Secrets of tulips I discovered in Keukenhof

Keukenhof

The spring has finally come to Netherlands. Since the warm weather is rare here, we decided to take the maximum out of it and plan a 2 days trip. The first day was dedicated to the beauty of tulip flowers in Keukenhof and to the small canal town Leiden whereas the second day we spend in The Hague.

Our travel crew in Keukenhof
Our travel crew in Keukenhof

Huge expectations from Keukenhof

Being told to be the most beautiful spring garden in the world we had huge expectations from Keukenhof. The garden can be visited only 8 weeks within a year when the 7 million tulips and other flowers cover the park with beautiful colours and fragrances. Yes, sounds amazing! Unfortunately that also explains one hour in traffic jam while waiting for some parking place. The tip for you: try to visit the garden during some working day when less people are expected. Or, why not to rent a bike in Leiden and drive to Keukenhof? The journey would take you some 1 hour on cycling track and you could enjoy flower fields out of the garden as well.

Keukenhof garden
Beauty of the legendary Keukenhof garden

Thousands of tourists…

When we finally entered the garden (entrance fee for adult was 16 EUR) we took the free map of the park and planed our journey. Part of the garden next to the entrance was super crowded by tourists and this, somehow, destroyed the atmosphere the flowers were creating. A small initial disappointment was luckily quickly overcomed.  Moving further we entered the less crowded areas which allowed us to start admiring whole that beauty. The park is huge and contains of many different zones and flower expositions. You can make picture with the typical Dutch view – old windmill with the tulip fields behind – of course if you catch the moment when no tourist is standing in between. Well, look at my picture and judge if I succeeded.

windmill with tulip fields
Trying to capture typical image of Netherlands – old windmill with the tulip field in background

A small ZOO in the middle of flower garden

In Keukenhof I saw something which I have never seen before. In the middle of flowers we found a little ZOO with farming animals. Well, nothing special, you might say. But interesting was the fact that you could enter the fence and get into close contact with all the animals. You should have seen it – children running next to the chicken or playing with small goats. The pink pig was relaxing in the grass while the peacock was showing his beautiful feathers. The fun to observe all these from close distance – not only for the children.

peacock in Keukenhof
Peacock was posing for my photo in the small ZOO inside Keukenhof garden

Keukenhof – paradise on Earth for tulip lovers!

After climbing the small observation tower hidden in the labyrinth we decided to take a short lunch nap in the sun close to the tulip flowers. Actually in Keukenhof you are never too far from tulips. It is paradise on Earth for a person who´s most favourite flower is tulip such as for me. I have never seen so many different kinds, sizes and colours before. And of course, the fragrance of the flowers in the whole park contributes to this awesome atmosphere. The gardeners have done a perfect job and designed the park in a way that everybody finds some perfect place for himself or herself. First we thought we will spend there some 3-4 hours but in the end the whole one day was not enough. So here is another tip for you: reserve enough time for your visit to avoid stress and enjoy everything the garden has to offer.

Keukenhof
Keukenhof is flower paradise on Earth!
under the arch in Keukenhof
Keukenhof gardens were full of beautiful sights

And maybe you are asking – so what are those secrets you discovered there? Here they are:

 

1. Mystery of the black tulip

In the garden you will find almost all colours of tulips you can imagine. Except of the pure black one. The growers were for centuries searching for the black tulip. However without success. The black colour does not exist in the nature. In spite of that growers didn’t give up and by crossing dark and yellow tulip they produced the dark purple one which looks almost like black.

black tulip
Can you spot “black” tulip?

2. Tulips actually come from Turkey!

When the word tulip is mentioned, almost everybody associates it with Netherlands. However, to my surprise, the tulips actually originate from the mountains between Turkey and Russia! Around 1550 Turkey was powerful country ruled by Sultan Suleiman II. And they where his gardens from where the tulip flowers come from. How did they than get to the Netherlands? Sultan gave some bulbs to Austrian Ambassador from whom the Dutch Carolus Clusius received them. He planted bulbs in his birth country Netherlands and thus started this well known tulip tradition.

red tulips
Tulips originate from the mountains in between China and Turkey. And now you can admire them in Netherlands!

