AMSTERDAM (AP) -- Dozens of skaters took to the frozen surface of Amsterdam's historic Prinsengracht canal Saturday as the deep freeze gripping Europe briefly made it possible to skate on a small section of the canal for the first time since 2018.
People skated and walked on a small stretch of ice between two bridges close to the landmark Westerkerk before growing cracks in the ice forced all but the most daring off the ice. One man even slithered across the ice on a skateboard deck without the wheels.
“Fantastic, and especially nowadays it's a once-every-so-many-years experience, so when you get the chance, do it,” said Marc Burkett as he laced up his skates before taking to the canal.
It was the first time since 2018 that skating was possible on the canal.
Elsewhere in the country the ice was safer. People flocked to frozen lakes and canals to enjoy the conditions before a thaw forecast to begin in coming days. Parents pulled children in sleds, youngsters played hockey, even dogs took to the ice.
The country's skating association and local authorities called on people to go to ice close to their homes to avoid overcrowding at popular lakes that would prevent social distancing amid the country's tough coronavirus lockdown.
But many people still sought to drive to their favorite skating location. Car parks at the picturesque Kinderdijk windmills were full by 7:30 a.m., local broadcaster Rijnmond reported.
“Kinderdijk is full,” the local municipality tweeted.
Arguably the greatest skating event of them all, the roughly 200-kilometer (125 mile) 11 Cities Tour in the northern province of Friesland is a non-starter this year even if the ice is strong enough to hold some 25,000 competitors. Organizers have ruled it out amid the current lockdown.
Christopher Talvitie, who lives in Amsterdam, showed off some sharp skating skills on his hockey skates, weaving fast in between less experienced skaters.
“I'm from Finland myself so we first learn to walk and then the next thing we learn to skate. Like, it's in the blood,” he said.
He was among the first on the ice and the last off it.
“It's a perfect day, it's a dream come true,” he said.