Being in a temperate, humid and often windy part of Europe, winters are rarely pleasant, with short days and long, cold nights. But, being the festive season, much social and family life goes on indoors. However, when there is snow and this is followed by clear sunny skies, the cities acquire a quiet beauty; children enjoy riding their sleighs, making snowmen and having snowball fights. If the freezing continues, young and old put on their skates to skate on the many canals that link every part of the city.
And if it really keeps freezing, the main event on the Frisian calendar may take place: the "Elfstedentocht" (Eleven cities Tour), a skating marathon of 200 kilometres around all of the eleven Frisian cities, along canals, rivers and across lakes, starting and finishing in the provincial capital of Leeuwarden (or Ljouwert, in Frisian). This is a major event, televised nationally; the participants are received in each town with brass bands on the ice, hot drinks and loud cheers from an enthusiastic audience. Unfortunately global warming is making the event quite rare nowadays.