3. Where does the name tulip come from?

The name tulip comes from the Persian word “tulipan” meaning “turban”. And why turban? Just look at somebody wearing turban. It seems like he would wear a big tulip bulb on head. Interesting, right?

colourful tulips
Different kinds, different colours – simply beautiful tulips in Keukenhof

4. The most valuable tulips were diseased ones

No, the striped and flamed tulips are not the modern phenomenon. They were existing in the early times as well and were treated as the most desired ones. The truth is that those tulips were infected by virus which caused the special patterns on the flower. But don´t worry, today´s flowers are completely healthy, growers learned how to cultivate them to such a nice pattern.

striped tulips
Striped tulips like these were in earlier times favoured even though they had a virus

The end of the day in small town Leiden

Enriched by the new knowledge, having camera full of pictures, mind full of memories and tan on the skin we left Keukenhof and drove to the small town called Leiden. However we only had some one hour left to discover what it has to offer. And it was definitely not enough! Leiden was full of terraces around the calm canals. People outside were enjoying free day and contributed to the overall very positive atmosphere of that town. On the small squares in the centre few festivals with the music and food were organized.

canal in Leiden
Canal in Leiden – the relaxing atmosphere

Especially nice view we had from the fortress above the city centre. If somebody tells you one day that Leiden is boring town not worth of visiting, don´t trust him. Leiden is small but very interesting city which would deserve much more than one hour of hour time. Hopefully during our next visit!

view on the cathedral from fortress in Leiden
View on the cathedral from the fortress in Leiden – can you see a small festival underneath?

The night was coming over the land and we slowly moved to The Hague where the hostel was waiting for us. After such an beautiful day we couldn´t wait for the next morning! But next day is another story and I will share it with you in my next post.

 

 

 

King´s Day – one big birthday party all over the Netherlands!

Kings day in Amsterdam

The 27th of April is a very important day for the Netherlands. The king is celebrating birthday! And what does it mean? National holidays all over the whole country and cheerful celebrations practically in all cities. King´s Day is the event where the fun is guaranteed. And where could we celebrate king´s birthday better than in the capital Amsterdam.

King´s Day in Amsterdam
King´s Day in Amsterdam

King´s Day and empty streets?!

We arrived around 10 in the morning and, in the expectation of the huge crowd, we headed to the city centre. However the opposite was true. The city was almost empty, surprisingly we met much less people than during my last visit in Amsterdam. Later we realized that the night before King´s Day is called King´s Night and each club and pub is organizes some pre-party before the day D. That explains empty streets, everybody was recovering from the last night in their own bed or hotel room, getting ready to start celebrations again in the afternoon.

 

Orange, orange, orange

We spent our free time buying the necessary orange stuff. On the King´s Day it is a must to have something orange. Starting with the locals, through tourists and ending with pets – everybody on the streets had the same colour. In this way people show their pride for the Dutch Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau by wearing the traditional colour of the Netherlands.

 

Luna park and markets

Dressed up in the right colours, we arrived at Dam square – the hearth of  Amsterdam. The square looked completely differently than the last time I saw it, though. It transformed into one big luna park with plenty of carousels, music and stands. We couldn’t resist to take a ride on the big Ferris wheel from where the view on Amsterdam was stunning. The ticket for a ride was quite expensive (7 EUR) but well King´s Day is only once a year.

Luna park on Dam Square
Luna park on Dam Square

After a further walking in the slowly crowding streets we arrived in front of the famous letters of Amsterdam where we took some photos. Our next stop was Vondelpark. During  King´s Day everybody can become a seller and try their negotiating skills in order to sell their own goods. But Vondelpark was reserved for children. The grass was full of old toys, games and clothes which  kids decided to exchange for a small amount of money the tourists would give for it. Moreover, the park was full of music from many child bands – who knows, maybe we saw the future star! The weather was, despite the weather forecast, very good and that´s why we could enjoy the walk in the sun.

In front of the famous letters in the orange colours!
In front of the famous letters in the orange colours!

One big birthday party

In the afternoon the city was already full of people – drinking, dancing, singing – simply enjoying the atmosphere. All over the centre were stages where DJs played their favourite songs to entertain the crowds and the beer and food stands on the street were satisfying thirsty and hungry visitors. The canals were full of boats with dancing people and orange confetti were flying in the air. And we were in the middle of that all. A DJ was playing great music and we could have had fun until the very morning, if we didn´t need to catch our bus back to Antwerp. The departure seemed to be too soon, but who knows, maybe it is sometimes better to leave in the best. Next year again?

Crowded streets of celebrating people
Crowded streets of celebrating people

Amsterdam – city of sin or freedom?

