[PHOTOS] Ice skating fever storms the Netherlands

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The Dutch took out their ice skates again on Sunday to take advantage of the last day of persistent cold, which partially froze Amsterdam’s famous canals for the first time in nearly three years.

Dozens of skaters ventured for the second day in a row on the Prinsengracht, the iconic canal in the center of the Dutch capital, despite the ice being too thin in places.

One person found himself in the water, before reaching the bank without incident, according to local media, at a time when hospitals are overloaded with COVID-19 patients.

Several municipalities, including that of Amsterdam, on Sunday afternoon called on skaters to leave the ice due to the thaw, which will continue in the days to come.

In Kinderdijk, near the iconic windmills listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, several dozen people were already skating early Sunday morning.

“Most people are usually still in bed on a Sunday morning at this time. But this ice cream is so beautiful, it’s a fever, ”comments Cok Hartkoorn, 71, who lives nearby and has gone to watch the skaters.

“It may not happen again for a few years. You have to seize the opportunity when you can, ”he told AFP.

“Skating is so good because we are all together. We are outside, we are moving. In these difficult times, it’s a rare thing, ”adds Marleen Bouman, a 49-year-old Dutchwoman.

In and around The Hague, skaters took to the ice with their children in sleds and strollers or accompanied by their dogs, people even venturing there by bike and moped, AFP observed .

Skating enthusiasts had already gathered in droves on Saturday on various frozen lakes and streams across the Netherlands, where the increasingly rare activity is very popular, prompting some municipalities to close roads in order to avoid the crowds.

This perilous hobby has led to numerous falls and injuries, overwhelming emergency services already under pressure by the coronavirus, despite calls for vigilance from Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The rise in temperatures after a week of freezing cold, coupled with restrictions linked to the health crisis, dampened hopes of being able to organize, for the first time since 1997, a legendary speed skating race.

According to the public television channel NOS, the last winner of the Elfstedentocht (Tour of the eleven cities), aged 53, however tried his luck but could not reach the end of the route, in particular at because of “bad ice” and a time limited by the current curfew.