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Report 121: Three Months in Holland

By Marta (Moderator) from Washington State, Spring 1996

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Page 4 of 8: Tulip Time at Keukenhof and Haarlem

April 29, 1996 Last week the weather was wonderful. The weekend before last was warm and sunny. The temperature was over 20 degrees Celsius (70-75F for those Celsius challenged).

First I wanted to checkout the Saturday outdoor market. It is a large market along the canal (the Rijn). Most everything is sold at the market. You can find sunglasses, fabric, clothes, shoes, record and food. We wanted to purchase fresh vegetables and bread. We got some wonderful raisin rolls, a nice loaf of bread with lots of seeds, and some whole grain bread. For vegetables, first we stopped at the edible mushroom vendor and picked up some country mushrooms. Next we picked up some fruit and salad stuff. Of course we had to buy lots of cut flowers.

We also checked out the other supermarket. It has a good selection of Belgian beers so I now have a market close by to pick up the beer. We also stocked up on the basics, milk, water, and cookies.

The special event that weekend was the Bloemencorso, or blooms parade. The bulb farmers and businesses in the bulb growing area hold a parade during the prime bulb blooming time. The parade travels from Rijnwijk to Haarlem which is about 30km and takes all day to get from the start to the finish. We had picked up a schedule and it was due into Haarlem at about 7:30pm. So we decided to go there.

The train ride took us through some of the bulb growing area. From the train we could see several fields of yellow, pink, blue and white. Haarlem is a very picturesque town with a large square and church. The church is from the 1600's with a large organ that was played by Mozart when he visited the Netherlands. We followed the crowds and found a place to stand and wait the parade. The police had put up barricades along the route. And like any other parade it was late.

The parade was made up of about 12 floats and several cars decorated in floral arrangements. It was amazing. The theme of the parade was sports and each float was dedicated to a particular sport, tennis, car racing, soccer, swimming, horseback riding, etc. The float was decorated in flowers, mostly hyacinths and daffodils, but also greenhouse flowers. The cars would have an arch of flowers going from the hood to the rear bumper which were very cool. There were also marching bands.

The parade finished about 9pm and it was still pretty light. We walked around the shopping area of Haarlem and came back to the main square where there was a rock/soul band playing. We stuck around for a while. It's so strange to be standing next to a church several centuries old and listening to a rock band. We took the train back to Leiden.

The next day we visited Keukenhof, a large (70-acre) garden dedicated to flowering bulbs. It was a very warm day and everyone was visiting the garden. I later heard that 60,000 people visited that weekend. It was crowded but not unbearable because of the size of the garden. To get there, we took a bus from Leiden through the bulb growing area. It was spectacular. We walked along fields and fields of yellow, white, pink and blue. Plus the scent of the hyacinths was wonderful. The air was so perfumed in the warm sun. We saw lots of people on the bike paths and it made us envious since it was a perfect day to ride in the country.

The gardens were very good. George was in heaven. I think we saw every type of Daffodil grown. There were just a few tulips except in the greenhouses. We stayed about 4 hours and then returned home to Leiden.

The rest of the week was still sunny but it has been come cooler. The wind is from the north and is more chilling. George has been busy planting the window boxes. He has some seeds started in egg crates and he bought some pansies in the market on Wednesday.

Beer is wonderful. I have started to try several different beers from Belgium and Netherlands. Some are Belgium Ales such as Duvel, Kwak; Some are Belgium Red Ales which are very sour; I've bought a Lambic (geuze) which is a naturally fermented from the yeast that is airborne from the area around Brussels; Others are Abbey beers like Chimay. We've also had a wheat beer from Germany. Chocolate and Beer... I am in heaven.

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