The Amelander people have something with gardening. This is visible in almost all gardens in front or the back of the houses. The grass is properly cut and there are flower perches making things colourful and neat. Often in the garden there are little decorative items. Favourite is the little munshkins, made from wooden bars. A reference maybe to the three naughty boys that stoole the bars back from Terschelling?
The weapon of Ameland is a shield as in the picture. This is of the "heerlijkheid Ameland" (manor AMeland), the times that the island enjoyed complete independance (until the 16th century). On the flag as well as on the weapon of Ameland are on the yellow part diagonal three bars visible. In the other blue part a washing moon is shining. The real reason of the weapon is unknown, but there is a story that sheds a light on the symbols. Long time ago the people from neighbouring "Terschelling" stoole three bars (beams, wooden staffs) from the beaches of Ameland. Three brave Amelanders went in the night (the moon) to Terschelling to steal the bars back. A little rhyme us made about this legend:
"De Amelander schalken,
stalen drie balken,
des 's avonds in de maneschijn,
daarom zal dit hun wapen zijn."
"The three naughty boys from Ameland
Stoole three wooden bars
in the evening's moonshine
therefore this will be their weapon."
Funny thing is that a similar story is common on Terschelling.
Amelanders are still proud of being different from the province, different from the country. Their flag is a symbol of this independance and it is waving everywhere. Twice the repeating of two banners, one blue, one yellow. In the blue a growing moon and in the yellow three diagonal stripes. In the next tip (the weapon of Ameland) the meaning of this signs will be explained properly.
Ameland is already from the beginning agricultural destinated. When green fields started to grow behind the dunes, this grass attracted cattlers from the main land. First small animals like sheeps, then also cows. At one moment Ameland even had so many milking cows that the production was big enough to have a pipeline for milk to the mainland! With rising tourism and stronger quality norms for milk some farmers chanched their profession and created appartments in their stables. The pipeline disappeared and only a few dozen farmers remain on Ameland.
In long forgotten times the island were uninhabited as it was just to dangerous to live here (floadings, storms). The fields on the "Wadden" side however was used by cattle and daily farmers walked across the sea bottom with their cattle to take advantage of the grass growing on the islands. The cattle was often not that heavy (sheeps and goats) as the journey over the "Wad" (the sea bottom) was dangerous with mud, quick sands etc. Only later cows were transported to the island in a decade in which there was actually a dam built between the island and the mainland. This dam however didn't stand a chance against the sea and the tides and disappeared after a decade.
Families with young children are finding a true paradise on Ameland. Sea, sand and preferably sun are THE combination to success for kids. And ... if the kids are happy, the parents are (how true this is). One notices it also in the many children facilities that are near appartments and pensions (smaller hotels). In Nes there is even a recreational area created for children, holding a water adventurepark, nature-learning path and fields to play many sports on.
Ameland, as well as the other "Wadden" islands have very wide and long beaches. These are always situated on the North sea side and sheltered in the South by the beautiful dunes. Arriving by bike it means going up hill and the park, before getting your shoes of and enjoy the warm sand in between your toes. In the off season the beaches are quite and perfect for long walks along the water line. In summer the form the paradise of many tourists, but still, here there is always enough space for all visitors. The beaches are marked by red-topped "beach poles. They are every 200 meters baring the kilometer number that runs from number 0 - 0 to 22 - 400 (after that they go on, but in a restricted natural area).
The "Wadden" sea is full of life. Fish, but especially smaller sea animals like shell fish and ... shrimps! This delicate seafood is available in masses and even a famous export product from the region. If you get the chance order a plate with lunch or dinner and taset the deliscious little animals from the "Wadden" sea.
Whaling is one thing, but why always go for the biggest catch. In the "Wadden" sea as well as the North sea there are amazing amounts of fish and of course throughout the centuries this has been a source of living (and earning a daily bread). Fish however was always seen as "poor peoples food" and was mainly exported from The Netherlands to neighboring countries. Only now-a-days fish starts to be more and more popular. The fish that is caught in the North sea are often flat fish (Schol, Tong, Bot, Tarbot etc.) as well as the more well known "haring". Further onto the Atlantic thuna and cot are available.
Outside several commandeurs houses there are strange "wooden" stakes pointing out of the ground. Touch them! and discover that for sure this is not wood. Find out what they are and be amazed. These are whale bones and often ribs. Trophees that were taken home and put at the entrance of a whaling captain's house.
One of the most famous person's from Ameland was Hidde Kat. He was a commandeur on the "Juffrouw Klara" (misses Clara) a whaling ship. He became famous for his journal that described the disasterous journey of him and his crew after getting stuck in the Northern ice. The ice destroyed the ship and they had to start travelling over the ice to reach land. Time was short as when the ice would start melting they would all drown. Besides that, the cold also took it's tole. Only few men, among which Hide Kat, reached Greenland and were here taken in by the "Inuit". Hidde's accurate descriptions about their live also became a work of great cultural importance. After a year he returned home to Ameland, never to take part in a whaling expedition again (though he stayed at sea, this time on the trading ships).
In the 17th and 18th century the sailors of Ameland became quite famous in The Netherlands as holding a strong whaling tradition. Therefore also the many "commandeurs" houses that can be found in Hollum and Nes. The sea was of course by nature the ource for Ameland's wealth, but whaling and it's product "whale-oil" were bringing an exceptional prosporous period for the island. The profession in these days was a dangerous one, but when returning home with many barrels of "whale blubber", it was like coming back with gold. When the whaling became less and less profitable, it slowly disappeared.
Islands have the tendency of being isolated and with Ameland it's nothing different. Long time Ameland was completely independant from any other part of The Netherlands and therefore a very unique dialect of Frysian was created here. This however was strangely enough changed when the island officially was put under the province of Friesland. The Amelanders, trading mostly with Amsterdam and other "Holland" towns, were strongly influenced by the Dutch spoken here and slowly the Frysian language was diminishing on the island. Now-a-days this language is barely ever heard on Ameland and everyone is actually speaking a Dutch Northern dialect.
When biking or walking through the villages of Ameland, the years will literally pass you by or rather, you will be passing them. It will no doubt catch your eyes, the yearnumbers on the houses facades. In the walls of many houses, before all the "commandeurs" houses, are having wall anchors in the year that the building was finished. "Commandeurs" were the captains of the whaling ships and Ameland housed many of these rough seamen. The oldest number is 1561, but many say that this actually should be 1651. Whaling was not something one did in the 16th century yet.