Thursday, April 10, 2014

Keukenhof, Springtime, and all the bulbs.

"It is like heaven."

Holland in the springtime seems a bit like an experience beyond this present life. One of the big exports of this country is bulbs, so there are literally fields (and fields and fields and fields) of bulbs. Last Friday, Owen and I biked through some to get to the Keukenhof, one of the most prestigious gardens in the world. When we went, the tulips were just starting, and many of them were still closed, but there were many daffodils still and the hyacinths were at their peak.

We biked there and back (about an hour each way, supposedly, but we took our time and kept getting a little off track, so it ended up being a lot more) and the whole time it just felt like such a gift. Being here in this country is a gift. Being able to bike is a gift. The existence of such a park is a gift. Life itself is a gift.

They even have the park arranged so that every time you turn a corner there's something more to look at, and there are benches and fountains and places to just chill if you're getting sort of overloaded by the extreme amounts of beauty everywhere.

Another lovely thing about the Keukenhof is that they are pretty careful to make it pretty normal looking. It's not garish or overblown, and while it looks incredible and luxurious it doesn't seem like too much. It's like any chunk of it would seem like a normal park, except it's thousands of those chunks all out together, and carefully scheduled so that it will look good for a long while. Crocuses and tulips planted in the same beds so that they can tag team the display or some places where they have like five types of flowers all mixed together in long lines.

 There were (in addition to the gorgeous bulbs and generally impressive landscaping) an amazing number of flowering trees, many of which were raining petals, so that the air swirled with them. The immaculate grass in the whole park is off limits, but there are so many little walk ways and stepping stones that you never feel the want.

 We were so happy the whole time. We'd look at the map and ask each other "where do you want to go?" and we couldn't even answer. "Everywhere! Anywhere! We can also just sit on this bench for the rest of our time!"

And everywhere we went we discovered more beautiful parts of the park.

 Some of the tulips were so elaborate I had to check the sign to make sure they were actually tulips.

They had all sorts of things besides just flowers, too. There were playgrounds, a turning windmill you could climb up into, a petting zoo, a zip line and this excellent hedge maze.

There were also a lot of just interesting pieces of landscaping with an an adventure style flair. Zig zag ladders are surprisingly scary to climb.

Many places along the edge of the garden were lookouts, where you could see the fields of bulbs.

We had biked through some on the way there. The fields of hyacinths are something beyond description. You smell them before you see them, and then you can't smell enough of them.

They also had some greenhouses with plots of specialty flowers, all patchworked in close together. I'm looking forward to learning more about tulips and their history and impact on this country. There's a museum in Amsterdam all about tulips that I'm looking forward to visiting.

But for now, I'm enjoying them in windows, in the grocery stores and markets, people's little gardens and in the parks. If you'd like to hear a little bit about tulips, here's a nice video by John Green about tulips and The Netherlands.

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