From our holiday address, an apartment at Hotel Noordsee in Nes, Ameland, we look out on what must have been a subtropical swimming paradise. An impressively long tubular construction winds around one of the two domed buildings. You can imagine how a minute-long sliding ends in a spectacular dive into the warm water of the indoor pool.
I am not the only one who is intrigued by this eye-catching textbook example of past glory. One evening I see a young man moving like a crab across one of the round roofs. He disappears as quickly as he came and for a moment it seems as if I have imagined it. At night I notice other activities on the grounds. Whispering youths make their way in the dark to a hidden entrance. The next morning, as the sun rises behind the complex, two young deer frolic across the fenced-in grounds.
On the other side of the hotel is an observation tower. From there, you can catch a glimpse from above of the Tropicana-like ruin that passers-by compare to the dismantled Chernobyl nuclear reactor. On the roof, someone has written in capitals ‘Geldwolf’ (‘Money Wolf’). It can only be read from above, but the message is clear: the owner wants to sell his skin dearly.
Enquiries reveal that we look at the remains of ‘Aqua Plaza’, an ambitious project from 1988 that included a wave pool, wild water creek, whirlpools and a 120-metre water slide. In 1996, this project resulted in swimming paradise ‘Tropica Ambla’. After a flying start, the owner raised the entrance fee, which resulted in people staying away.
Attempts to find alternative uses for the site were unsuccessful. In 2008, the empty swimming pool figured as a surrealistic decor during the Ameland Art Month. The artwork ‘Boat’, a series of chairs with sawn-off legs by Saskia Boelsums and Peter Veen, was intended to ‘make the fear of the sea palpable’.
In 2010, the swimming pool made a temporary restart as a paintball hub. After thermal water was discovered at a depth of 837 metres in 2012, the Vlieland hotel and catering entrepreneur Harry Westers bought the land with the intention of turning it into a wellness resort (well Nes would be a more appropriate name in this case, as they might call the nearby lake Loch Nes). In 2017, Ameland’s municipality blew the whistle on him because, according to the council, Westers wanted to build too many hotel rooms on the site. Since then, Ameland’s monumental pimples have become a haven for loitering youths and stray animals. This is how the project developer (who does not have to look at it himself) and the municipality of Ameland hold each other hostage.