Goliard Scholar: 1998

Leah Hill, Tulipomania by Bicycle

        The Netherlands is a nation which bursts into color every Spring, with its renowned display of tulips.  Tulips originated in Asia Minor, and were brought from Constantinople to Vienna in the 1500's.  Once introduced to Europe, the tulip became the most fashionable flower in both England and Holland.  In the 1630's interest in the flower developed into a craze, called Tulipomania. During this period, individual bulbs sold for high prices.  People invested their money in tulips as American businessmen mightinvest in steel or silver.  Many persons lost fortunes in the tulip market, paying thousands of guilders for a single hybrid bulb traded like shares on the Amsterdam Exchange, until the bubble burst, and the government was forced to regulate the trade in bulbs.

        Tulipomania today is exhibited through a dazzling display of tulips and  other spring bulbs in the Netherlands.  "The tulip trail" winds through Amsterdam and outlying areas, and is best experienced on a backroads bicycle trip, which allows envelopment in the sights and smells of the flowers. Tulip Week is the last week of May, which is near the end of the eight weektulip season.

        Showcasing 6 million bulbs is the Keukenhof, home of the tulip festival. It is about thirty miles from Amsterdam, and it is the world's largest garden.  Paved footpaths wind throughout 70 acres of lawns, lakes, woodlands, streams, and shrubs, all edged with rivers of bloom.  The Keukenhof is only one example of the many displays of tulips along "the tulip trail."

        The Netherlands is great for biking enthusiasts as it is for tulip lovers. It  is a flat, low-lying country, with 9000 miles of bicycle paths and more than 11 million bikes that serve all purposes. I would like to discover and partake of Tulipomania on bicycle.  I would arrive in Holland as early in May as my schedule permits.  I would carry my belongings with me, keep a raincoat on my back, and experience Tulipomania at its height.  "The tulip trail" would take me on a bike tour around the bulb fields of Western Holland, incorporating the Hague, Rotterdam andUtrecht, and smaller towns like Haarlem, Leiden and Delft.

       On my bike tour of the Netherlands, there would be much to experience besides the unparalleled flowers and gardens.  Amsterdam is a fascinating city in and of itself, with endless possibilities.  Among other things, it has magnificent museums, canals, "Brown Cafes," triple strength monk-make beer, and the extraordinary Red-Light District.

        There are many other parts of the Netherlands that would be great to delve into on my bicycle.   Potential destinations include the Hoge Veluwe, the country's largest national park, which is a strange mix of forests and woods, shifting sands and heath moors.  In May, there is Scheveningn Sand Week, where I would love to enter a sandcastle building contest.  May is also the start of mudwalking season in North Holland, which allows passage from the mainland to nearby islands across the mud flats when the tide is right.  Those are three of the countless things to be explored in the Netherlands.

        Also flat and low-lying are the neighboring countries of Belgium and Luxembourg.  Both are also bike-friendly, and would be great places to extend my bike tour of Tulipomania.  Belgium's northeastern city of Bruges is Europe's best-preserved medieval city, and ideal for tour by bike. Likewise, Luxembourg is a nation with medieval castles and winding cobblestone streets, with much to be seen and experienced.

        Given the means, I would fly into Amsterdam early in May.  I would tour the tulips, meet people, learn about the place, and with my bicycle and my backpack, take it from there.