Well, not exactly Amsterdam, but rather Keukenhof at Lisse, just outside of Amsterdam.
‘Its spring again’ and with Oupa and Ouma visiting from SA what better destination to head off to see some tulips in Amsterdam!
Due to car-space being limited with six people and a dog on the road trip, the plan was to do a weekend trip to Holland, then return to Köln, stretch our legs and plan the next destination. Neither Oupa Cas nor Ouma Koekoe has been to Berlin, and we thought we should fit that in while they’re with us in Köln. However, mission one was ‘blomme kyk’, (flower watching) alla Namaqualand as this was the season and it’s ‘just around the corner’ from us.
Thus, with not much more than 2 days’ clothes and baggage we hit the road.
I have done some proper Namaqualand flower watching in South Africa and because its more wild and spread, its something really special. And being biased I will always say I prefer wild, expanse and untamed.
However, when you live in Europe, or travel Europe for that matter, its important to understand that this is old world; its been inhabited and tamed for centuries and thus non-built-up space is extremely rare. And that mere fact is something wonderful to keep in mind when visiting nature in Europe. Its not wild, with lions and ellies visiting camp sites but its purposefully preserved nature within an environment where pressure on new and modern is always increasing.
With this understanding in mind, and just one week after opening for the new spring season we stopped at Keukenhof with that cold north-sea wind I mentioned in Hup-Hup Holland chilling through our bones. It seems that the change in season memo and the fact that the sun sets much later nowadays didn’t reach that cold wind!
Keukenhof is a garden in Lisse, southeast of Amsterdam, which is annually prepared as a spring spectacle and has become a major tourist destination. The garden was established in 1949 by the then-mayor of Lisse. The idea was to present a flower exhibit where growers from all over the Netherlands and Europe could show off their hybrids – and help the Dutch export industry (the Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of flowers). From the beginning of autumn the team at Keukenhof plant no fewer than 7 million bulbs! Every time I see that statistic, I can’t help but wonder how old Willem and I would have faired with our wheelbarrow and ‘gardena’ little garden forks preparing for spring. Though we generalise by thinking only tulips when we think Holland’s flowers, they are by far the most impressive in beauty and variety for my untrained eye. There obviously are many more varieties in Keukenhof though. However, all the effort is worth their while as comes springtime, a spectacle of note springs to bloom, pun intended! And anyone who knows Oupa Cas and Ouma Koekoe will really understand that these two lovers of plants and gardening were out of their skins with delight with the spectacle. Oh and the ‘Belgians waffles’ were quite something too!
The sultans of the Ottoman Empire wore a tulip on their turban as a symbol. The name tulip comes from the Persian word for turban, tulipan.
As per Heleen and my travel philosophy we again did not book accommodation beforehand and this time it nearly backfired on us. After a few calls I did find a bed and breakfast outside Ter Aar but we were not impressed when first walking into the facility. It seemed to be quite rundown and not very clean, but it was already late and we did not have much of a choice but to take it. At least it wasn’t expensive and it did make for some nice photography the next morning. We had a good rest and a very good breakfast, typical Dutch style with various different kinds of bread, boiled eggs, cold meats and cheeses. And coffee, there must be coffee and there was. The important issue though, was that we were getting into the relaxing mode of travelling through Europe by road and we decided there and then that we’re not going back to Köln first, but we’ll hit the road through to Berlin.
But before Berlin, we had to take Katwijk aan Zee for a beer, Die Hoek van Holland for some great ‘fish and chips’ and a quick stop in Amsterdam to just ‘feel’ it for a future visit.
I don’t believe in straight driving and first had to traverse the Afsluijtdijk. Its something I remember from my Yellowwood Park primary school days when we did some lessons on the ‘dijk’s’ and ‘polders’ in the Netherlands. Ever since those days this magnificent piece of civil engineering amazed me and it was one of these ‘bucket list’ items that one lists for one-self without officially stating it as such. I now had the perfect opportunity.
The Asluijtdijk was constructed from 1927 to 1933; and remember, there were no Atlas, Bobcat, Demag or large earth moving equipment dozers available in those days! This dijk is 32km long, is 90 meters wide at its base and rises 7 meters above sea level. It was built to contain the Suiderzee and provide a causeway across the sea. By splitting the Suiderzee, it meant the end of the sea, and the creation of the Ijselmeer and Waddensea. It’s a spectacular sight and we were fortunate to also experience great photographic day.
Over the dijk I drove through the little town of Oosthuizen of which surname I also have a few friends and then I hit the long haul to Berlin! A two-day break-away just became a week trip and no-one minded as the six people, a dachshund and plenty to see and talk about had us all in pretty good spirit to build the anticipation for that magnificent world city, stooped in history which would be our base for the next four days.