This post is dedicated to my alma mater, Hope College in Holland, MI, in honor of today’s Hope Fund Scholarship Day Challenge. (Some of you remember that my college job was to call people associated with the college and ask for donations.) Today, The Hope Fund has a target pledge goal of 423 pledges in 24 hours and I plan on donating when I’m done writing this post. What does Hope College have to do with tulips or the Netherlands, you ask? Well, it was founded by Dutch reformed settlers in a town that was practically created by Dutch people. (With a name like “Holland”…) Furthermore, there is a huge tulip festival in Holland MI every May that is reportedly the 5th largest festival in the United States. You can learn more about Hope and it’s awesome programs here. Don’t pick the tulips in Holland MI, though, otherwise you’ll be fined $100 per stem!
I’m not sure if it’s because I went to Hope, but tulips have been my favorite flower for just about as long as I can remember. The 3 places I have been in the world with beautiful tulips everywhere are: Holland MI, Istanbul Turkey, and the Keukenhof Gardens which I just visited today! Yes, Dutch people got their tulips from the Turks, and yes, Turkey has nice tulips, but just getting to the Keukenhof on the bus from Schiphol airport will take you by fields and fields of vibrant reds, playful yellows and happy pinks. You can think of them as a “teaser” of what is to come in the actual park.
From Apeldoorn, I took the train to Schiphol airport, then shopped around and had some Starbucks (yes, a bit sacreligious, but The Netherlands have not impressed me with their decaf coffee), then used the map of Schiphol airport on the Keukenhof website to find the ticket counter selling bus and entrance tickets. I purchased a package of entrance ticket+bus ticket (2-way) for €23,50. Once I found the bus stop, I knew that I would be in for a long day. There was a super-long line just waiting for the bus. Luckily, the Dutch are quite organized and they had Disney-like line barriers up to make sure the line was moving in an orderly fashion. Apparently, I was not the only person who wanted to see these tulips today! This leads me to share one of my travel mantras with you: consider the opportunity cost. Are you someone who is completely put-off by crowds? This may not be an attraction designed with you in mind! Consider, however, that this is one of the most beautiful tulip gardens you will ever have the opportunity to see, and it is only open for 2 months out of every year. If you happen to find yourself in the Netherlands when the Keukenhof is open, prepare yourself for a crowd, suck it up, and go!
When you arrive at the front entrance, Disney-like images will pop up in front of you, but you’ve been clever enough to already have your ticket purchased, so you can just have your ticket scanned and enjoy yourself! If you don’t happen to see the map before entering, turn to your left and pick up one of the free maps in the gift shop. Once you get past the crowded circular fountain and mass of people lined up at both the self service and the sit-down restaurant, and the obnoxious carnival music that doesn’t stop, you will find yourself in a delightful garden with more flowers everywhere then you will actually be able to look at!
This year’s theme is Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, and one of the highlights of the day was seeing a replica of his portrait made completely out of tulips. You can also see a Japonese garden, flowering magnolia trees, walk through a maze of pine branches in order to get to a tulip field overlook, beautiful canals and waterfalls, a windmill, children’s playground, several strategically placed photo-ops with Dutch shoes, and massive amounts of tulips! Since tulips are my favorite flower, I enjoyed the garden immensely. It is done very well.
One of the most pleasant surprises was the exhibit of orchids, anthuriums and bromeliads. I have never been an orchid fan. There’s just something about them that I find to be too high-maintenance. I remember telling my mom and the florist that I didn’t really want any orchids in our wedding because I didn’t find them attractive. Well, entire species of orchid, I stand corrected. The orchids in the exhibit just took my breath away! If you are an orchid fan, this exhibit is for you!
The Keukenhof gardens are some of the nicest I’ve seen, and the perfect way to spend a spring day.