Island life

09 Mar 2010

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne, Meditation 17.

No man is an island, but life on an island however can have it charms. Mostly when the weather is nice. Not many people here in Winnipeg will have had the pleasure of living on an island or perhaps even visiting one for some time. In the north of Holland, there is a row of islands, most of them big enough to have permanent residents on them. Living on a few square miles looks like a dream to many.

Flying to the island called AmelandFlying to the island called Ameland

An island is defined as a piece of land, maybe inhabited and surrounded completely by water. I would like to add that the climate of the entire island should also be governed by the sea, so Australia for example should not qualify. Ameland is only a small piece of land and so we head out for this beautiful little island…

Ameland is one of the five islands in the north of The Netherlands. You can find it here. To get there, you will need a ferry or take your own boat. Some even try to walk, by low tide and good conditions this is possible, but you should be prepared to arrive tired and dirty. Don’t do it at all without an expert guide.

The ferry is the easiest way to get there.

On the ferry “Oerd” On the ferry “Oerd”

The company Wagenborg has the pleasure of serving you. The interior is mostly restaurant and sitting places in case the weather is less beautiful than you can see on my pictures here.

Interior of the “Oerd” ferry Interior of the “Oerd” ferry

Funny enough, I found the company jackets for sale in Kiev, Ukraine for a few bucks. Probably not a good idea to wear those on board though. After a short trip of 45 minutes you will arrive on the island. You are greeted by seagulls and sheep, mostly. Unless of course you have relatives on the island.

No seagulls this time, only sheep No seagulls this time, only sheep

You are immediately overwhelmed with the fresh air and the impression of space. It’s a wonderful feeling. Now that you’re off the boat, you do have to get into the small “city” or village of Nes. There you have all the refreshments you need and, of course, all the souvenirs you need. There are not many cars on the island, all cars must have a special pass to cross the water. The result is a friendly, quiet place. It is also an old place. Seemingly unreal to people from the “New World”, some buildings here are standing since the 16th and 17th century.

The bell tower of a long gone church dating from 1664 The bell tower of a long gone church dating from 1664

The bell tower in the center of the village is now standing alone. The corresponding church was destroyed in the 18th century after being damaged in very heavy storm. Today the tower is used as an art gallery and has no religious function anymore. It has never served as a lighthouse but in some period of time it did have the function of warning people against heavy weather. Going through the village from one end to the other takes only 15-20 minutes, on a leisurely stroll. Longer if you count the souvenir shop stops.

On the north side of Nes you can then head out for the beach. The walk is about an hour in good weather. The beach is a strip of fine sand bordering the sea. Ok, we all know what a beach is. But the beach here is at least 150m wide and is a good place to be in summer. You can also find a restaurant with seafood overlooking the beach and the waves.

Restaurant overlooking the beach Restaurant overlooking the beach

 

Beach on Ameland Beach on Ameland

On the land side of the beach are natural sand dunes. The grass you see here is planted and is resistant to a heavy dose of salt in its nutrients. It also holds the sand and prevents it from being blown away by the frequent strong winds.

Dune grass with self portrait shadow Dune grass with self portrait shadow

The grass is very long and strong. However it is forbidden to walk outside the specified paths in order not to damage the environment. Walking back taking a slightly different route gives you the opportunity to get some exotic food.

Pancakes and pasta, real exotic food Pancakes and pasta, real exotic food

Come to think of it, only the pasta is exotic. Pancakes in Holland are thick and feed you well. Most of the time one is enough to last you for the day. In the background you can see the summer dwellings for tourists. In winter they are empty and only a caretaker will come through there once in a while.

For those who are not interested in walking this much, you can also rent bicycles in the village. Like that, you will have a lot more freedom to go wherever you want. We only came here for an afternoon, so the bicycles didn’t seem very necessary to us.

Bicycles for hire in the ex coastguard and lifeguard house. Bicycles for rent and souvenirs in the ex coastguard and lifeguard house.

Just before getting back to the boat, the afternoon had been long, we decided to get something to eat and drink near the ferry. None of the fast-food stuff on the ferry appealed to us.

Restaurant near the pier Restaurant near the pier

The restaurant holder provides a nice little service when you arrive: they ask if you are leaving with the next boat. Not so much to know when they will be able to put new customers at your table, but more to warn you when the next boat will leave and give you enough time to finish your meal and still catch the ferry. Certainly if it’s the last ferry of the day.

And so ends the day in another place worth visiting.