The dreamy side of freeze
Amid all the chaos, including loss of life that the extreme freeze in Europe has brought, there is nevertheless a very bright and slick, shiny side to the unseasonably cold weather. Decent jää – ice. Ukraine, which has seen the largest number of casualties, over 100 since the beginning of February, is also home to masses of ice-fishing enthusiasts, who are out in droves on frozen rivers. Postimees recently published a fairy-tale photo of skaters on the canal leading up to München's Nyphenburg Palace. Similarly dreamy, yet infrequently occuring scenarios were playing out on natural ice throughout areas of more moderate climates.
Temperatures are still below zero in the Netherlands (Madalmaade kuningriik / Holland), where hopes are high for the "Elfstedentocht" or revered "Eleven Cities" speedskating (kiir/uisutamise) race to be held along canals connecting 11 towns and cities in northern Friesland province later this month. The last editions were in 1985, 1986 and 1997. The grueling race is one of the most deeply cherished Dutch traditions and will draw some 16 000 participants if it goes ahead. Though people have skated along frozen Friesian canals for centuries in cold winters, the race – first officially organized in 1909 – has only been staged 15 times.
Similar hopes are brewing in our own little Viljandi, where the ice of Viljandi järv is up to 30 cm thick. A 4,3 km track is being prepped for the Mulgi uisumaraton, scheduled for 12. veebruar. Mulgid or the people of Mulgimaa, (officially known as Viljandimaa) are a hardy lot. At the height of the deep-freeze on Feb. 4, 1000 dancers braved temperatures of -22 at the 14th annual Viljandi talvine tantsupidu or winter dance festival. Woolly rahvarõivad paired with balaclavas and hiking boots was quite the inspirational sight. As was main street in the village of Kolkja on the shores of Peipsi järv, site of the 3rd annual Kolkja Kelk (sled) kick-sled races. 50 enthusiasts were out that same brutally cold weekend.
Estonian adventure companies provide great winter hikes including räätsa- (snowshoe), uisu- (skating) and suusa- (skiing) matkad. You can see videos of skating on the sea at the webside of "360 kraadi seiklused", 360 Degrees Adventures (www.360.ee) under the article "Jääoludest Suures väinas", posted Feb. 1st.
Estonia's first ice-road, the 3,2 km stretch from Haapsalu to Noarootsi poolsaar (peninsula) was opened on 5. veebruar and the second, from Rohuküla to Vormsi island on 9. veebruar. To see how ice-locked Eesti really gets, go to www.emhi.ee (where you can click English) > ilma/vaatlused (weather observations) > jääkaart (ice chart).