What is the first which comes to your mind when somebody says Amsterdam? Red light districts? Drugs? Or you imagine thousands of water canals thanks to which is Amsterdam also called Venice of the north? Amsterdam is the city which attracts tourist for it differentness. Would you like to know some facts about Amsterdam which you hardly find in tourist guides? Here they are.

Beauty of the city
Beauty of the city

Why the name Amsterdam?

The roots of the city are in the 12th century
The roots of the city are in the 12th century

In the 12th century a small fishermen village was settled up on the bank of the river Amstel. Fishermen however soon realized the strategic position of their location – traders used delta of river Amstel to reach the sea. In the vision of making money thanks to their location, fishermen build on the river Amstel dam and forced everybody who wanted to pass to pay. Thanks to this business transformed small village into the important city with the huge port of one of the greatest importance up today. And why the name Amsterdam? It is very simple. Dam on the Amstel – in reverse order – Amsterdam.

What you didn’t know about the Red light district

The big part of Amsterdam belongs to the Red light district. People are everyday passing around glass windows with naked women and find it completely ordinary. In Amsterdam you can even spot very interesting sight – prostitute windows right next to the oldest building in the city – Old church. Shocked? There is an explanation for that.  In the past a port used to be not so far away from the church. Sailors spending long days on ships were the best clients for the ladies practising “the oldest profession”. And afterwards could satisfied sailors head right to the church to atone their “sins”. Seems like the ladies had kind of business talent already in the past and the triangle worked perfectly.

The Old church - right next to the Red light district
The Old church – right next to the Red light district

In a matter of fact today it is even more important for the ladies to use their entrepreneurial talent to be able to pay expensive rents. In Amsterdam prostitution is legal profession on condition that ladies stay inside of the windows. Women are officially registered and need to pay taxes. Interested about some average numbers? The average price per client is 50 EUR, average time spend for one client is around 8 minutes and the average number of clients per night is 15. Than count out the taxes and rent approximately 150 EUR per night. And now compare to your salary per day…

Dancing houses

Tourists normally realize shortly after the arrival to the city that houses are not really straight. Some of them are leaning to the side, some of them to the front. Leaning to the front was done on purpose. The land was very expensive and the bigger parcel you had, more taxes you needed to pay. Therefore smart people built their houses leaning to the street and so created more space in the upper floors. And what about the hook which hangs from many roofs? It is just another invention to create more space. Houses were narrow and therefore they needed to build very narrow and steep staircase to save some space for living. But how would you than bring all your furniture inside? You lift it on the hook to upper floors and bring it inside through the window!

Dancing houses
Dancing houses

And what about houses leaning on the side? Well this was not made on purpose. The ground of Amsterdam is not very stable and therefore the classical foundations of the buildings would not be very helpful. To prevent house from  falling, people build their houses on the trees whose roots reaching deep into the soil were able to hold the weight of the city. Amsterdam is therefore the city build on the woods. Well but because wood is only natural material, through the time it loses its stability and houses are leaning to the site. Okay and now you might think, isn’t the wood completely rotten after so long time? Scientists found out that the wood will not rot while it is protected under water without the access of the oxygen. Therefore the city has to constantly regulate the water in canals to keep it at the same height level.

City vs. Church – guess who won in Amsterdam

Royal palace vs. New church

Royal palace vs. New church

Dam square – the hearth of Amsterdam and probably the most beautiful square. The most dominant building of the square is the Royal palace which served the first 150 years of its existence as Amsterdam’s city hall. But it didn´t used to be the most dominant one. Can you see the church hidden in the shadow of the palace? This is the Nieuwe Kerk (New church), in the 17th century the most important building in the city. Until the city decided to build a new town hall. And this is where negotiations started between the city and the church. Of course the church was against the huge project of city hall but the city promised to use spare money from the construction of city hall to build a new big tower for the church. And is the tower standing? Of course not, there were no money left after the construction of the imposing city hall.

Romantic walk alongside Amsterdam canals couldn´t be missing in any itinerary. On the shore of one of the many canals, the Flower market is situated. There you can buy many different flowers but the best sellers are surely the seeds of tulip flowers!

Final word about Amsterdam? It is the nest of open-mindness – until you don’t hurting anybody feel free to do what you want – this represents kind of how they act.

Romantic canals of Amsterdam
Romantic canals of Amsterdam