Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016: Keukenhof Gardens & Haarlem, The Netherlands

Our original plans were to be packed and leave our gracious host today. We would visit the Keukenhof Gardens and stop in the city of Haarlem before driving to North Holland.  Yesterday our host convinced us that we would be tired after walking through the whole Gardens and around the city of Haarlem so we should return to her house again tonight, allowing us to have a fresh start tomorrow to drive north.  After some thought we decided to do so.

Keukenhof Gardens is a top tourist spot in Holland. You want to arrive at the gate early – that is by 8:30. This morning there was no line to get tickets and actually very few people were there until about 11:00, when all of a sudden they were coming by the bus full.                  

Keukenhof Gardens is open from mid-March to mid-May each year for guest to see the 7 million spring bulbs in bloom – yes 7 million are planted each year and then thrown away after 1 season of blooming. Can you imagine the work of replanting that many bulbs each year? 

This spring has been cool, so actually the hyacinths and daffodils were the primary bulbs in bloom.  There were some early tulips with opened blooms, but there were tulip buds in all stages of maturity, which will open in the following weeks. Maybe we are a week early in going into the Gardens, but next weekend with the flower parades, it will be an extremely busy time

I wish there was some way to include a scent scratch patch in this blog so you could smell the hyacinths.  Right now the whole garden was scented with hyacinths.  

We strolled the Gardens from 8:30 to 12:00.  Taking many photos from all angles!! Enjoy the photos. 

We then drove ‘back roads’ pass hyacinth and daffodil bulb fields to the city of Haarlem.  After parking we walked to the Great Church/Market square, where we sat in the sun, like everyone else, eating lunch.   

One of the few Tulip fields we have seen

The Great Church of Haarlem is honored to say that in 1766 Mozart played its fabulous organ at the age of 10 years, and later by Handel.  It is a beautiful organ with 5068 pipes.

Haarlem is known for its “Hidden Green Oasis” or Hofjes – Hofjes began as almshouses for impoverished/elderly women in need. There were 3 types of hofjes – ones ran by churches; ones ran by corporations; and ones ran by guilds. 

There is a church hofje in the center of Amsterdam that is listed in tourist guides, and many people who tour Amsterdam include it in their itinerary, but actually Haarlem has many more. We have visited some of them in the past, and we decided we wanted to visit them again.

The Tourist Information office has a listing with the location of the hofjes in the city.  A hofje is a concealed oasis in the heart of the city.  Most of them are behind heavy doors and concealed entrances. However, you open the door and walk into an oasis – a community of usually 10 quaint little houses surrounding pretty gardens. They are not always easy to find, and some are very private. We had fun locating 7 hofjes this afternoon – it is a search and find game!
Entrance to Appelaarsteeg Hofje, 1395

Tylershofje, 1785

Bruningshofje, 1610

Brouwnershofje, 1472

However, by 4:30 we were extremely tired and gladly returned to our friend’s home only 20 minutes away.  Our friend was so correct about us staying with her tonight.  Tomorrow we will start out fresh, driving to northern Holland. 


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