Summer … & wanting to avoid popular hill-stations, we scouted for options. Europe had been in my mind but we had only a fortnight at our disposal. Choosing the places was proving to be a tad tedious & we didn’t want to be marshaled in herds by tour operators, who covered 10 countries in a week! We had 2 senior citizens with us & hence had to choose wisely.
The scene of wading ducks on limpid lakes, bordered by thatched-roof cottages that had whirling windmills on their crest & pretty tulips at their feet, flashed before my eyes & I knew Holland was to be counted. So we planned our holiday around Tulip time.
3 out of 17 days & we wanted the best that Holland could offer. So, Amsterdam was the only option. However, we hoped to shun crowds & travel at our own pace. And, this is what we did..
Day 1 saw us flocking to Keukenhof for the Tulip Festival, Day 2 had us touring Amsterdam City & Day 3 was what formed the highlight of this trip. That was to Little Venice in Netherlands!
May 2019 & we landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at 7 in the morning. We checked into a home-stay in Alsmeer about 8 kms from the airport. The afternoon saw us heading for Keukenhof Tulip Gardens.
A 30 minute bus ride from Alsmeer brought us to Keukenhof. Located in the town of Lisse, this jaw-dropping Garden of Europe, sprawled across 32 hectares, was nothing short of a lotus land! Every eye that beheld these vernal delights, glinted with an unbidden, “Ye kahan aa gaye hum”..😊(a popular Bollywood number)
A carpet of green stretched before us as far as the eyes could see & dotting this lush blanket were countless blossoms (estimated to be 7 million & more) dancing in glee as the golden sunlight cast its balmy glow, that sunny afternoon.
This emerald green turf awash with the prettiest & daintiest of blossoms sparkled with a mirthful resplendence.
It seemed like a grassy velvet box, bedecked with the most brilliant of floral gems.
The fragrance of freshness on the dew-drenched meadow mingled with the nippy air, suffusing the atmosphere with an invigorating headiness.
Far afield, were tulips in crimson, magenta, lilac, pink, lavender, orange & cream —some streaked, some plain, but all fresh & blithe, injecting pure joy & wonderment.
Some lay in clusters of lavender & lilac ―each complementing the other; or in yellow & red, with each highlighting the other.
The lilac & mauve seemed to blend ―as if made for each other.
The pinks stood pirouetting & flaunting their heady insouciance, amidst the royal reds & the joyful yellows.
A trail of blue, hedged a carpet of red ―both wanting to present a ‘blue ribbon’ & ‘roll out a red carpet’, maybe to the dew, perhaps to the rain, or could it be to the breeze?
Baskets full of posies lay strewn about the meadow, as if waiting to shower on the flower of the flock.
Twirling tulips like tiny tots looking up to their tutor, gathered around a canopy of trees & it seemed as if the towering tree had an ‘understory’ to reveal.
There were tulips in scarlet, which played cheer-leaders to perhaps bold trailblazers.
Van Goh Tulips
The most interesting however, were the dark maroon Van Goh Tulips, named after the renowned Dutch painter —Vincent Van Gogh.
Somewhere amidst the garden variety, they stood out like chalk & cheese.
Punctuating the mead, were towering trees smiling at the blooming blossoms below.
Cleaving their way through the parterres were streams bestrewn with pebbles & stones.
At a distance, a host of golden daffodils danced to the tune of the gentle breeze. Their golden glow cast a cheerful aura that was so infectious, that for moments, we stood glued to the spot.
Perhaps that was how Wordsworth had felt when he penned, “Ten thousand saw I at a glance” ..☺️
These delicate daffodils played the ‘lady- in- waiting’ to the reigning Queen & her multi-hued offspring ―The Tulips..
And there were the Maids of Honour & delightful damsels also, who were happy playing second fiddle in this enchanting Tulip Garden.
While flowers of a color flocked together, others formed a pretty potpourri! And this is what appealed to me the most.
Like lockets studded with multi-colored precious gems, they shone radiating their prismatic brilliance!
There was something magical about this colorful medley. Unlike the others that were grouped as ‘reds’, ‘violets’ & ‘whites’, this colorful melange was delightfully cheering. Each color seemed to highlight another & each seemed to be highlighted by the other! The white formed a backdrop for the maroon, which in turn brought out the beauty of the pinks.
