Frisian eleven cities

Frisian eleven cities

Tour of discovery along the eleven Frisian cities

From old narratives we know that the first Eleven City Tour on skates was held in Friesland in 1763. What we do not know, however, is who started this tradition of skating past all eleven cities of the province of Friesland (Fryslân) in just one day. This grueling tour greatly appeals to the imagination of the inhabitants of the province of Fryslân itself, of the people in the rest of Holland, and also of many foreigners.

There are times when the whole of Holland goes wild. One of these moments is in the middle of winter. When the temperatures drop well below freezing point, Eleven City Tour fever reaches an all-time high.

Frisian Islands: Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling, Vlieland

Regions in Friesland: The Wadden Sea area: a UNESCO World Heritage site along the region's coast and including the West Frisian Islands, The Frisian clay region, The eleven cities, The 'Low Midlands', The 'Wouden' and The IJsselmeer

Municipalities in Friesland: Achtkarspelen, Ameland, Bolsward, Boarnsterhim, Dantumadeel, Dongeradeel, Ferwerderadiel, Franekeradeel, Gaasterlân-Sleat, Harlingen, Heerenveen, Het Bildt, Kollumerland en Nieuwkruisland, Leeuwarden, Leeuwarderadeel, Lemsterland, Littenseradiel, Menaldumadeel, Nijefurd, Ooststellingwerf, Opsterland, Schiermonnikoog, Skarsterlân, Smallingerland, Sneek, Terschelling, Tytsjerksteradiel, Vlieland, Weststellingwerf, Wûnseradiel and Wymbritseradiel.

The beauty of the Frisian landscape
Centuries old, and yet... changing with the hour. From north to south, from east to west, Fryslân enjoys a rich variation of landscape that’s worth seeing and experiencing. Ice, water and centuries-old human influence all did their part to create this abundance. The care and attention of today’s nearly 640.000 inhabitants have made sure that all those regions with their unique characteristics are guaranted a safe future existence.

Centuries old, and yet ... changing with every hour. From north to south, from east to west, Fryslân enjoys a rich variation of landscape that's worth seeing and experiencing. Ice, water and centuries-old human influence all did their part to create this abundance. The care and attention of today's inhabitants have made sure that all those regions with their unique characteristics are guaranteed a safe future existence.

The Elfstedentocht (or, in West Frisian, Alvestêdetocht, English translation: "Eleven Cities Tour"), the world's largest and longest speed skating competition and leisure skating tour, is held irregularly in the province of Friesland, Netherlands. Signs of the rich trading history and early seafaring are evident everywhere in the Eleven Cities of Fryslân, each of which has its own unique charm.The cities vary in size: Sloten has 900 inhabitants, while Leeuwarden, the capital, has 90.000. The tour, almost 200 km in length, is conducted on frozen canals, rivers and lakes between the eleven historic Frisian cities.

Through the years, this tour has developed into the most talked-out sports event in Holland. Bitter cold, piercing wind and ‘ice transplants’ are the talk of the day before the start of the Eleven City Tour. Hundreds of thousands of Dutch travel to Friesland to be a part of this exciting skating event. Extra trains transport the numerous skating enthusiasts to Friesland. All those who do not actually go there sit glued to their goggle boxes for the duration. Television and radio broadcasts start at 5 a.m. and provide coverage until the last participant has crossed the finish line.

Outside the ice-skating season the Eleven City tour is also popular, as it does not necessarily have to be completed on skates. Fortunately, there are various other ways in which the route can be traveled, e.g. on foot, by bike, by canoe, on horseback, by boat, by motorbike or by car.

Nature, culture and adventure

It goes without saying that you do not have to complete the Eleven City Tour in one day. And that is just as well, because the route takes you through attractive woods and lovely countryside, past numerous lakes, beaches and the Wadden Sea, past traditional Frisian farmsteads and eleven charming cities. Fryslân is rich in culture and adventure. It has a glorious past, its own language and characteristic 'ûlebuorden' decorate the farmsteads. Typical Frisian sports are skûtsjesilen (traditional boat races), kaatsen (a ball game), fierljeppen (pole jumping) and mudwalking along the bottom of the Wadden Sea.

Yearly Sailing Contest

The main event in Friesland each year is the yearly sailing contest between 14 ships on the various lakes, which takes place in early August. The 14 10-meter long boats, each with a crew of more than ten people, compete over 14 matches on anything from the huge IJsselmeer to tiny Veenhoop. This event is called Skûtsjesilen, Skûtsje being the traditional type of sailing boat used in these contests.

It is quite possible to watch these matches from the shore, and many people do so. Inquire locally about the best place to watch, and be prepared to come early or the locals will beat you to the best places. It is also possible to watch these matches from the water, but be advised that certain areas of water may be off-limits for spectators.

If you are traveling by boat, make sure you get a program of this because certain lakes or parts of lakes will be closed off, and the waterways towards those lakes will be filled with traveling spectators.

Sport Dating in Friesland

Kaatsen is a sport dating to the middle ages, still being practised in Friesland, the Basque_Country, and parts of southern France. A precursor to tennis; the game consists of two teams hitting a solid leather ball with their bare hands. The main event each year is the PC, in Franeker. The city will be filled with spectators. Warning: Kaatsen is to Frisians what cricket is to the English, ie: you will not understand a thing of what is happening.

Also you will find: Fierljeppen (far-jumping) - a sport where contestants attempt to jump as far as possible over a ditch, using a 10-foot pole, Wieuwerd mummies - a small town where local chuch crypt created the right conditions for natural mummification, Fries museum - the local museum on the area (located in Leeuwarden), Jopie Huisman museum (Workum) - an art museum dedicated to an eel fisher turned realist painter, Eise Eisinga's planetarium (Franeker) - a school teacher created the world's oldest still working planetarium (1774) to disprove claims that the world was going to end, Hindeloopen - A small town comparable to Volendam or Marken, though not as overly touristic, Sloten - A small fortress town with a rich past and... many more waiting for you.

100 year anniversary Eleven City Tour

2009 is the year of the 100 year existence of the eleven city tour on ice. The first official eleven city tour was skated in 1909. The whole year will be full of activities in each of the eleven cities. Leeuwarden will be turned into a true winter paradise. During the WinterFestival the square at Oldehoofsterkerkhof has changed into a large ice-skating area. Around it are bars & restaurants which serve hot chocolate, dutch pea soup and local delicacies.
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