Latest update: 28 March 2021
Urk: where the men row to Ommelebommelestién and wear gold earrings. It is the most pastoral community in the Netherlands, and even though Urk was already connected to the mainland in 1939, the people remain islanders.
Feast on local stories
More than 20,000 people live on Urk. The fishery is especially lively – you can smell it, and you can see it. There are no fewer than two fish auctions, and the fish shop draws quite an audience in. But Urk has something better than a delicious piece of fish: tasty local stories. The Urkers like to keep traditions, customs, and history alive. Rightly so.
The two most remarkable stories for me are about Ommelebommelestién and the earrings from Urk.
Urk’s babies come from Ommelebommelestién
Everyone knows that storks bring babies. Right? But there are no storks on Urk. The men from Urk have to get to work themselves. Legend has it that the fathers have to row to Ommelebommelestién to pick up their baby there. The baby comes out of the stone (stién). Some even claim that fathers had to pay a guilder for a girl and double for a boy.
On Urk, near the lighthouse, you will find a small statue of a rowing boat that symbolizes the legend. If you stare into the water for a bit, you might see a small vortex or a spot in the water where the waves turn white – that is it, you’ve found Ommelebommelestién. Luckily for the new dads, the journey isn’t that long, only about 70 meters.
Tip! Are you going to Urk for a day? Check all my tips for OP Urk here!
Urk earring for men
When I walk through Urk, I notice that quite a few young men and children wear quite large gold earrings. Why do these guys wear such a striking thing? Skippers and fishers used to wear the earring to secure their funeral. After all, if you fell overboard, it was only a matter of guessing where you would end up. The people who found you then used the gold earring to pay for your funeral. Sometimes the earring was so specific that it might even be possible to trace who it was; tattoos also helped with this. With a bit of luck, you would be buried in your own village.
Do you want an Urk earring yourself? Then take a look at Visserijsieraden.nl.
The earring is no longer functional. Now it is mainly for decoration. The local ministers don’t support people wearing them though; they think young men should not wear earrings. So it might also be brashness? Anyway, I think it’s a nice story. If you are also a fan of local stories, do the Ginkie tour when you are on Urk. Have a guided walk and get to know EVERYTHING about Urk earrings, babies, and much more.
More travel inspiration for the Netherlands
Want more travel advice? Do check all my blogs about beautiful places and fun activities in my home country. Also nice: buy the Lonely Planet of the Netherlands as it has lots of practical information. Available at Amazon and Book Depository. The latter is usually the cheapest but often has a slightly longer shipping time.
First published: september 2015. The article has been updated since.