Georges Rouzeau - 2011-04-04
Who has heard of the island of Ameland? Situated in the North east of the Netherlands, you’ll be won over by this stretch of sand caught between the North and the Wadden Sea with its well preserved nature and typical little villages.
The island of Ameland is one of five of the Wadden islands located a few miles off the coast of Friesland, the northernmost province of the Netherlands. It is part of an archipelago that extends along the German and Danish coastlines. At low tide, the boat connecting the mainland to the island weaves through the mudflats and shallows in search of the right channel. Indeed Wadden is also a Dutch word which for these huge areas of mud and sand at low tide. It’s a little journey but at times it can take on the dimensions of an Odyssey as the wind and currents unleash themselves in this part of the North Sea. In these circumstances the crossings are quite simply cancelled.
Yet if you come to Ameland, as do Dutch and German tourists each year, it’s to enjoy its peace, nature and invigorating air. A small airfield allows those who are fortunate enough to easily spend a weekend there. The spring and autumn are the best seasons for a stay here. On Ameland, as on the other Wadden Sea islands cycling is one of the main activities (with 100 km of cycle paths) and on the island of Vlieland cars are even prohibited. Some 3500 inhabitants who live there year long are divided into four villages (and two religions.) They are Hollum, Ballum, Buren and Nes which is the island’s main settlement. These old villages are all listed and contain a wealth of old stones, particularly the beautiful houses of the whaling boat captains (the commanders) which was the island’s mainstay until the late 19th century. In certain places whale bones are used as gates and fencing. Another of the island’s pursuits was the plundering of shipwrecks that supplemented the islanders’ meagre incomes from agriculture.
The interior is filled with coniferous forests planted in the early 20th century to counteract the wind which is displacing the islands and could be strong enough to make them disappear in a few centuries! Besides the wind, Ameland is known for its beautiful dunes (the highest in the Wadden Archipelago) and its long white sandy beaches.
The Wadden Islands are also havens: for birds, who adore the mud flats and the salt marshes and for the tourists and ornithologists who admire them. Some birds come here to hatch, such as seagulls, gulls, spoonbills and pintails; in the autumn, migrating birds from northern Europe and Siberia come here en route to warmer climes to feast in the shellfish rich shallow waters of the Wadden Sea. Others choose the island as a place of hibernation, such as the dunlin and the oystercatcher, a beautiful black and white bird with yellow legs and a long red bill.
In the Spring the prairies are covered with a great variety of flowers and plants. Philippe Straub, the French chef at the Nobel restaurant loves to go picking wild fruits such as blackberries, elderberries, sea buckthorn berries and even cranberries “which you pick lying on the ground – in contact with nature” As a good « foreigner » there is noone like him for celebrating the merits of the local produce that the Ameland islanders carefully hide. For the kitchen of Nobel he particularly favours Texel island lamb (an indigenous species) or the Ameland pheasant and deer.
The god Neptune has blessed Ameland with its unique position between both the North and the Wadden seas for here you find an abundance of sea fare: the Terschelling grey, smoked sea-salt; plants such as samphire, saladelle or sea kale grown in Texel, shrimps, crabs, cockles, mussels, oysters, wild Japanese oysters and clams; and fresh fish, like halibut, sole, turbot, cod and smoked fish such as herring or eels.
Follow in the steps of this talented chef who takes a walk around the entire island every week. This is clearly the best way to enjoy its wild, marine environment.
Dutch Tourist Office:
Bureweg 2, Nes, 9163 KE
Tel: 00 31 (0)519 - 546 546
Open from 9am to 5pm, 10am to 3pm on Saturdays.
Where to sleep/dine and drink
Gerrit Kosterweg 16
9162 EN Ballum, Ameland
From Amsterdam to Leeuwarden by the A7
Then Leeuwarden – Holwerd by the N 357.
Holwerd-Ameland by ferry.
London - Amsterdam British Airways / KLM
Car hire from Schiphol airport Amsterdam.
London-Brussels by Eurostar then to Amsterdam by Intercity. Then another Intercity train to CS-Leeuwarden.In Leeuwarden take the 66 bus from the bus station to Holwerd. Get off at the Veerhaven Holwerd stop.