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Tourists & Tulip Buying in the Netherlands

Written by: Christina Owen

Holland Exists Outside Amsterdam

Mum is gazing in dismay at a rack full of magnets with clogs on. This is nothing new – every second shop in Amsterdam has clog magnets. I have already bought seven.
But we are not in Amsterdam now. We have travelled for 2 hours from the centre of the city to Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens, and Mum has been really excited for all the tulip bulbs she is going to buy, cram into her suitcase and drag home to plant in her garden in southern England.
Tulips at Keukenhof
It is not going to happen. But she can buy a wooden tulip in a variety of colours, or a sun hat with a windmill on it. We are standing in one of about 16 gift shops at Keukenhof, and outside it is raining. This is just like being at a British theme park! With flower beds instead of rollercoasters.
Despite the typical British way of it tipping down the minute anyone mentions an outdoor day trip, this is a rather lovely excursion. No one ever really tells you what the Netherlands is like outside of Amsterdam. I assumed it’s mostly flat fields with long, straight drainage canals intersecting them like the grid system in Manhattan. Judging by what I can see out of the shuttle bus window as we sail from the airport to our destination alongside literally thousands of other tourists (the bus queue snaked around the airport – buses were arriving in a constant stream), I am right.
However, it is spring, and this means it’s time for these fields to burst into technicolour. It’s tulip season, and farmers in The Netherlands grow tulips like the British grow wheat. Row upon row of reds, blues and oranges stretch across to the horizon, and it doesn’t look real, because fields aren’t like rainbows, right?
These ones are. Then we arrive at Keukenhof, about an hour by bus to the south west of Amsterdam, and as we trickle inside the gates, ready to see 800 species of tulip laid out in flower beds, rockeries and green houses, the heavens open.
Macro shot of tulips at Keukenhof
I zip up my mac and ready my camera, as do, simultaneously, 500 other photographers. We will all leave here with exactly the same set of macro shots showing raindrops on vivid red petals. But they will look beautiful, because this tulip garden is beautiful and for 8 weeks of the year, everyone can experience it (for a fee). But when the flowers start to die at the end of May, it’s all over and the park shuts its gates once more.
Back on the bus, back to the canals and cafes of the city we go. Where, incidentally, you CAN buy tulip bulbs.

Christina blogs at Rainbow Roadtrip.

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