A European Odyssey (Part VII) – Amsterdam (Day 2)

Day 2 was reserved for a guided tour to the world famous Keukenhof Gardens & the Zaanse Schans Windmill Village.

I walked from my hostel to behind the train station, took a free ferry across the IJ canal & again walked a short distance to the pickup point for the tour.

On the ferry

After a little confusion in identifying my tour operator, I was safely seated in the bus. The tour departed on time & no sooner had we left the perimeter of Amsterdam that tulip fields began to appear. We waited with bated breath for the best which was yet to come & before long we were at the Keukenhof Gardens gate which was to be our first port of call.

Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, Netherlands
The grand facade of the Keukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof (English: “Kitchen garden”), also known as the Garden of Europe, is one of the world’s largest flower gardens, situated in the town of Lisse, in the Netherlands. According to the official website, Keukenhof Park covers an area of 32 hectares (79 acres) and approximately 7 million flower bulbs are planted in the gardens annually. While Keukenhof is most known for its tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, lilies, roses, carnations and irises can also be seen. Keukenhof is open for just 8 weeks from mid-March to mid-May. The best time to view the tulips is around mid-April.

I had aced it unknowingly & happened to be at the gardens at the most appropriate time!!

Our guide ushered us in through the gates, escorted us for a while & then left everyone to wander & discover the gardens on their own with a brief to be back at the gate in 3 hours. THREE HOURS!! How was I going to kill that much time, I silently asked myself. I was going to be proved so wrong!!

Keukenhof is situated on the 15th-century hunting grounds of Slot Teylingen and was also the kitchen garden for that castle, providing the inhabitants with a plentiful source with game, fruit and vegetables. In 1638, the estate was bought by VOC captain and governor Adriaen Maertensz Block and in 1641 he had a large manor house built which he named Keukenhof, now known as Castle Keukenhof. 

Keukenhof as it is known today was established in 1949 by a consortium of bulb growers and flower exporters to showcase their products and help the export industry. The garden first opened to the public in 1950 and was deemed an instant hit with 20,000 visitors in its first year alone.

As I stepped forward among the blooms, a world more beautiful than my wildest imagination opened up before my eyes. Rows upon rows of tulips & other flowers filled my senses with a sense of awe & amazement. I’ll let some pictures do the talking.

 

 

The gardens were immaculately manicured with sparkling clear streams flowing in between.

 

 

Aside from the tulip gardens the Keukenhof features a variety of different garden styles. The English landscape garden has winding paths and unexpected see-through points. The historical garden is a walled garden where many of the historical strains are still grown annually. The nature garden is where shrubs and perennials are combined with bulbous plants and the Japanese country garden is a non-traditional garden in a natural environment. Four pavilions house rotating shows and flower exhibits.

One of the many sculptures in the park

 

Insides of a temporary exhibit

And before I realised, it was almost 3 hours & time to rush to the rendezvous. I made haste to one of the many souvenir shops & bought, what else, but four stems of tulips in different colours, a fitting souvenir to the Keukenhof Gardens.

We met our guide, were ushered into the bus & headed for our next destination, the Zaanse Schans Windmill Village.

The windmills at Kinderdijk are a group of 19 monumental windmills in the Alblasserwaard polder, in the province of South HollandNetherlands. Built in 1738 and 1740, to keep water out of the polder, it is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands and one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites. The mills are listed as national monuments and the entire area is a protected village view since 1993. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

The first views took my breath away!

Windmills at Kinderdijk
Windmills at Kinderdijk

The bus parked & we all ran out like kids to explore this wondrous & magical land of windmills.The first stop inside the complex was at the wooden clog making shop.

Wooden clogs
Some of the more intricately carved clogs

There was some interesting trivia about the tradition of wearing clogs.

 

We were treated to a display of the manufacturing process & also got to interact with the staff to learn more.

The clog making tools & machines

 

A display of finished clogs

We stepped out again & the backdrop just seemed perfect for a quick picture.

 

By now we were on our own exploring the place at our own pace. My next stop was the cheese factory where the staff took us through the whole manufacturing process & also offered many different varieties of cheese for tasting at the end.

The cheese factory at Kinderdijk
The cheese factory

That done I stepped out into the picture perfect weather again to capture some images of the inviting windmills.

 

 

 

I also treated myself to a bottle of freshly pressed orange juice. It was heavenly!

 

It was soon time to board the bus again for our return journey to Amsterdam.

A photo-op presented itself at the jetty which I had overlooked in the morning in hurry.

 

The sky was thick with clouds & there was a threat of rain. I hurried back to the shelter of my hostel. Dinner was found & I called it a day happy & satisfied with the events of Day 2 at Amsterdam.

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