10. Franeker

The hell of the North

10. Franeker

The hell of the North

Listen Henk Gemser: “Then the rumour circulated that they wanted to take us off the ice. We had left Franeker at three thirty and sure enough at four o’clock everything was shut down. No one was allowed to pass anymore. They didn’t know how many had passed already, because nothing was being checked. They were very nuch afraid that people would get frozen. We heard about it in small villages where they were listening to the radio and shouted the news to us. Somewhere in that grim North we suddenly saw a crowd of people standing by a bridge. Henkie Buma thought it was a secret control post; there were some of them. But I thought they wanted to take us off the ice there. So we put our skate protectors on our skates and walked in the dark around that group. Or rather sneaked tiger-like across the road, because I definitely didn’t want them to see us. And we succeeded.” Kees Bovée: “When we passed a little village, we sometimes asked one of the very few spectators: “How far has Paping got?” But the answer was always the same: “He hasn’t reached Leeuwarden yet.” Because under reasonable conditions he should have arrived there long ago. Which meant that we would still have a lot of misery to go through.” George Schweigmann: “Then it got dark. Suddenly it got very dark. I skate around a corner, and the track ends just like that. I could see nothing anymore except white plains. Behind me I can still see the track I just skated on. But I have no idea how to go further. Nowhere a track to be seen. In front of us there’s a gate. Where do I go now? Suddenly I hear scraping behind me, I think: “Ah, luckily there’s someone else coming”. I say: “The track ends here!””No”,he says, ”that’s impossible”. “So, where are we supposed to go then?” “Well, I don’t know either”. We start crawling on our knees over the ice. We creep further. Here’s a bank and here’s a bank. And for the rest snow everywhere. Suddenly I feel reeds. I think: “If there are reeds here, the canal must go on here surely”. I grab hold of the border of the reeds and that’s how we creep on. All of a sudden, in the distance, I see a vague stripe running through the snow. It turns out to be the snow-covered track. “The canal must be here, I can see it!”, I scream. “Over there the track goes on again.” That’s how we finally landed up in Bartlehiem. Completely exhausted. Photos: Paping has his card stamped in Franeker Mrs Oosterburg in Bartlehiem: “it smelled terribly good”, it says on the back of the photo Competition skater Albert Weijs near Franeker