AMSTERDAM – Just as visitors to the Western Cape and Northern Cape of South Africa are treated to fields of wild flowers in South Africa’s springtime, so too are expats in the Netherlands treated to spring flower fields around the nation as the country’s famous tulips burst into bloom at this time of year… painting the countryside with dazzling swathes of red, white, blue, yellow and purple.
And it’s not just the locals that get to enjoy them.
More than a million foreign sightseers are expected to visit the Netherlands on Easter weekend, which is a record according to the Dutch Tourism Bureau.
That’s a LOT of visitors for a country that only has 17 million people!
Tourism Director Jos Vranken said he expects them to spend 300 million euros — a boon for the national economy. Many are attracted to the country’s museums and other cultural offerings, but in April, the flower fields and Keukenhof flower show in The Hague top many “must see” lists.
While flower lovers and the photographs they share on social media are free advertising for the country’s tourism, cut flower and bulb industries, it isn’t all a bed of roses.
“That has a downside,” Vranken said. “Farmers are having increasing damage to their fields from tourists taking photos.”
Foreign and Dutch tourists alike have learned to use “Flower Radar” websites to identify where fields are in bloom, especially in the main bulb-growing centre known as the “Bollenstreek” along the coast between Haarlem and Leiden.
DO NOT TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS
Signs and barricades — now printed in Chinese and English — saying “Enjoy the Flowers, Respect Our Pride” have gone up at the edge of many fields.
They illustrate the concept that taking photos at the edge of a field is okay, but actually walking among the flowers to take pictures ruins them.
Meanwhile, farmers in less-promoted areas of the country sense an opportunity.
In Creil, northwest of Amsterdam, one enterprising group has set up a “Tulip Experience” complete with designated selfie area, hundreds of tulip varieties on display, helicopter tours, food and drinks, and bouncy castles for kids.
If you can’t make it to the Netherlands for the weekend, enjoy these photos instead (and maybe book for next year!):
(Reporting by Toby Sterling/Reuters; Editing by Toby Chopra/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)