A desire to see tulips.
One of our must-see pins had been, that we would like to experience the fields of tulips in the Netherlands in spring. So we left Spain at the beginning of April and set off for the Netherlands. We didn’t make many stops in France and Belgium, because the goal was flower fields. In addition, our oldest daughter Susan had decided to spend a week with us in the Tulip Country. So for once, we were on a schedule.
The crazy story of the European Tulips.
The tulip is believed to originate from Persia, where gardeners started breeding them, about 1000 years ago. In 1554 the Austrian ambassador brought a handful of the first known tulip bulbs to Vienna. After that, the flower spread to gardens and parks in most of Europe within a few decades. It is no wonder, that the tulip quickly became popular in the European upper-class.
A tulip garden in full bloom is really something. The prevalence of tulips in the Netherlands can be attributed to Carolus Clusius. He was head of the imperial botanical garden in Vienna. He planted tulips and studied them eagerly. The tulip’s impressive colors and exotic appearance quickly became a symbol of success. Wealthy traders had gardeners to produce particularly beautiful tulips, which should create admiration and envy. Already in the 1620s tulips had increased in value. A story goes that the owner of a very rare tulip had been offered a townhouse in exchange for the bulbs. He declined the offer.
Tulips as an investment
By the mid-1630s, foreign speculators had also entered the tulip market and prices began to rise dramatically. The rapid increase in value led several people to sell their properties in order to invest the money in tulips with the expectation of increasing their wealth multiples. Some literally sold their houses for a tulip bulb. In February 1637, tulip prices began to drop. At that time, tulip prices had reached a level where very few had the money to buy even the cheapest tulips. And that caused the volume of trades to decline. In a very short time, prices for tulips fell by 99%, and speculators were suddenly left with worthless papers and tulip bulbs. After that, the tulips reached the normal level we know today, where everyone can enjoy the flower in our gardens, the parks, and as flowers in a vase, at a reasonable price. Crazy story right?
The tulip fields were amazing! As far as the eye could see, the rows of yellow, blue, red, orange, purple, and pink tulips enriched the view. So did fragrant blue and purple hyacinths. That view was definitely worth the trip. Even though the somewhat lower temperatures were a little harsh for us.
An unexpected scooter museum.
Zundert was a small town, we came across on the way and that gave us one of the adventures we are so excited about. We had found a cheap campsite to spend the night via the CamperContact app, but we didn’t imagine there would be a museum too. A scooter museum doesn’t sound like much, but the proprietor of both the site and the museum was a wonderful nice old man, who gave us a 2-hour tour.
The huge collection of scooters dated back to World War II and up to the present. In addition to scooters, everything from a folding tandem to an extensive collection of dynamo flashlights and old uniforms from the war was also to see. Even for someone who is not particularly keen on motor vehicles, this collection is really entertaining. Especially because of the knowledge the owner had and all the stories he could tell.
The world’s largest flower procession.
The owner was also the prime mover for several award-winning carriages, in the world’s largest flower procession: Zundert Flower Parade. The museum had many models and pictures of these giant flower carts, which had won a lot of first prizes. These were wagons with, giraffes, tigers, dogs, and ships. Even an amazing face of Van Gogh, that was more than 10 meters high. They all had in common, that the wagons must be driven by manpower. Not engines. Inside the huge figures were people controlling moving parts, smoke cannons, lights, and sound. Again, the old man could tell some wonderful stories about this floral procession and the making of the wagons. A small side note to Zundert and the Van Gogh flower truck is, that Zundert is actually the city where Vincent van Gogh was born.
We met up with Susan in Amsterdam and parked Mr. Hymer at a well-secured campsite outside the city. Here he also stayed the next day, when we went to Amsterdam, to show Susan around. We had been there before, and Amsterdam is a city you can enjoy more than once. This time we also saw Anne Frank’s house and tried to sail with the ferry bus. In return, Susan showed us around a 6-story Primark. Or rather, Malthe drank countless cups of coffee at a cafe, while mother and daughter were shopping. I think the shopping quota for the next six months was met that day.
Keukenhof flower park
Keukenhof flower park is the world’s largest flower park and was also on our must-see list. The park is 32 hectares and contains about 7,000,000 flower bulbs. It is located near the town of Lisse, at which we arrived at noon. We had read something about a flower procession, but we hadn’t noted the time and place. However, it turned out that we had arrived on the day of the parade and early enough to get a good parking spot on the route. The route of the procession extends over 42 km, from Noordwijk to Haarlem, and consists of beautifully decorated flower wagons. In addition, there are several Tambur corpses and small associations that raise money for their work, in the parade too.
The weather during the procession was a chapter in itself. Everything from warm sunshine to hail and snow. Fortunately, we had umbrellas in the camper, but the participants in the procession were not so lucky. The snow was especially hard on a guest band from Australia. The poor girls were used to warmer conditions, and some of them had to give up walking in the snow. The girl playing the big drum had so cold hands, that her skin cracked and started bleeding. It must be a journey they will remember forever.
One huge garden.
Actually, it was intended that we would visit the Keukenhof flower park after the procession. But when we saw the queue of cars winding all the way down the main road, we decided to postpone the visit one day. A good tip is, therefore: Do not visit Keukenhof on the same day as the flower festival. Another tip is: Find something else to see other than Keukenhof. No, that’s a little harsh, but we probably expected more.
There are many tulips in the park. A lot of tulips! There are also small souvenir shops, restaurants, mills, creeks, a children’s zoo, etc., but there are a lot of people too! In addition, we probably expected the beds to be more divided into colors, themes, works of art, or similar since it’s the world’s largest flower park. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, we agreed that the park is just reminiscent of an oversized Danish garden. Something that is normal for Danes, but certainly not for all the Russians and Japanese who visited the park at the same time as us. So if you really like tulips, and can’t get enough of them, the park is definitely worth a visit. If not, then enjoy the area instead. The Netherlands is really beautiful.
After another couple of days relaxing with Susan, we put her on the flight back to Denmark. Then we continued on to another point of interest we had pinned on Google maps. Giethoorn, the city without roads. Instead, Giethoorn has small canals between the houses, on which you can sail or walk along the canals if you are on foot.
Lots of workshops.
Along the canals lives a lot of local artists. Many of them have their own galleries and workshops, and you can buy everything from paintings to jewelry and pottery. Who wouldn’t get inspired, by living in such a quiet and beautiful place?
Soothing and calm.
The tranquility of the town is amazing and so are the beautiful houses, the canals, the bridges and everything else. The fairy tale town is definitely worth a visit and the small restaurants and cafes, serve food and drinks at absolutely reasonable prices. We actually ended up staying a few days at a campsite just outside of town, because we found Giethoorn so nice and special.
All good things come to an end.
We had to continue our journey north because up ahead was a visit to our home in Denmark. Home to greet all those we, despite all our adventures, miss after all.
– Text and photography: Eva. Addings, photography and photo editing: Malthe