I had a dream. A dream of spring. A dream of tulip fields in bloom below trees green with new
leaves. A dream of a flower haven where you can walk on paths in the midst of beauty which takes
your breath away. A dream of waking spring in the midst of explosion of colour. A dream of myself, alone with magnificent nature. I wanted to visit Keukenhof.
And now we are here. In a massive carpark where buses spit out crowds of visitors. An endless queue
stretches to the gates and behind them there is some awful circus music being played. It’s so
crowded that you cannot move. Is this what I dreamed about?
We quickly slip inside because we cleverly bought tickets in advance on the internet. Due to the
crowds I feel slightly dazed. This is not my spring dream! This is overcrowded chaos! I feel cheated.
Keukenhof. The biggest spring garden in the whole of Europe. In the 15th century there used to be
the kitchen garden of the Teylingen Castle. The foundation of the park was laid down in 1857 by
garden architects Jan David Zocher and his son Luis Paul Zocher, when they designed the current
English style garden.
The current Keukenhof was born thanks to the efforts of twenty traders with
flower bulbs who, in 1949, came up with a plan to use the park as an exhibition space. The result is
astonishing. These days there are five pavilions named after members of the royal family, 32
hectares of park interlaced with streams and paths, 7 million bulbs which come into bloom over two
months every year.
Once I saw pictures of this splendour on the internet and since then I have wanted to see it. But on
those pictures, there was no people.
We run through the biggest crowd behind the gate and dive among trees towards the smaller paths.
There are slightly less people there. Slowly I am starting to perceive the beauty of this place.
Wherever you look you can fest your eyes on a different interesting view. Colours, shapes, gigantic
patterns from cheerfully coloured flowers. Daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses and of course tulips, tulips
all over the place. Even if we are not here on our own, as I was naively imagining, it is still beautiful.
We admire the splendidly arranged flowerbeds, laugh at kitsch pavilions but still take pictures of us
in front of them. We walk through the various parts of the garden: Japanese, English, historical… We
jump on the stepping stones in the decorative lake. We are enjoying ourselves.
Later I found out that there are two days when the Keukenhof is at its busiest in the whole year.
Easter Monday and the day of the Bloemencorso show. On these days some visitors even don’t get into
the park as its capacity is full. Guess, when we visited… Of course we manage to hit the latter. But if you avoid these busy days and come in the morning, immediately after opening, you might
experience my flower dream. A dream about spring in splendour without people. I know I will do
that the next time.
We are visiting the exhibition pavilions. It is a little warmer there than outside, on the cool Dutch
April day. Inside there are various cultivars of tulips, roses, lilies… Everywhere around us are flowers
arrangements, often even more kitsch than the pavilions outside. At least there is something to look
We sit down in an alcove in a corner and eat a snack with a view of a stream outside. I lie down tired
on a bench. A lady on wheelchair passes by. Our eyes meet and we exchange smiles, the first of
many on that day.
Alternately we walk among the imaginatively made flowerbeds outside and exhibition halls, each of
which has its own theme. There are many people, that’s true. We have to weave our way through,
twist in a funny manner to take a picture with nobody in, as everybody else does. It makes me laugh.
These pictures will further spread the myth of a peopleless flower dream. So what – dreams are
A family passes by, in the middle a gentleman on a wheelie bed. He is smiling. That smile will stay
with me, I will take it home. Everybody here is smiling.
Maybe this place was not exactly what I wanted. It was not exactly what I imagined – but after all,
that’s what travel is about. It doesn’t matter.
Keukenhof has a smile for everybody.