Stunning Tulips Just Go On, and On, and On at Keukenhof

Day 106, Grand World Voyage

Wednesday, April 19, 2023; Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“Stunning” best describes the floral display at Keukenhof, known as the most beautiful spring garden in Europe. I am thrilled that I was able to see even a small part of this 79-acres park that is only open eight weeks each spring.

Gardeners plant about 7 million flower bulbs each year, and during those eight weeks thousands of tourists admire the tulips, along with hyacinths, daffodils, lilies, roses, carnations and irises.

While you can fairly easily and inexpensively get to the park on your own via a bus or taxi, we signed up for the Holland America excursion for simplicity’s sake. Tour groups left the ship in staggered fashion for much of the morning. The park is about an hour out of the center city, and as we traveled our guide told us all about how tulips were brought to Holland from Turkey. Today even the majority of tulips sold in the United States come from the Netherlands.

We passed colorful sweeping fields of tulips as we neared the park. Keukenhof means kitchen garden, and that is exactly how it started in the 1400s – as a kitchen garden for the Teylingen Castle.

We hit peak season, which is mid April. The gardeners who plant the bulbs in the fall are careful to synchronize the plantings so there always are blooms during the eight-week season.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to explore much as I walked slowly wearing my leg brace and using crutches. But that really didn’t matter. There was plenty to amaze me in the small corner of the park that drew my attention.

Red marks the small part of Keukenhof I explored.

By the time we arrived, the crowds had grown. Had I been able, I probably would have headed for a back corner for a little more privacy. Although I’m not sure it would have worked. The park is limiting attendance to 40,000 people a day, and I’m sure they are meeting that limit. Still, it is a big area, with many winding paths, so traffic jams broke up quickly.

Words really do fail me, so I will just share some of my photographs.

I can’t leave Amsterdam without commenting about the huge number of bicycles. They are everywhere, of every type. It really makes sense in such a flat country, especially in the cities with dense population. I took a bike to Chicago and didn’t ride it – I never felt it was safe, between the cars, trucks and potholes. But here everyone obeys the traffic signals, and they even have signals for the bicycles. It all seems to work. I grabbed some photos from Elaine.

The city is booming, too. I haven’t seen so many building cranes in the sky since I was in China during the last decade. That’s a good sign, I hope!

After resting up in the afternoon, we watched the sail-away from the Crow’s Nest. As we travel farther north, the days grow longer, so all through dinner we could see the ship’s journey down the Noordzee Kanaal through the Ijmuiden lock (the world’s largest canal lock) and to the North Sea.

We were too tired to dress for the main dining room, but I was thrilled to see mussels on the seafood bar in the Lido Buffet!

Tomorrow we have a well anticipated sea day before another six-day stream of ports. Holland America’s president, Gus Antorcha, is sailing with us and will host a short talk and then question and answer period. I’m sure it will be interesting.