Am I the only gardener and tulip lover who travels to Holland in autumn? I asked myself that question as I packed to visit my daughter during her fall break in her study abroad program last semester. After all, if I were taking a proper gardener’s sojourn to this canal-filled country, it would be in peak bloom time (April/May) where I could pedal among the petals at the Keukenhof Gardens to enjoy the Dutch bulbfields.
That didn’t happen. In fact, the Keukenhof Gardens are closed in late October. But an autumn visit to this beautiful, small country didn’t disappoint. Poetry-filled walls in Leiden, the mastery of world-renown Dutch painters, a tree laden with global pleas for peace in Den Haag, bracing winds along the North Sea beach at Scheveningen, the Hortus botanicus, windmills, castles.and bicycles–lots and lots of bicycles–filled our days.
The Holland Bulb Market in Amsterdam did not disappoint. The interesting tidbit to note here is that the tulip did not originate in Holland. It began in Constantinople back in 1593 by botanist Carolus Clusius. His neighbors, seeing a good thing, stole them from him and began what is now known as the Dutch bulb trade. Tulip bulbs are not the only thing sold at the markets. Buyers can purchase canisters of all sorts of starter kits, including cannabis. My heart beat an extra step when I saw the very reasonable prices, but I did not buy any because many did not have the required customs stamp.
A leisurely afternoon visit to the Hortus Botanicus in the city center of Leiden provided hours of enjoyment and lots to look as we strolled along the garden’s paths and toured its tropical greenhouse. Founded in 1590 by the University of Leiden, the botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. There is an observatory on the grounds but we did not venture in.