Dollops of colors from Nature’s glorious palette splashed all over, made for this gorgeous canvas.
Frilly Tulips in pink & purple
The Wishing Well
Somewhere among the blooming Tulips & Narcissus, was this Wishing Well, in which one could drop a coin or two & wish for the stars & the moon, or remain a well-wisher of this Planet☺️.
Wading our way through the sea of flowers, we came across a few pavilions —5 in all, which showcased numerous indoor flower shows.
Juliana Pavilion was where we got a peek into the history of Tulips.
Heaped in baskets & craters were hundreds of Tulip bulbs for sale.
The Willem-Alexander Pavilion, Oranje Nassau Pavilion & Beatrix Pavilion too had a plethora of flowers ingeniously planted in unique containers.
There were bathtubs overflowing with flower beds, flower beds bestrewn with dainty blossoms, nosegays burgeoning from colorful containers, pretty parasols rendering a sunny look, delicate trellises espaliered with floral climbers & vines, & cutouts of butterflies in countless colors .
Tulips commanded the scene outside but within, were colorful Anthuriums, Amaryllis, Rhododendrons, African Daises, Hyacinths, Cockscombs, Calla Lilies, Lilacs & rainbow-hued Hydrangeas.
And adding sparkle to these sweet scented creations that stood as wallflowers, were a number of gurgling water fountains.
Blooming freely outside, were wildflowers like Rhododendrons & Bird Cherries in blushing pinks & gay purple. Rooted to the spot, we stretched our gaze far & wide to behold this fantastic array!
An instant gleam, a spontaneous ‘wow’, a beaming smile, were the exact aftermath reflected on all faces. Naturally, these celestial beauties formed the perfect backdrop for several snapshots..
Shutting out all other distractions, I focused my attention on these. Transfixing my gaze, I soaked in all that I could & locked the rest in my lens.
Very close to Juliana Pavilion was a pond with stepping stones & flowing fountains. This is never to be missed & cannot be missed. On one side was this grassy lawn abloom, & on the other was a glassy pond with stepping stones. Amid the pond was a fountain, teasing visitors who braved the depth below & the advancing stream of tourists, who paused to pose & continued to trod!
Surrounding the pond were trees that stood as mute spectators to the toing & froing, perhaps amused; perhaps curious.
And, oblivious to the din, was a paddling of ducks, gently gliding down the stream.
While we flitted from flower to flower, this figure preferred to sit beneath the boughs & smell the roses..Was that put there to remind us to slow down & relish the moment? Was it Davies himself?😉
The evening sun had begun to throw light on shadows; it was time to leave. There was much more to Keukenhof, but we had miles to go & promises to keep. Nevertheless, we were glad that we timed our holiday well & chose Holland.
Afraid that I’d lose sight of all that I had just beheld, I deliberately shut my eyes to recapture everything. Perhaps it was the filming of Silsila in Keukenhof some moons ago that had inspired the lyricist to churn out ‘Dekha Ek Khwab’.. 😊 Needless to say, the song seemed so synonymous with my experience that day ―’Dekh ek khwab to yeh silsile hue’..
These little wonders ―Nature’s bounties cherished for generations & regenerated by a nation teeming with ardent gardeners had held us in their thrall! Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child or a garden patch..this is to have succeeded”, seemed to echo along the garden path!
I also couldn’t help recalling Mao Zedong’s words, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend”.
Perhaps this flourishing of ideas is what is needed to save the Earth..That’s what Flower Power is!
Parting Words: Keukenhof is open only during spring —from mid-March to mid-May, so time your visit accordingly. Occasionally due to seasonal impact, tulips do bloom late; that depends entirely on luck. Perhaps, May may not disappoint you.
Wheelchairs are available for free but must be booked at least a week in advance.
‘Skip-the Line Admissions’ save time; do opt for it. Or you could procure tickets right at the airport.
If you want the whole garden to yourself, try visiting before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. Better still, try to start early & linger longer; schedule a day more to capture greener pastures. You’d emerge as fresh as a … shall I say, Tulip? 😊
To take a peek at ‘Venice of Holland’, click on http://www.tra-verse.com/geithoorn/