May 29, 2020

Elfstedentocht? I Don't Even Know Her!

Every once in a while you get a double-bonus situation that drops in your lap.  I was aimlessly wandering around yootoob, as one does, clicking on whatever struck my fancy... um... fancily.  From a train line that stares Mt Fuji in the face to an absolutely killer electronic track called Turbo Killer to a discussion of Cthulhu's Family Tree to a fan-made Spess Muhreens mini-film to a music video involving very angry ducks, it's been a mix of good and not-so-good (not seen here)...


...and then I stumbled upon something called the Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour in English.  For those of you who, like me, have never heard of it, the Elfstedentocht is a 200km long speed-skating event held when the weather allows in the Netherlands.  As can be guessed by the name, it runs through "the eleven historic cities of the province of Friesland" via canals, rivers, and lakes, beginning and terminating in the city of Leeuwarden, which I'd only heard of because it was the birthplace of the noted spy Mata Hari.

The race has only been held 15 times since 1909, with the most recent having been in 1997.  See, the entire route must have at least six inches of good ice on it... no thinning ice, no mush, and at least a 12-day stretch of sub-zero Celsius temperatures preceding a race.  As you can guess, this is A Big Deal; there's usually just 48 hours warning that the race will actually occur.  Apparently in 2012, the last time conditions appeared perfect, it hovered right below the target for long enough that any tiny temperature increase would have nixed the race.  On the day the "go" would have been given, organizers said "no" for safety reasons, disappointing the 16000 casual skaters, 300 racers, and the entire nation.

In 2013, the Elfstedentocht organizers, as part of a Leeuwarden festival, contacted Public Service Broadcasting and asked them to write some tunes about the race using historical footage from earlier events.  Of course they said "yep!"  

From what I've read, the 1963 race, shown in this second video, was held in absolutely brutal conditions: overly cold, strong winds, and snow gunking up the ice.  Only 69 out of 10000 people were able to finish it, and the winner did not realize he had actually crossed the finish line due to being snowblind.  Broken bones and eye damage were common that year.

I had no idea these tracks existed until they fell into my lap.  A rare bright spot on another shut-in sort of day.  Enjoy!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:51 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Ah! I utterly failed the point of Public Service Broadcasting by not researching the title of the song when I bought it. Dopey me.

I have the Carpenter Brut triple-album. There's some good stuff in there, though Turbo Killer is indeed the high point.

Posted by: GreyDuck at May 30, 2020 09:30 AM (rKFiU)

2 And for some reason I was reminded of Heinlein's Red Planet.

Posted by: Mauser at June 01, 2020 12:15 AM (Ix1l6)

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