Icons of Holland
Tulips and the Keukenhof
Tulips, like windmills and cheese, are iconic to the Netherlands, but originally they were an Ottoman invention. Augier Ghislain de Busbecq, who served as the Habsburg ambassador to the court of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent from 1554 to 1562, gave a bunch of bulbs & seeds to his friend Carolus Clusius, who introduced the tulip to the Low Countries in 1593, after he was appointed prefect of the newly established Botanical Garden in Leiden. It is said that Clusius laid the foundations for the Dutch tulip bulb industry, but it’s probably more appropriate to credit the anonymous thieves who stole his bulbs from his garden and introduced them to the farmers who lived just behind the dunes, where the sandy soil proved to be perfect for growing tulips.
The tulip season runs from the end of March until mid-May, and the flowers are usually at their best halfway through April. To the north of Leiden, in the Bollenstreek region, you will find endless tulip fields in striking colours, and all trains from Amsterdam via Haarlem to The Hague run straight through them, in under fifteen minutes. Of course it is also possible to enjoy the tulips, daffodils & hyacinths at Zimmer speed, at the Keukenhof in Lisse, a lovely garden featuring seven million bulb flowers. Open during the first months of spring only, the Keukenhof can be easily reached from Leiden and Haarlem by bus (or bicycle). Out of season, avoid the Bollenstreek at all costs, for it’s a most desolate wasteland when not blossoming or blooming.keukenhof.nl