). It was clear he didn't think highly of "skaters."

After a walking tour of the town, we decided it had cleared enough to skate again. Outside of town, we got two pace lines going. One for the racers and wanna' be's (me) and one for the rest. I got dropped from the fast line twice. I found that I could hang on if I could hold a tuck but my aching lower back would not permit it for long enough. Unfortunately I was moving too fast for the slower line, so I found myself skating much of the rest of the way to Harlingen by myself. We finished the day on the standard rough brick pavement. Some of us walked the last stretch to the hotel.

A nice young couple who had recently remodeled it ran the hotel. We hauled our bags up the steep (surprise!) stairs and took a welcome shower.

Harlingen sits on the Waddenzee (Mud Sea), a shallow body of water separated from the Atlantic by barrier islands. Some people make sport of wading the Waddenzee at low tide wearing big rubber boots. They call it a mud walk. More than one have gotten stuck. Extreme wading!

Eating PanakockenIn Harlingen we got to try a classic Dutch dish - Panakocken, Dutch pancakes. The Dutch don't eat panakocken for breakfast. They have them for lunch or dinner. There are two kinds, savory and sweet. The savory come with fillings like ham, cheese and onions and end up more like a cross between a pizza and a quiche. But when was the last time you put powdered sugar and syrup (stroop) on your pizza? The Dutch do and so did most of us. A few just could not handle the combination and had theirs plain. Ready to try most any food, I enjoyed mine with plenty of both.

We had our panakocken sitting on the waterfront. It was a nice setting but a bit cool with the wind coming off the Zee. Our pretty waitress's smile helped keep us warm. We got to make our own sweet panakocken for dessert. After a demonstration from the cook, we ladled the buckwheat batter on to an egg-crate-like grill. With more gusto the skill we mutilated many of the silver dollar-sized pancakes. They were served sundae-style with lots to toppings and whipped cream, delicious!

Allan, Amy, Liz and I went out later to sample the bars. I tried Jenever, the Dutch gin-like liqueur. I don't think it will replace Scotch or Bourbon in my bar. After some good conversation, Liz and I headed for the barn, while Allan and Amy went looking for more culture.

See all our Holland Pictures

Learn more about Zephyr Inline Tours.

Read Day 4.