From the "Veerdam" (Ferry dam) in Nes there are a few possibilities in setting sail on the "Wadden" sea. Hot item is to go to a shell sand bank, but above all the trip to the seals is popular. These animals are like a symbol from the "Wadden" sea and of course anyhow adorable. The boats often leave at certain times, so make sure you book out front in the high season.
Ameland, the pearl of the "Wadden" sea is reached by boat over this shallow sea. One boattour will take place through "geulen" and "prielen", the natural canals that are at hightide invisible at the bottom of the sea. The island is formed by a sandbank that got surfaced and became a dune. In ancient times this dune reached all along the coasts of The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, but was broken through on several places by the rising sealevel, creating the "Wadden" sea behind them. This sea is one of the richest natural environments on earth, holding an amazing amount of variation in plants and especially animals. Intensively you can experience this, by going "wadlopen" (Wad-walking), a tour on the bottom of the sea. The "Wadden" sea is before all an important breedingground for both fish and birds, as well as a food source for these and more living creatures.
The first steps on Ameland will take place at the "veerdam" (ferry-dam) of Nes, the entrance gate village of the island. On the dam one can immediately choose what will be the main transportation. A large bikerental provides you with everything on two wheels (see transportationtips) and there are taxis, as well as several bus services waiting to take you to the village of your choice. Nes is even possible to do on foot. About cars, well, I don't tell you about that, as it should have been staying on the mainland anyway.
Nes, is the place where you will arrive by boat, but is not the oldest, nor the largest of the four villages on Ameland. Hollum is actually the largest and some are saying that Ballum is the oldest (or maybe Sier, but this village disappeared into the sea. Nes is a wonderful place with history and culture that go back several centuries. In Nes there are also many facilities for staying (as well as in Hollum and nearby Buren). It's most remarkable building is the tower, that was used as place where the alarm clock was hanging as well as a sign for ships at sea, to know where the were. It has now-a-days a bright blue clock, telling everyone on the island that it's time for ... (well, just fill in what you'ld like to do)
In the recreational area "Vleyen" there is a small pool that is fenced of by wooden poles. This is the "holy water" and it used to be a pool that worshipped the Frysian God Forsite, God of justice. Even the cattle that drank from this pool became holy and were untouchable. In the early medieval times (698) the missionary monch Willibrord landed during a storm on Ameland after trying to christianise the Danes (which failed). He got two friends and baptised them ... in this pool. That immedtiately made the Amelanders furious and the brought them to the Frysian king Rabod. One of the friends was killed for this and Willibrord plus the remaining friend were send away (to Utrecht, which was the bisdom town then. Later Willibrord would return to try to Christianise the Frysians and find his death at Dokkum. The pool you see here is now called the "Willibrordus-tobbe" (tobbe is something like "bath-tub".
On Ameland there used to be many windmills, but only two are left (one in Nes, one in Hollum). One needed an "octrooi" (permit) to built a windmill on the island and only The Lord of Ameland could give you this. In 1629 this mill was built, the costs for the permit were 60 guilders (quite the amount in those days). In 1833 the windmill was blown apart in a fierce storm. In the same year it was rebuilt, baring the name "De Hoop" (The Hope). However, in 1880 lighting struck and the mill burned down to the ground. Pieter Boelens, the miller, didn't give up and another windmill arose, now baring the name "Phenix" (arisen from the ashes). Restorations in 1952, 1980 and 1991 resulted in the windmill we see today and also the inside can be admired.
In Nes there's also one of four museums of Ameland. This is the nature museum, giving a perfect view about the natural and geological beauty of the island. Ilja and me went there and it seemed also to be a place that Ilja liked very much (he is now - two weeks later) still talking about the whale and the talking seagull. The museum really gives a good impresion about the special nature that Ameland has and also in a very clear way and has many ways in explaining things.
There is a complete sceleton of a pot fish (whale), one that was washed upon the shores of Ameland. One can also step into the inside of a whale, though Ilja was a little bit afraid in doing so. A film that is hosted by a seagul that tells about the island is very funny and nice. Outside one can step back in time in the ice age tunnel.
Already long before going Ilja was talking about seeing the seals. On TV he is crazy about a commercial about the seals centre at Pieterburen. However, during the "robbentocht" Ilja fell asleep and missed the real seals. In the museum he made that up. Well, okay, they were stuffed. To make it up, we bought him a T-shirt with little seals (his favourit at the moment).
Especially the Catholic citizens of Nes are very proud about the fact that their little village brought a cardinal into the vatican. Born at the 10th of September 1885, mgr. De Jong of the holy Saint Clemens church left to Utrecht to become later bishop in this place. Pope Pius the XII "created" him to cardinal at his side in the Vatican within Rome in Februari 1940. He died in Amerfoort in the nunnery in 1955 and lies burried in Utrecht.
Nes itself is a very pictoresque village and I have tried to make many pictures to proove this on this page. In the enclosed travellogue you can see some more examples of the specific islander architecture, that brought the village centre a few centuries ago into it's present shape. Especially the "commandeurs" houses are attractive, but there's much more to see in Nes.
Ameland used to be divided into two neighbourhoods. Nes and Buren in the East. Hollum and Ballum in the West. In some times people of both sides had such little contact with one another that dialects eventually are slightly different between the two island parts. Nes was always the harbour of the Eastern part and now even of the whole island. The village itself is very typical with it's many "commandeurs" houses, fishermen's sheds (as small as the buildings are) and various farms ("commandeurs" were the captains on whaling ships). Streets consist of "kinderkopjes" (small square stones) and are chaotically criss-crossing the village centre.
Hollum is one of the four villages in Ameland and lays the furthest to the West at almost the end of the island. Here the dunes from the Northern flanks meet the dike that protect the Southern polder shores. The village is very pictoresque and has been protected by state as a complete monument. The commandeur houses, the farms, the windmill and it's three churches make up a cosy small village where history is still felt when walking through it's winding and narrow streets.
The old school in Nes is a significant building that is in the centre of the village. Now-a-days it is a rather different place, towards the times when teachers were giving strict lessons to children that listened carefully. Here are always some changing exhibitions, but a local photographer and artist are always present in the presented art items. They even have a website for those who want a glimps of their work.
Of course fishing was one of the cornerstones of the Amelander society. Fish was a main foodgroup and daily to be found on the menu. Traditionaly fishermen brought the fish ashore at the "South West" and from there it was brought in baskets to this place in Hollum. One of the fishermen went to the village-announcer, that rang the bell shouting "Fish at the "O'slach" ... this was the Amelander dialect word for "Afslag" (trading place). Many speeded to the fishmarket to get their share. Fishermen came from a wide area to sell their fish on Ameland as it is even known that Danish fishermen found here a good place to sell their catch. It's however now around 60 years ago that the last time this procedure was done.
In Friesland they are numerous, the traditional top facade at buildings, that represent two graceful swans, flanking a pointy shaped pole on a triangle top part of the front and backroof. Especially farms and their surroundings barns have them. Ameland was long time a independant island and still has not much in common with Friesland. In Hollum however few farms have taken this graceful habbit from the Frysians, which resulted in a few beautiful farmhouse facades.