Day 10 – A day of floral Art!!
Mid April to May is full on mad tulip season in the Netherlands, which was the whole reason we had planned our trip for the month of April. On our third day with Rob’s parents we headed to Kuekenhof Gardens to stare in awe at the 7 million blossoming flower buds arranged with artistic care. Kuekenhof means kitchen garden. This is a little bit like the Royal Easter Show in Sydney but instead of showing off live stock and commercial products the flower bulb companies plant an amazing array of flower bulbs that enlightens your senses. The bulbs with the care of the warm tender spring weather are a sight of delight. This allows flower bulb farmers to proudly show off the stunning end products. Consumers who are delighted and stunned by specific flowers can place an order and purchase the bulbs. Before going I was ignorant to the reason the gardens came into blossom each year. The high interest in visiting the gardens has added another money spinner to the event as bus loads of snappy happy tourists come in droves over a short space of a month to drink up the pretty surrounding of these wonderful gardens. This year’s theme is Romance in the Flowers. I was a lucky girl as Rob gave me a kiss amongst the flowers.
Keukenhof gardens was sensational. If you weren’t a flower lover it would have been hard not to be inspired by nature’s display of flowers. A sensory explosion of various colours, patterns, design and floral fragrances surround you. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths fill the landscape.
We were so, so lucky as in the Kylie Minogue song, as the minute we were amongst the flowers at Keukenhof Spring sprung. We had a beautiful sunny day and the warm day just kept rising. Twenty five degrees was extremely hot as we had been frozen in time for the last 4 months. Since it was such a glorious heat wave we went on a wonderful canal boat trip through the flowering fields surrounding Keukenhof. It was a 45 minute trip which started at the windmill in Keukenhof.
When we returned from our afternoon boat trip it wasn’t just a sea of ornamental flowers there was also a heavy storm front of people coming to merrily wander amongst the most beautiful spring park in the world. The mood and crowd was again another highlight. Rob likened it to an oldies theme park. The sweetest memory was Rob’s mum and I watching two sisters in their 90’s wandering over to the shade of a tree near the canal and sitting down against the tree trunk as if they had been doing it for years.
Late in the afternoon we left the sea of crowds behind and headed down the road to the Keukenhof Castle. It is an amazingly tranquil estate where a Spring wedding was being held. The castle was impressive with eye catching turrets and towers. The house was built in the 17th century in a Neo- Gothic romantic style. We have definitely learned so much about architecture and flowers on our trip away.
Another adorable experience was at the patting farm on the castle grounds. We came across hairy fanged pigs that only a mother could love. They grunted loudest at us as the wanted to be fed.
A duck was merrily enjoying the spring day. It was feverishly bobbing up and down in the water. Rob decided to feed some of the goats and miniature ponies with juicy green grass through the fence and what a commotion. Every animal came running and grunting across the field. We were all stunned at the noise of the pigs grunting so loudly as they waddled feverishly across the field. It was a funny home video moment. Rob thought the whole fence was going to come down on the rush of their eager approach. It was like they thought Rob was Santa!!!!
Day 11 – Our last day in the Netherlands
Royal Flora Holland
Our last memory was made special as we were up early to visit the Royal Flora Holland. This is like the flower stock exchange. The largest international trading platform for flowers and plants in the world. We had a wonderful experience as we drove out over the bridge from our water front home. We had been watching a family of geese and their babies each morning from our bedroom window. These was the first time we had been up close to this proud young family. It was a wonderful heart warming experience where we got to see how protective the mother and father geese were over their babies. One parent was at the front and one at the back keeping them all together. A very endearing experience watch how fauna cares for their young.
The early morning sun also topped off our morning. We will truly miss being immersed in the beauty of fauna and flora. The Spring sun shone its gold raise in glorious glory all over the grassy green fields whilst wild birds in droves grazed in the morning sun. They were all sharing in the glory of a new day.
As we drove to the flower auction house we could see all the artificial lights in the green houses. Here the environment and temperatures can be controlled. After seeing these power houses we are at a loss to why families around the world still starve. We get money is power which is sad as there really is enough for all I am sure. After seeing how many flowers there are produced the world could all be fed if the right people really wanted to help!!!!
The flower auction house completed our cycle of inquiry learning about flowers in the Netherlands.
During the late hours of night flowers that have been grown in poly tunnels the size of 16 football fields, are flown in by plane from all over the world. Top importing countries are Kenya, Ethiopia, Israel, Belgium and Germany. On arrival with no time to waste they are placed in air conditioned trucks like Royals and driven swiftly to Royal Flora Holland Auction House. Time is of the essence as the flowers need to be kept in tip top condition.
When the flowers come off the trucks the flowers need to be displayed so they look their best for the flower auction. Therefore a lot of people are employed to arrange cut and make sure the flowers are place in an anti fungal solution. They once again get the Royal treatment. The flowers are stored on trolleys in a chilled room this stops the buds from opening. Buyers can come early and view the flowers.
The flower auction starts at 6-00am. Tourists can view the auction house from 7-00am to 9-00am on the day we went. We were there as the clock struck 7-00 and so were many other excited tourists. Some came on tourist buses and some in slick black cars paying a pretty price for a private driver to escort them.
