Province of Friesland, The Netherlands
Friesland (or in Frisian: Fryslân - because people here speak another language, than the rest of the Netherlands), is a part of the Dutch mainland and includes additionally the West Frisian Islands – in Dutch Waddeneilanden: Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. Leeuwarden is the capital of the province and other important cities are Dokkum, Franeker, Heerenveen, Sneek.
Leeuwarden is today a quiet old city, remembered beyond Friesland because of Mata Hari, a woman spy executed in France during the WWI who lived here as a small girl with her parents. Their house stands until today. Dokkum and Sneek are small cities with several memorable buildings and interesting historical museums. Franeker was in the Dutch Golden Age and later a home to an important university, a fortress of Protestantism during the reformation, closed in 1811 by Napoleon. Today Franeker is today an interesting small city with several historical sites and museums.
Every few years in winter, when the canals freeze, Elfstedentocht – a skating race through all eleven cities of Friesland, takes place. A Maltese bronze cross is given to each participant, who managed to finish this 200km long race. Usually 16 000 participants take part, but for the race to take place, the ice on the canals has to be thicker than 15cm, so it does not happen every winter.
Friesland with is a province of people proud of their traditions, their separate way of speaking, difficult to understand even for the Dutch, their style of life which combines centuries long tradition with the influences of global economy. Nowhere in the Netherlands McDonalds restaurant looks more weird than in Friesland.