When I began planning my trip to the Netherlands, the second thing that came to mind (after Amsterdam, of course), was tulips. From learning about the Dutch at school, I envisioned fields filled with brightly colored tulips with windmills scattered throughout the fields, with plenty of rivers nearby. Dutch people would be walking through the fields in their clogs, carrying wheels of cheese.
Alright, I know that’s not the most realistic view of Holland today, but I would be lying if I wasn’t still hoping to see some similarities. Luckily, I got to see a lot of those things when I visited the historic town of Zandaam, right outside of Amsterdam (post to come).
When I was researching the top things to do in the Netherlands during the springtime, one of the top results that kept popping up was Keukenhof Gardens. Self-promoted as “the most beautiful spring garden in the world,” I think it would be very hard for any other garden to top it! Adding to the grandeur of the park, it is only open for 2 months a year- from mid-March to mid-May. Luckily, my timing fit perfectly, as I would be able to go during the last few days before it closed for the season. For any avid photographers out there, Keukenhof is THE place for amazing shots of tulips and nature. Even an amateur such as myself, was able to get some great pictures just using my Samsung phone.
Even though it is located outside of Amsterdam, it was not difficult to get to. The website provided excellent directions, and they had a shuttle bus that left from the Schiphol airport about every half hour.
I arrive there around lunchtime, having stocked up on picnic goods. (Sidenote-anyone travelling through Europe and trying to stick to a budget, I recommend getting your food from one of the many supermarkets. From Rewe to Lidl to Albert Heijn, I was often able to have a filling (and healthy) meal for around 5 Euro!)
Walking into the park was nothing short of amazing. I’d never seen so many bright colored flowers all in one place in my entire life! I thought of my mother, who is an avid gardener, and how she would’ve loved this place. I found a park bench to relax and have lunch while I took it all in. Upon examining the brochure, I discovered that there was a free walking tour starting at 2pm, and I decided to join it to see what I could learn about tulips.
The guide was very informative, with a plethora of knowledge about tulips. She explained the process of planting, harvesting, and the many different variations of tulips. Sadly, the large tulip fields that I had been hoping to see were no more. In order to harvest the bulbs that each tulip grows, the farmers must clip the flowers early in Springtime, usually no later than the end of April. I had missed that by only a few weeks, oh well. All of the flowers on display at Keukenhof were small selections from the farmers of the region. They were a form of “advertisement” for all of the tourists and visitors to buy their bulbs to grow themselves.
The guide explained how even in the short period that the gardens are open each year, that they are constantly in a state of change. Some of the tulip varieties open early in March, while other do not open until later in the season. Short cold spells that the region tends to have throughout the spring can also affect the flowers as well. She also explained how that when the park closes, that all of the flowers get uprooted immediately and the grounds are bulldozed. Next year, Keukenhof will take on a completely different arrangement, with different varieties of tulips.
After the tour, I took the opportunity to wander around the grounds a bit more and enjoy the beautiful day. Of course, there was a non-working windmill on the grounds. At the top, it had a good viewpoint of the surrounding (now bare) fields.
Around late afternoon, I had my fill of tulips and Keukenhof, and made the journey back the same way as I came, via the airport. It truly was a great day and perhaps my favorite garden that I’ve ever been to. It truly is a must see if one ever happens to be in the area during the short Spring season!