When the ice is at least 20cm (7.8in) thick on the entire circuit, almost 200km (125mi), the Elfstedentocht – Eleven Cities Tour – is announced and takes place within 48 hours. Excitement and expectations spread throughout the entire country, the Netherlands, and the day of the race a festive crowd lines the circuit drawn along canals, lakes and rivers connecting eleven historical Frisian cities. The cold is always intense, and when the typical hearty split peas soup with sausages chunks is not comforting enough, generous gulps of schnapps come to the rescue. The night before the event is a big party everywhere, regardless of the 06:00 start in a still pitch dark hour. Skaters have until midnight to complete the race, the last arrivals are cheered as much as the winner. Photos were taken on January 4, 1997, the last Elfstedentocht held so far. #climatechange

Canon T90. Ektachrome 100. Plenty of AA batteries for the Canon to stand the cold. I was on my very own – no guide, no driver, no GPS, no Translator, no StreetView, no Maps – but surrounded by people everywhere I went, and road blocks, and closed roads. Good for me I followed a wise suggestion: stay in the inner part of the circuit and wear warm clothes.

All photos ©Michele Molinari

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