The Tantalizing Tulip and Keukenhof

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Tulips are cultivated in nearly 2,000 varieties, in myriad shapes and shades.

The tulip is a terrific flower with a tumultuous history. Synonymous with Holland, a country sometimes called “The Flower Shop of the World,” it’s a showy perennial in the lily family now cultivated in nearly 2,000 varieties. Dutch growers dominate the world’s tulip industry, exporting 4.3 billion bulbs annually and cultivating new ones each year. Along with other blooms, they’re sold in Amsterdam at the Bloemenmarkt on the Singel, as well as at the world’s largest flower auction in Aalsmeer, just south of Amsterdam, near Schiphol.

From Turkey to Tulip Mania

Before landing in Holland, the tulip traveled from the western Himalayas to Persia, China and Turkey, where it was prized in the Ottoman Empire. When Dutch trading with Constantinople increased in the 16th century, it was introduced in Holland, where it flourished and became popular with the upper classes.

As demand for tulips outstripped production, people began using bulbs as currency and speculation became rampant. By the mid-17th century, tulips were so coveted, they created Tulip Mania, widely considered the world’s first recorded economic bubble, when a single bulb sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. After the market crashed in 1637, Tulip Mania became a metaphor for any unsustainable economic bubble marked by prices that wildly exceed an asset’s intrinsic value.

Return to the Golden Age at Keukenhof

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe world’s largest flower garden opens this year on March 24 in Lisse, about an hour from Amsterdam by public transport. Now in its 67th season, Keukenhof will showcase seven million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other spring flowers until May 16, 2016.

Set in Holland’s Flower Strip or bollenstreek, the bulb-growing region, the name of the popular attraction means “kitchen garden,” literally. Its roots go back to the 15th century, when Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria foraged for herbs, fruit and nuts in the woods for use in the kitchen at Teylingen Castle. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 and its gardens redesigned in 1857, laying the foundation for the stunning seasonal display that now attracts some 800,000 visitors over just eight weeks each year.

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Keukenhof Castle in winter.

Keukenhof’s 2016 theme is “The Golden Age,” when Holland grew rich through worldwide trade. The 16th17th era is depicted in a giant flower mosaic incorporating 100,000 tulips, grape hyacinths and crocuses. New this year are a Golden Age garden paying tribute to 17th century botanists and a Delft Blue garden with flowers that recall Delft Blue pottery, another Dutch hallmark. Other displays are inspired by romance, the beach, nostalgia and the history of a flower that’s become an icon of the Netherlands over 400 years.

The Practical Stuff

Keukenhof is open daily, March 24–May 16, 2016, from 8–19:30. Adult tickets are €16. You can book a ticket with your smartphone here. Alternatively, purchase a Combi-ticket for €29 that includes transport from Amsterdam and entrance to the park. Rather than going to the cashier at Keukenhof, walk straight into the park after the bus driver drops you off. Another advantage is savings, as the Combi-ticket may be cheaper than the combined price of your journey and the entrance to Keukenhof.

If you choose to do it on your own, it’s easy to reach Keukenhof via public transport. From stops on Marnixstraat, Leidseplein, the Rijksmuseum and Museumplein, you can pick up the Airport Express (Conexxion bus #197). Take it to Schiphol Plaza, where you’ll transfer to the Keukenhof Express (bus #858). Alternatively, take the train from Central Station to Schiphol and transfer to The Keukenhof Express bus at Schiphol Plaza, near the exit by Arrivals Hall 4, next to Starbucks.

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20 comments

  1. Thank you. Le 5 mars 2016 17:59, “UnClogged in Amsterdam” a écrit :

    > WordGeisha posted: ” The tulip is a terrific flower with a tumultuous > history. Synonymous with Holland, a country sometimes called “The Flower > Shop of the World,” it’s a showy perennial in the lily family now > cultivated in nearly 2,000 varieties. Dutch growers dominate the ” >

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  2. A rainbow of beauty!! This is exactly what I was looking for, where to see the famous tulips gardens of Holland. Too bad I won’t be there in the for when they open 😦

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  3. Gorgeous, tulips are one of my favorite flowers, too bad I’m going to Amsterdam too early to pay it a visit! Well here’s an excuse to come back again soon 🙂 Not ridiculously expensive too. I hope you pay it a visit and make a review post on it! 🙂

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  4. This is a great article! Not only that it’s excellently written; the mere existence makes me happy.
    Years ago I had the opportunity to speak to one of the leading journalists of our country and professor for journalism who picked up her daughter from my sister’s birthday party. Having been thrilled by the idea of studying journalism, I was very excited to talk to her and as soon as she entered our garden, I managed to engage in a discussion about what makes a good article. In my mind, it takes a good writer. So I told her that regardless of whatever event occurred, a good writer could write an overwhelming article, even if it’s just about a flower in the garden (I used this as an example because we were both standing in the garden waiting for the kids to get ready). However, she insisted that a good article could only be written if one had a good story and that writing an article about a flower could never result in a masterpiece. My argument that you could write about the history of flowers etc. and build the whole story around the flower was not considered anymore. In the end, I decided not to study journalism because I was afraid that all professors who teach journalism would be as uncreative as she was… Now this article proves my point. There can be amazing articles about flowers! Thank you for having written it!

