Keukenhof: A day trip to the “Garden of Europe”
Keukenhof the “flower garden of Europe” is situated deep within the heart of the Tulip Bulb growing region near the town of Lisse, the Netherlands. It’s a far cry from the coffee shops and the red light districts, we had become accustomed to while living in Amsterdam. But is similarly a part of the more traditional side of Dutch culture namely cheese, clogs and of course tulips. And in saying so set us off on a path to discover what it’s all about.
My partner, Bug and I had just moved to Amsterdam about a year ago landing smack bang in the middle of the tulip season. And naturally we had wanted to go and so, when we had settled in a bit, opted for on one of the easiest options; booking a seat on the Keukenhof tour bus. And although it was already well into the season with a lot of people professing we had missed the best of it we just couldn’t have been bothered to wait another year to have the opportunity again. And the tulip season from start to finish is great right?
Hopping onto the bus in central Amsterdam was the beginning of our short journey roughly forty minutes, but in the interim the on board tour guide explained a few facts about Keukenhof. Originally Keukenhof began its existence as the grounds to a royal residence complete with a castle called Keukenhof castle, which still stands today. The kitchen staff used the gardens to grow herbs and vegetables hence the name “Kitchen garden” when translated from Dutch to English. And although there is no evidence of this anymore the gardens are still fit to serve royalty and are still visited on occasion by members of the Dutch royal family.
I could see why as the tulip fields very quickly came into view. We were now cruising through endless rows of colour, gazing all the while at the neatly laid out tulips all in their bright colourful bands. Most noticeable as well were all the cyclists cycling along the roads bordering the fields. All I could do was stare thinking they will be my inspiration for next year’s excursion.
Finally departing our flower-adorned bus, our tickets included entrance and a four-hour stay at the gardens. Upon entering the first thing that I come to appreciate about Dutch culture is their love of fairy-tales And Keukenhof was no exception the only difference in this particular tale is that it’s almost exclusively created out of flowers. Throw in a windmill, bridges, forest scenes, gnomes and miniatures of Dutch cities and towns and what you get can only be described as a Dutch floral kingdom. It all just fit in seamlessly with the year’s theme, which was villages, towns and cities of Holland.
After an hour or so of aimless eye infatuated colour bombardment, taking photos of hundreds of tulips and posing with just as many things started to get a little weird. To give you a heads up Keukenhof for an expat can be overwhelming. In our case it tended to make us feel like we were in some kind of wonderland. And in response to this we then decided it would be fun to take on the character roles that were fitting to where we were. Bug assumed the role of Alice while I was the rabbit constantly on the run fretting about the time. Additionally the sheer size of Keukenhof coupled with its numerous floral walkways that take you through bushel and under garland of tulips felt as though the petals of a gigantic tulip were enveloping us. But all that it managed to do was harden our resolve to see it all. Eventually I had enough when we came across a body of water that allowed you to walk on water like Jesus albeit surrounded by tulips.
Finding a quiet spot under a weeping willow next to a bubbling brook was the perfect place for us to devour our lunch and take stock of what we had just experienced. I had read somewhere in the gardens that the Netherlands is the biggest exporter of flowers in the world. And now having reflecting back on our very recent experience in the “garden of Europe” realised Keukenhof and the tulip-growing region of Lisse were not just for show. And that during the season the bulbs much like the tulips, once sniped are shipped off to many florists all over the planet. It was one of the reasons I could surmise as to why the Dutch have dedicated so much of their precious landscape to this endeavour.
The end of tour would see us jumping back on the bus heading back to Amsterdam for one more drive through the tulip fields. It never ceases to amaze me the sheer peace, serenity and tranquillity awarded to one when in the company of such immense beauty and perfection wrought by the hands of people. I could only deduce this was the reason why the Dutch wholeheartedly persevered to master the art of tulip growing. This and a little known fact called the Dutch tulip craze that resulted in a financial crash in the 17th century akin to a stock market crash today. But that’s a story for another time. All I took away with me from this experience was no matter what time during tulip season you decide to visit Keukenhof the outcome will be as predictable as the tulip blooming season; utterly perfect.
Quick Information Guide:
- Keukenhof Gardens is open from mid – March to mid – May, but according to some is best viewed mid – April.
- There are multiple ways of getting there; by car, public transport (bus or train), bicycle (what I and some friends bravely did this year) or with the official Keukenhof Tour Bus.
- Public Transport: Bus 197 Amsterdam to Schipol Airport/ Bus 858 Schipol to Keukenhof
- There is a luggage storage facility at Schipol Airport if you decide to do this on your first or last day of stay in Amsterdam.
- Once at the gardens there is the option of renting bicycles so that you can cycle along and through the tulip fields surrounding the gardens. This option comes highly recommended. (Just don’t cycle or walk, for that matter, directly onto the tulip fields. The ones surrounding Keukenhof are privately owned and many a farmer won’t appreciate fresh-faced tourists wading through their tulips.)
- A nice touch to the whole experience is the bag of tulip of bulbs you can pick up free of charge at the gift shop (you need your ticket to get a bag though). And just be careful to follow the planting instructions to the letter for tulips are notoriously difficult to grow.
By Slippery Joe Lyzard ©
Photography: Nomadic Bug ©
Nomadic Existence 2016 ©