Fields of flowers and carefully cultivated tulip beds fills most people’s imaginations when they think of Holland. To get the full force of a bouquet in the face, Dan & I took the 4 hour train/bus trip up to the Keukenhof last Saturday to check out the center of the floral vortex.
Before I get into the garden itself, I thought I’d mention that the Keukenhof isn’t terribly accessible from Maastricht. The major reason for this is the 3 hour train ride to either Schipol or Leiden Centraal. Following that, you’ll need to catch a bus (30-40 minutes) the rest of the way. Fortunately during open season there is a dedicated bus. We took the train up to Leiden Centraal, which gave us the opportunity to walk around a new town after our Keukenhof visit before we took the train back home. Hotels are pretty expensive, so if you do an overnight, book early.
Tickets aren’t too bad cost wise: 15 euros for adults or 21 euros for a combo entrance and bus pass. Guide books cost 4 euros, so we skipped that and just wandered around using the green houses for guidance.
For those who don’t know, the Keukenhof is a large and famous flower garden smack in the middle of the tulips fields around Lisse. They specialize (not surprisingly) in tulip varieties. This year’s theme is “From Russia with Love” and several areas in the park had Russian themed displays.
My own impression of the park was that it was very lovely, but a little sparse as we visited before many of the outdoor tulips had bloomed. The cool weather has slowed the growth this year I think, although the crocuses and daffodils both looked lovely. The path of blue/purple flowers between trees was particularly lovely. We enjoyed wandering off the main paths which were packed with people, and on to side paths that had fewer flowers blooming, but more of a rustic feel. I’m a rural girl. I like natural looking flowers.
Fortunately the indoor green houses allowed us to still see the huge variety of tulips that the Keukenhof keeps alive. Some of these varieties are very old and very unique. Dutch tulip breeding has gone well beyond the simple flutes we see in the U.S. And include many flowers with fridges, frilly and colorful leaves, three or more layers of petals and more.
In addition to flowers, the Keukenhof features many statues and a few creative landscaping features to make strolling around more fun. We especially liked this bull (Mortoro) created from an actual engine. Although naturally it don’t actually move it had a great, steampunk design that implies that it could suddenly come alive. I was surprised to learn that many of the statues in the garden are for sale. Getting your art into the Keukenhof must be something of a holy grail for statue creators in the Netherlands (if the prices are anything to go by anyway).
The central pond was very lovely and not only provided banks for colorful flower displays, it also features hopping “stones” over the water. They were fun to walk over, even if they were so full of people that I was sure someone was going for a swim.
The one thing I really didn’t like about the park is the large crowd, but I completely understand why it is so busy. The Keukenhof is only open for a short period of time every year and it is a very popular tourist ‘hot spot’ after all. I was also amused by how many people simply ignored the “stay off the grass’ signs; even going so far as to take pictures while standing right next to such a sign. We’ll probably go back again some time, but maybe not next year. Its one of those things you ought to do at least once.