Lisse, Netherlands…A spring trip to the Netherlands has been a dream of mine for years upon years. Winter, Summer nor Autumn were not even taken into consideration. It had to be a Spring trip !
When you think of Holland what comes to your mind? Windmills, cheese, wooden shoes, legal drugs, and of course tulips? To me, tulips are the number one attraction! In the spring they are everywhere. They are in colors of which one never dreamed. And, then there is a place where all these tulips are displayed in all of their glory, in all their colors and in all of their sizes and shapes! This place is the Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe!
Each autumn, seven million flower bulbs are planted at the garden of Keukenhof, in the tiny town of Lisse, in the Netherlands. The garden is carefully planned and flower-beds are fancifully shaped. The flowers are picked wisely so bulbs bloom in the whole garden, early to late in the season. The season is only eight weeks long. Such planning has cons and pros. On the one hand it means there is no time when all the flowers are in bloom at once . But it also means that whenever you visit, throughout the season, there will be plenty of tulips to enjoy. Plenty, but not all! For one it is rather a minus, as who wouldn’t want to see all the flowers blooming at once? I’m maybe avid, as I wanted to see them all! However, I understand that for the garden it is rather a plus, since it can be open eight weeks, and not two or three only.
The garden is open from mid-March to mid-May, however, the best time to visit is in mid-April. Mid-April appears as the middle of the entire tulip season. Theoretically, the biggest number of flowers should bloom then. However, it is not the rule. The most important and unpredictable factor is always Mother Nature herself. The timing of the tulips and other flowers varies depending on how cold or warm the winter has been. This was the part I was most unsure about. When I was buying a plane ticket, I did not know how cold the winter would be, nor how long it would last in Europe. I was wondering what if I get to Keukenhof in a time when none of the flowers are blooming yet, or what if all the tulips are already dead and removed? But I had to pick a date in advance to get quite a cheap deal and so I did! 18th April!
On the morning of 18th April, I awoke early and ready to take my journey. After arriving at my long-dream-place I experienced a shock! There was a gazillion of people at the entrance! Wherever I looked, there was a wall of people. My good mood disappeared. I hate crowded places. I have heard before that the garden becomes crowded during weekends and holidays, and that’s why I picked a weekday. I wanted to avoid super-hiper-crowds. Although it was Monday, the Keukenhof looked like a beehive, where people, instead of bees, surrounded flowers. I’ve been told that 55000 people visit the Keukenhof daily and it felt like all of them were there, at the same moment as me!. I was not prepared for that!
Keukenhof is a very nice place. It is a magnificent springtime exhibition of Dutch bulbs and a breathtaking array of floral displays. Strolling along the vast springtime gardens, I soaked up the variety of colors displayed in the tulips, crocuses, and other flowers with names I don’t even know! The sun that shone brightly made the colours of the flowers even more vivid. Hues of every existing color palette held and spoiled my eyes! Shades of purple, red, pink, orange, yellow, white, and then the less common colors of salmon or lilac were seen along with every twist and turn of the landscape! Flowers surrounded the ponds with geese, ducks, and swans swimming in their waters. They climbed onto small artificial waterfalls.
Tulips were basking in the sun as they were on a summer holiday, opening their petals and luring photographers. The bright, green grass, around the gardens, was flashy and looked so unreal as it would have been painted. It is a special, quick-growing variety of grass. It needs to cope with the shady trees and people who can’t read „do not walk on the grass” signs. It is re-seeded each year. Tall trees stopped the sun rays and created on this grassy carpet artsy shapes and contours. If the Enchanted Forest from the fairy tales does exist, it must look like the Keukenhof.
From time to time, I met one of few gardeners who mow the grass or pick up wilted flowers. It was just mid-April but some flowers were already gone. Others were showing their majestic and colorful apparition, some were trying to open and some were still sleeping calmly in their green, floral cocoons and waiting for the right time to come.
I was wandering the garden, trying to take some photos, but it turned out to be harder than I thought. A place that in my mind was a photographers’ paradise looked more like a photographers’ nightmare. So many beautiful and picturesque locations and so many people photobombing all the pics. I was wondering if the crowd ever disappears. The hope was pushing me forward. I was walking slowly, marveling at the beauty of this place and enjoying the weather. I tried to not enter into someone’s frame. I know how irritating it is when somebody crosses, or even worse, stops and stands, on the axis between my camera and my target.
Visiting the Keukenhof was an interesting experience. The garden provided me with a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy to be there. I was so happy to make one of my travel dreams come true. Then I was irritated by the tourists that obviously didn’t know how to behave in a public place. Then again I was happy when I finally found people-less spot of a colorful beauty. Then I was turning into a philosopher and wondered how many photos of flowers one can take before getting bored. Apparently many. More than many. All the people I met on my Keukenhof’s way were the walking evidence of that! In the Keukenhof, only the capacity of an SD card can be a limit.
Step by step, avoiding the bigger swarms of people, I got to the end of the garden marked by a narrow canal and a windmill. Although I have seen windmills before, in Holland and Poland, this one was my first and only seen up from close and personal. And it was even working. Surprisingly there were only a few people inside of it. I’m not sure if real windmills have an observation deck, but this one had! Thanks to it I saw the Keukenhof from up. The garden looked fabulously. If only there could be fewer people down there… Wishful thinking…
Behind the windmill and the canal, there are fields of tulips that don’t belong to the Keukenhof itself. They are devoted to flowers grown for the bulbs, rather than the blossoms, and you can walk through them after visiting the main garden.
The Keukenhof looks just like something from a fairy tale. It is a perfect place for taking pictures, admiring the colors of beautiful carpets and rivers of flowers flowing among trees, enjoying the first rays of spring sun, and training your patience!