Tulips are undoubtedly a really pretty flower. You find them in every florist shop, and they are even sold at the supermarkets. They are not too expensive, they brighten up the room, and give vibrant color to their surroundings. If you go to Holland during spring, the parks are covered with these amazing color bombs. But what is it about this country and its fascination for tulips? To fully understand the correlation between tulips and Holland, we need to go back in history. You see, the stunning views of tulips haven’t always been for everyone to enjoy.
The beginning of the tulip craze
Let's go back to the middle of the 15th century. Ogier de Busbecq, ambassador for the Ottoman sultan Ferdinand I, sent a collection of tulip bulbs to Europe. It spread from Vienna to other cities, and reached botanist Carolus Clusius in 1593. He worked at the university in Leiden, and was constructing the botanical garden Hortus Academicus, which by the way is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. A surprise to all, the elegant flowers flourished and thrived in the somewhat harsh conditions of Holland.
Tulip mania in the Dutch Golden Age
They soon became a huge success and were seen as a symbol of wealth and luxury of the upper class. Everybody wanted tulip bulbs to grow for themselves. It normally takes seven to twelve years for a tulip seed to grow into a flourishing bulb, but they can produce both seed and two or three bud clones annually. Cultivated properly, the "daughter offsets" can become flowering bulbs after one to three years. The prices began to rise, reaching extraordinary high levels. The period known as tulip mania peaked in 1637. It is told that some single tulip bulbs were sold for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. This economic growth suddenly collapsed, and to this day, the term ‘tulip mania’, is often used as a metaphor when referring to any large economic bubble.
Keukenhof Flower Park
Although the tulip lost its huge economic value, it still has a special place in the heart of the Dutch people. By coloring the green fields of many parks and cities throughout the country, the tulip still is a national symbol. If you want to experience the magic of this much loved flower, you should visit Keukenhof Flower Park, just a 20 minutes' drive from the Radisson Blu Hotel Amsterdam Airport, Schiphol. Also, the Radisson Blu Hotels in the city center of Amsterdam make for a very favorable starting point for your quest for tulips. Here the 34 hectares of fields are covered in tulips and hyacinths under the warm spring sun. With art like precision, a team of enthusiastic gardeners plant around seven million bulbs every autumn. Keukenhof Flower Park is open from the 21st of March till the 19th of May, so don't miss out on the beauty of the flower fields.
Its no question that Keukenhof is referred to as the 'Garden of Europe'. With 'rivers' of colors including blue, pink, purple and yellow, it is truly like walking into a fairy-tale landscape. Add in the mature trees, the amazing fountains and the glistening lakes together with a windmill or two, and you've got a memory for life. Just outside the main park you will find the vibrant tulip fields. There are different ways to visit the fields, but renting a bike is an easy and comfortable way to explore the area. It is also possible to sail around Keukenhof by boat and at the same time, take in the idyllic Dutch countryside. For a truly remarkable experience, it is possible to fly 450 meters above sea level in a small plane across the stunning landscape. The park itself has an annual theme with many events built around it from music, shows, heritage and culinary events.
If you are visiting the Netherlands during spring, or have a longer stop between flights, why not check out one of the most renowned parks in Europe? If you do, it will undoubtedly be a more detailed visit if you read about the tulip's significance beforehand. Sometimes a flower is not 'just' a flower. It's part of history!