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tulip mania

Roughly four centuries before bitcoin captivated the public’s imagination, a similarly unlikely commodity fueled the world’s first recorded speculative bubble. At the height of the Dutch Republic’s tulip mania, a single bulb of some tulip varieties sold for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. The bubble burst in 1637, but the Dutch obsession with tulips persists to a lesser extent to this day, as we learned during our brief stay in The Hague. We missed National Tulip Day, but even better — our visit coincided with the heart of the tulip season.

We had made a loop through the Low Countries, starting in Amsterdam, making several stops in Belgium, and visiting Luxembourg before returning to the Netherlands. The Hague was our final stopping point, a destination we chose less for its cultural appeal than for the opportunity it afforded to visit some close friends.

In fact, the most enjoyable part of our stay was being folded seamlessly into our friends’ everyday routine. Their children, who are a few years older than Munchkin, were off from school. We took the kids to the playground, picnicked in the park outside their house, and rode bikes to the beach. Munchkin was particularly excited about having access to a well-stocked playroom for the first time in two weeks. In the evening, after he would finally give in to sleep, we played board games downstairs.

The one exception to our otherwise low-key weekend was a visit to the Keukenhof, quite possibly Europe’s best-known flower garden. Each year, approximately seven million flower bulbs are planted throughout the park’s 32 hectares of impeccably manicured land. According to the Keukenhof’s website, more than one million people from over 100 countries visit the park, mostly between March and May, when tulips are in season.

The Keukenhof does not function like a typical botanical garden because none of the flowers are actually grown there. Rather, they are transplanted from nearby plantations, which enables some dazzling landscaping. Despite the obscene number of visitors crowding the Keukenhof during the peak season, it is still possible to find parts of the park where there are more flowers than tourists, and to snap some memorable photographs.

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