Valedictory voyage

You saw it first here: the launch of the Sailing Elfstedentocht.

You will remember that the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Race) has previously been done on ice skates, scooters, bikes and also by swimming and walking. I can now reveal that there is a Sailing Elfstedentocht too. And what’s more, Lady Christina is going to win – probably because she’s the only competitor.

The Eleven Friesian Cities commissioned a fountain each – as part of the Leeuwarden Capital  of Culture Year – and to encourage natives and tourists to visit the cities, marvel at the art installations and probably have coffee and cake, or a beer, with friends. This cosy, getting-together even has  its own word: gezellig.

For each fountain, the artist consulted with local people and designed something which reflected the community – its culture, history, geography etc. and there was a grand opening ( or switching on) in May.

The first one we saw was at Franeker.

Designed by Jean-Michel Orthoniel, it’s a bubble cloud, representing  Jan Hendrik Ort’s revolutionary (then) idea of the cosmos containing clouds of comets. There’s a nod to Franeker itself here, as the town is famous it’s Eise Eisinga  Planeterium, hand built and the oldest in the world.

We were a little disappointed by the fountain. I think fountains should be ‘splashy’. Nevertheless, it was beautiful, for what it was, although sadly, not illuminated at night as it should have been.

Later on, the Harbour Master gave us directions to the showers ( in an ordinary-looking house, a few streets away) and two free rail tickets for one day’s  travel anywhere in Freisland. Again, it’s a European City of Culture spin-off, to encourage you to travel around the region. Could be handy for the next fountain.

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