Monday, May 21, 2012

Keukenhof Tulip Garden in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I've often heard about the tulip craze in Holland (now the Netherlands), but never really knew the nitty gritty details. After visiting the magnificent Keukenhof Tulip Garden in Amsterdam earlier this month, I decided to find out more.
I was surprised to learn that the tulip was not native to Holland. It was the Turks who introduced the tulip to the Dutch back in the late 1500s. The Dutch were instantly smitten with the unique, colorful tulip, a flower that was very different from other flowers they had known at the time.

At the turn of the 16th century, the Dutch were about to embark on its Golden Age, an era that put Holland on the map. Dutch trade, arts and science dominated Europe. The highly lucrative East Indies spice trade brought riches, power and influence to Amsterdam merchants. With new wealth came fancier homes, more ornate architecture and bigger gardens. The exotic tulip became a “coveted luxury item” and was highly sought after. Prices for the tulips skyrocketed, and thus began the financial speculation known as Tulipmania, which lasted from 1634-1637. People were literally betting their farm on the tulips. Per Investopedia, “at the peak of the market, a person could trade a single tulip for an entire estate, and, at the bottom, one tulip was the price of a common onion.” Ouch! The more I write about this, the more it sounds like our recent real estate bubble. History always has a way of repeating itself, doesn’t it?
Even after the bubble had burst, the Dutch continued to cultivate their favorite flower. Today, tulips are huge businesses in the Netherlands. The country is also one of the biggest exporters of bulbs and cut flowers. If you're planning a trip to Europe this spring, choose Amsterdam and put Keukenhof Garden on your itinerary. Let the kaleidoscope of colors from the 7 million flowering bulbs take your breath away. Keukenhof is opened to the public in the spring, from mid-March to mid-May, and from my experience, early May is the perfect time to visit. To avoid the crowds, go early on a weekday and plan to get lost in the 80-acre garden.

Now you know the rest of the story.

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