After shuffling along with the moving crowd we paid our entrance fee of 7-50 euros each and climb the stairs to view the inner bee hive of the famous flower stock exchange.
If your passion is to bee a fork lift driver this is the Rolls Royce of factories to work in. The sweet perfume aroma filled the factory which was the size of many, many football fields in length. The be precise that’s 220 football fields!!!!!! Crazy!!!!!!! It was spellbinding seeing the amount of flowers being moved around on electronic connecting trolleys like a floral ghost train which belonged on a fantasy island.
This is when we really understood how much of a commodity flowers are. A national power house in revenue for the Dutch!!! Just some facts that we learned were that;
8,8 million euros in turned over per day
4,6 billion euros turned over per year!!!
30 million flowers and plants sold per day!!!
We peered into the auction room. A hub of serious business. Men sitting in their seats watching the Auction Clock full of adrenaline ready to stop the clock by a push of a button.
A ticking lecture theatre powered by the all impressive Dutch Auction Clocks which could make or break a man at the push of a button sold to the first person who dares to risks to pay the highest price. The clock starts at the highest price and tells the buyer important information such as the supplier, the country of production, the inspection grade, how many flowers in a bunch, how long the stems are and quantity available.
Once the complete quantity of select flowers are sold the trolley of flowers electronically makes its way amongst the parading floral carriages onto the factory floor.
Computer printouts of the sold bundles of flowers are then printed out on the factory floor, then handed to a forklift driver who collects his chariot and eagerly begins delivering his flowers to various numbered buyers three storey trolleys. It is a mad hub of activity. A real buzz was in the air, as it is a race against time.
The maze of floral carriages buzzing around looked like a miniature version of driving on the Italian roads. Forklifts whizzing around on caffeine cutting in front of each other with no rules governing the space. I know there is probably a very strict protocol but to the tourist observer like us it just looked like as Maxwell Smart would say Chaos!!!
When the buyers trolley was full it looked little a colourful bouquet.
This trolleys would then be moved again to the shipping bay where big trucks would then carry the flowers by road or back on a plane to be sold in florets or supermarket or wholesalers then had to start the game again of selling the flowers online.
The top 5 countries buying the flowers are Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Belgium.
Finally consumers like myself could then purchase these flowers thinking they had only just been picked somewhere close to home. How ignorant Rob and I were to the flower monopoly game!!!! I will now take extra care of the wonderful Lillie’s Rob buys me.
Later that morning when we returned home we found we had a visitor. Friends just keep coming to visit us here in waterfront holiday house. We decided to test out whether a golden retriever would be a good match for us when we return home??? Yes this olden girl stole my heart.
We took an afternoon walk with Rob’s parents in the wonderful Amsterdam BOS meaning forest. It is the largest man made park in the world. Our walk through these very unique woods lead us across beautiful bridges and through shady forest paths. Rob’s mum was overwhelmed with joy when she stopped a whole village of enormously large stork nests in the forest canopy. Baby stork chicks squawked loudly when their parents returned to feed them. The noise was very prehistoric. We wandered around on and found an over turned tree with its root system exposed high in the air. The forest floor was was alive with a carpet of tiny yellow star stars. Horse riding schools with confident mounted children in after school riding schools trotted along the paths. The weather was so glorious that Rob’s dad took us for celebration beer at the local pub that was over 10 years old. The interior was done in dark stained oak timber with stunning vintage lighting a juke box and a wonderful cat called Yoke. His fur was long and silky. This is how we ended our time with Rob’s parents. They are about to embark on a golden 8 week holiday together. Even we are in awe of their trip as they will be doing a 7 day cruise up through the famous Rhine River.
On our way home we visited the cute town of Abcoude. This is a gorgeously cute village that is 5 minutes from where we were staying in Vinkeveen. It was a stunningly warm late afternoon as the temperatures had hit a record. The warmest Spring day in 70 years, a top of 29 degrees. I knew something felt familiar just like most days of the year at home. Children and adults alike were enjoying the long awaited arrival of Spring this year. It just suddenly appeared 10 days into our visit in the Netherlands with only a little over a week left in the month of April.
The quaint town of Abcoude was alive with festive Spring flowers. It’s narrow streets were decorated by numerous canal bridges which we have fallen in love with. We enjoy watching the roads lift up to let the canal boats slowly cruise through the quiet waters amongst stunning feathered ducks, Black tiny water hens, geese and elegant elephant sized swans. Children for the first time this year were in swimmers playing in the canal water with their pearly Snow White skin. It seemed totally acceptable adults to strip down to their bare underwear and soak up the sun in the park.
We drank up every last minute of our time here by meandering along the canal and exploring the beautiful feel of this village. It was definitely ice cream season.
We have really relished in our adventures here in the Netherlands it is a wetland filled with bird life. We have enjoyed keeping a track on our young family of geese and watching the sunsets from our rooftop. We would return in a heartbeat it has kindled a new found interest in bird life and flowers. Rural life has always held its attraction to me as I am not a pretty in pink girl.