Friesland is a province in the north of the Netherlands.
Up until the end of 1996, the province bore Friesland as its official name. In 1997 this Dutch name lost its official status to the Frisian Fryslân. Nevertheless "Friesland" is still commonly used by Dutch speaking people, being the Dutch translation of the official name.
Friesland has 643,000 inhabitants (2005) and its capital is Leeuwarden (Ljouwert), with 91,817 inhabitants, in the center of the province.
Friesland distinguishes itself from the other eleven provinces through having its own language, West Frisian, which is also spoken in a minor part of the province of Groningen, to the east. Closely related languages, East Frisian ("Seeltersk", which is different from "East Frisian (Ostfriesisch)", a collection of Low German dialects of East Frisia) and North Frisian, are spoken in the Saterland and in North Friesland areas in Germany, respectively.
Friesland is mainly an agricultural province. The famous black and white Friesian cattle and the well known black Friesian horse originated here. Tourism is another important source of income, the greatest touristic destinations are the lakes in the south west of the province, and the islands in the Wadden Sea in the north. Technology companies such as Asset Control have also set up base in Friesland.
The province is famous for its speed skaters, with mass participation in cross-country ice skating when weather conditions permit. When winters are cold enough to allow the freshwater canals to freeze hard, the province holds its traditional Elfstedentocht (Eleven cities tour), a 200 kilometers ice skating tour. In the warmer months, many Frisians practice wadlopen, the traditional art of wading across designated sections of the Wadden Sea at low tide. Another Frisian practice is fierljeppen, a sport with some similarities to pole vaulting. A jump consists of an intense sprint to the pole (polsstok), jumping and grabbing it, then climbing to the top while trying to control the pole's forward and lateral movements over a body of water and finishing with a graceful landing on a sand bed opposite to the starting point. Because of all the diverse skills required in fierljeppen, fierljeppers are considered to be very complete athletes with superbly developed strength and coordination. Another interesting feature is the presence of many windmills. There are 195 windmills in the province of Friesland, from a total of about 1200 in the entire country.