November 18 2018. Having BIG trouble with my very ancient PC. If I don’t post it will mean it has finally given up the ghost. It might mean the dreaded Windows 10. I’ll keep going till the LAST POST! Then there will be a gap before normal service is resumed. Fingers crossed.

Friesland. Still up and running (just)

Oh dear, I really should leave Holland but I can’t until I have dealt with Friesland my favourite Province. Friesland is very different to the rest of Holland, they have their own language spoken by 50% of the people and their own culture. It is, or was, a farming and fishing economy. Because a huge amount of the land is below sea level, the farms are built on little man made mounds often surrounded by trees. Farm houses consist of one end for people and the other end for cattle they are very distinctive and I think beautiful in style. The cattle are the famous black and white Frisians. There is also a culture of people who live by waterways using them as their main means of transport.

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On one of our visits we hired a boat to voyage around their lakeland area. The lakes lie on either side of Hollands biggest main canals. To go from one lake to another you often had to mix it with the big boys, the massive sea going ships including sharing locks with them. The locks and swing bridges are an interesting hazard in themselves as they only open at certain times of day. Vessels gather as close as they can but of course you can’t just stop a boat, you either have to tie up to a stanchion, and there are never enough, or keep moving backwards and forwards jockeying for position until the bridge or lock opens. Then the great off before the bridge lowers again or the gates of the lock close. The lock keepers have an interesting way of collecting your fee, they have a pouch on the end of a fishing pole.

I loved the areas where they cultivated and harvested the reeds. I have no idea why but I have always loved sun bleached sear grass and reeds.

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nov16reedbike It must be some deep ancestral memory in my soul. I know I would love the grasslands of Africa (alas beyond my reach now)

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A favourite area was around Giethorn, not the village itself , which is hideously overrun by tourists, but the lesser known little villages in the area.

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Typical Dutch house, the windows, the patterned shutters for just the lower half of the window, the small bricks laid in distinctive patterns.

Sports. A lot of sailing of course especially in Sneek (pronounced Snake). Then two very distinctively Frisian activities. Speed skating and Fierljeppen, pole jumping over water. All Frisians hope that the winter will be so cold that all the canals will freeze over to the safe depth for skating. Then the stage the great long distance skatetrail. The trail covers a continuous track between eleven cities and only a few people manage it. It goes on through the night and is a true test of endurance. If you complete the course you get a special medal, these medals are highly prized, Richard’s father had one. It happens less often now because of global warming. A shame I would love to see Holland when it is covered in snow and ice. Breughel comes to mind.

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The other, even rarer sport is Fierljeppen. Crossing a canal using a pole. Of course the origins are practical; farmers needed to get from one field to another across the dikes and waterways that drain them. There were bridges but that often meant a detour, not so good when you are trying to get home at the end of the day, hence crossing by pole. You see children practising and young village men testing each other at who can cross the wider ditches.

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Hence the sport. In the big competitions the pole is stuck in the water, the athlete sprints, leaps off the bank into the air to catch the pole and climb up it in mid air whilst trying to control the poles forward and lateral movements. He must then make a graceful landing on the other bank. It requires very complete athletes to do this.

FK Fierljeppen

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We were invited by our friends to a nearby village to see their contests. You had to pay for a ticket on the tiers of seats set up on the bank. It went on until it was dark and floodlit. It was very entertaining because you had children over a smaller area of water and no hopers in fancy dress knowing they were going to drop in and superb athletes. The other thing that spices things up are inter village rivalry. There is always plenty of food and drink too. I think I have mentioned in an early part of my blog how much I enjoy coming across unusual events that are part of the culture of an area.

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