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    • HaHa! I once had an assignment that called for 1,000 words about tables. Yes, the things you sit at to eat and work. At first I thought, how can I ever write so much about such a mundane object? Like all assignments in my writing career, I wondered how I could fit it all in after completing my research. Yes, a good writer can put a good spin on anything. Thanks for reading!

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  5. What a beautiful article- it makes me want to fly to the countryside away from the gray skies of London!
    When I was in high school, I went to a tulip festival in Holland, Michigan, a several hours drive from my hometown in Ohio. It was simply stunning, with hundreds of flower beds, girls in wooden shoes, and dancing in the streets. I can only imagine how much more an authentic Dutch tulip experience would be! Your article makes me want to pack a picnic and head straight there. Thanks for the info and for writing! xx

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  6. That is definitely one of the reasons why I fell in love with Amsterdam. I’ve never seen a city with so many flowers on the windows, on the streetlights, in the gardens, and I love the fact that people like you celebrate (in such a nice article) them. It’s more than a symbol a think, the tulip, is more like the idea and the emotions that your city gives to foreigners, and in this article you desicribe it perfectly.
    There should be more blogs like this, I’m happy I had the occasion to know your blog, it was a pleasure to learn those kind of stuff about tulip in such a non boring article!

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  7. A few years ago I travelled through Australia and got the chance to work on a gladioli-farm for a couple of months. We got up very early in the morning and went on the fields to pick the flowers. Afterwards we sorted them and packed them so they could get sent off to flower stores all around Australia. I also worked on a strawberry farm before and I can say farmwork is really hard. Working with gladiolies was also exhausting, but looking at all those beautiful colours had something magical at the same time. Even though it was hard work it never felt like it. I really enjoyed the mornings when I could walk through the fields and pick up the flowers.
    I am visiting amsterdam next weekend and I am happy to see that the gardens are already open by then. I loved the article and really hope I can visit Keokenhof – because I think flowers make life a bit brighter 🙂

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  8. Ok. This is on my must go list ! I really like your blog and I hope to make one about my own country soon.
    I will read all your posts on the way to Amesterdam, thanks for sharing this 🙂

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  9. Wow! I didn’t know that is so near from Amsterdam the world’s largest flower garden! I’m so happy to know that, because I’m just going in two weeks. Now I feel so lucky, when you finished to convince me to go there, you said me that it’s open in my next trip to Amsterdam! Definitely, I’ll try to save some time and money to go there. c:

    Also I have to say, is incredible the way that you write, I enjoyed a lot to read you, even when the flowers are not my main interest! You have to be a brilliant writer for that. Is so good that you show us different attractions from Amsterdam, with a very detailed practical advices! I can feel how did you felt in love with your city haahaha .Thank you very much!

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  10. Wow! I didn’t know that is so near from Amsterdam the world’s largest flower garden! I’m so happy to know that, because I’m just going in two weeks. Now I feel so lucky, when you finished to convince me to go there, you said me that it’s open in my next trip to Amsterdam! Definitely, I’ll try to save some time and money to go there.
    I have to say, is incredible the way that you write, I enjoyed a lot to read you, even when the flowers are not my main interest! You have to be a brilliant writer for that. Is so good that you show us different attractions from Amsterdam, with a very detailed practical advices! I can feel how you felt in love with your city haahaha .Thank you very much 🙂

    Like

  11. I really love this kind of Amsterdam’s landscape, with lots of flowers and colors that make me feel happy and relaxed. This is one of the many reasons that has made me decide to spend some days in this gorgeous city.
    This is a very interesting post, but I generally appreciate this blog because there are a lot of helpful information, especially for people that are going to visit Holland for the first time, like me! I’m discovering lots of beautiful places and also informations about.
    I’m sure that I’m going to fall in love with this place.

    Thanks for your posts!

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  12. I’ve never been in Amsterdam , and I knew it was beautiful , but not so much! Many people think that the north is bleak and gray . Amsterdam is not, at all!
    Thanks for your posts!
    It is always nice to see people who love their own city !

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  13. What a beautiful tribute to such beautiful flowers. This is ecaxtly what I was planning on doing during my visit to Amsterdam! Thank you for making the information on how to do easily accessible. I will be buying a combo ticket per your recommendation 🙂

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  14. I had no idea the tulip had such a rich history! I can not wait to see the beautiful colors in full bloom. This blog entry has me itching to visit the Netherlands. This information is so helpful! Thank you for providing such detail

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  15. One of the main things that I want to visit in Amsterdam is this place! I loved that you wrote all the history behind it, with amazing pictures! I wasn’t sure but after I read your post, I’m certain that I’ll purchase the ticket+bus.
    Congrats on the blog – it’s already in my favorites and I’m going to read all the posts so I can enjoy a lot Amsterdam!
    Fernanda

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  16. This park is my dream! The variety of flowers is incredible. For a long period of time I was dreaming to visit this wonderful place. Due to this article, now I will be able to make my way to park on my own and as I arrive in Armsterdam quite late, I hope I still have an opportunity to catch this beauty!

    Like

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