I love flowers and plants, so seeing Keukenhof Gardens in Holland has been on my list of things to do before I die. Today, I can mark that one off and they did not disappoint!! We had an 11hour day of tours and I walked 16,811 steps.
Facts I learned today:
1. The population of Holland is 17 million and they also have 17 million visitors per year.
2. You can drive all the way across Holland from Belgium to Germany in 2 hours.
3. Despite its long association with the Netherlands, the tulip actually originated in the Tian Shan mountain region of the Himalaya.
4. Keukenhof is only open eight weeks each year and, in that time, will welcome 1,000,000 visitors.
5. Keukenhof means kitchen garden. It opened in 1950 to display the tulips.
6. There are 7 million bulbs and 700 varieties planted in the garden this year.
7. The gardeners dig out these bulbs, at the end of each open season, and destroy them (by order of the growers). Most are used as food for livestock.
8. The bulbs can be bought year-round, but they are shipped in mid-August or September for planting mid-September to December. They bloom the following spring.
9. In the Amsterdam area only 12 of 600 windmills remain today.
We did a tour to the gardens and Zaanse Schans Windmill Village in Haarlem. Leaving our hotel after breakfast at 8:00 we took about an hour bus ride to Keukenhof. This is the weekend of the Flower Parade so it is the busiest weekend at Keukenfolf and I felt like at least half of the 1,000,000 visitors they are expecting this year were there today. It was very crowded. We spent the next 3 hours walking the 79 acres in the garden, oohing and aahing over tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, narcissus, and other flowering plants and trees (the cherry trees were exquisite) each groomed to perfection! Over 30 gardeners work full time year round and many part-time during the 8 week run of the show. As the blooms on the plants begin to fade they are cut off and discarded by these workers. There are four pavilions on the grounds also. One tells the story of the development of the tulip, one houses a huge display of orchids, another showed arrangements and scenes depicting the Romance in Flowers theme for the 2018 show and the last showed the finest species of many bulbs and plants. Amazing production.
We left the gardens and visited Zaanse Schans Windmill Village in Haarlem. Zaanse Schans is a well-preserved village of traditional houses, windmills and warehouses providing a glimpse of life in the Netherlands in the 18th and 19th centuries. The surrounding region was an industrial area with hundreds of windmills, which were used to power the milling of paper, mustard, oil and other products. Wandering through the village was free but admission charges apply to enter individual museums, workshops and windmills. We enjoyed viewing these unique houses and looking at the windmills in such a pretty setting.
Also on the tour was The Catherine Hoeve, which is an authentic 17th-century cheese farm. We attended a cheese making demonstration, as well as tasted the various products and explored the gift shop, where we found a wide variety of cow, sheep, and goat products. Needless to say, a few items made it back to our hotel with us.
We also learned a few things from a wooden clog making demonstration such as it takes 3 hours to make a clog by hand and 5 minutes to make one with their machines. There were wooden clogs hanging everywhere from infant size to sizes from the biggest athletes. They were in all colors and some decorated beautifully. I remember the pair of red children’s clogs Grandmother and Granddaddy Compton brought back from Holland and how all the Compton Grands wore them as they were growing up. Thankful that Ben and I are getting to walk many of the same paths they walked in their travels.
We ended our day taking the tram from the transportation center to near our hotel. The Amsterdam transportation system does not run quite as smoothly as our New York one.
We freshened up after returning to our room and walked 4 minutes to Pompa’s Italian Restaurant and had a delicious dinner - warm goat cheese salad with honey dressing, pasta with cream sauce and funghi (mushrooms), and finished with tiramisu for Ben and coconut ice cream for me. A delicious ending to a beautiful day.