HOW FAR TO THE TULIPS? – cycling there from Amsterdam

This is what I want to see. Can I get there on the bike?

I’d seen them before, but I never get tired of them.



The Dutch countryside is nearly all beautiful. The nice thing about cycling out from Amsterdam is that you can ride in any direction with the wind at your back, then take the train back home.

I did just that today. I set out with no plans, and found myself blown inexorably towards the tulip fields.

My route out of Amsterdam takes me past the houseboats between the Schinkel Canal and the Nieuwe Meer...

My route out of Amsterdam took me past the houseboats between the Schinkel Canal and the Nieuwe Meer…


...then out through the the Amsterdamse Bos (Forest).

…then out through the Amsterdamse Bos (Forest).

From there I let the wind blow me out to Aalsmeer, home to the biggest flower market in the world, housed in the world’s biggest building, by area. It’s an extraordinary place, but I’d seen it before, so I cycled on…

Only in the Netherlands. An elaborate bridge over a major road, just for cyclists.

Only in the Netherlands. An elaborate bridge over a road, just for cyclists.

Another highlight of Aalsmeer. 'The most beautiful water tower in the Netherlands,' they say.  I haven't seen all the others, so I won't argue. But Mr Sander's 1927 art deco effort would be hard to beat.

A highlight of Aalsmeer. ‘The most beautiful water tower in the Netherlands,’ they say. I haven’t seen all the others, so I won’t argue. But Mr Sander’s 1927 art deco effort would be hard to beat.

I followed the signs towards Lisse, the nearest town to the tulip gardens of the Keukenhof, and suddenly there they were…

A first glimpse.

A first glimpse.

A field of tulips. I always thought they were grown for the cut flower industry. Then I thought again. When you buy a bunch of tulips, the heads are still shut. So all the blooming fields are being grown for the trade in bulbs.

A field of tulips. I always thought they were grown for the cut flower industry. Then I thought again. When you buy a bunch of tulips, the heads are still shut. So all the blooming fields are being grown for the trade in bulbs.

Here's a close up.

Here’s a close up.

I took a break for koffie and appeltaart in Lisse, then the north-west wind carried me further south-east.

When I saw roadside signs pointing along the Bollenstreekroute (Bulb District Route) I started to follow them.

By the time I sailed into the university town of Leiden I had more than 60 kilometres racked up on the bike computer. It also told me that I’d gained 310 metres in elevation and lost 2100 calories in energy. I don’t know what that translates into in centimetres lost from the girth, but with wind at my back it didn’t feel too bad.

It was a ride worth repeating.

Here’s the route I took:http://connect.garmin.com/activity/306121938

Tulip fields ride

Apart from during weekday peak hours, you can take a bike anywhere on Dutch trains with a EUR6 day ticket. That’s very good value if it avoids a long push into a headwind!

Honour has been satisfied. I can take the train back from here.

Honour had been satisfied. I could take the train back to Amsterdam from here.

21 Comments

Filed under Cycle touring, Cycling, Holland

21 responses to “HOW FAR TO THE TULIPS? – cycling there from Amsterdam

  1. Hazel Jeannes

    Next life i want to be born in Holland.
    Hazel

  2. You were a hop, skip and a jump…. Next time.

  3. If the wind is blowing that way, John – definitely!

  4. Beautiful! I wanted to go on Saturday, but the trains didn’t run to the Bulb area because of works on the tracks. I found it too far from Leiden, but now I see you even cycled there from Amsterdam! Respect! 🙂

  5. This weekend is Flower Parade in Spalding – it used to be Tulip Parade but they don’t grow tulips there any more…http://anotherbagmoretravel.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/spalding-flower-parade/

    • Interesting to read in your post that growing tulips became less profitable than, say vegetables, Andrew.

      I wonder how much money there is in bulbs. Bunches of tulips are absurdly cheap in Amsterdam supermarkets – not enough to cover the handling costs, you would think.

      • Farmers in Lincolnshire stopped growing tulips in the 1970s and 80s because they couldn’t compete with farmers in the Netherlands. Now they grow daffodils instead and when the growing season is over they replace them with potatoes.

        One of my favourite tulip stories – The name Tulip was apparently first applied to the plant by a man called Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq who was a Dutch ambassador in Turkey in the sixteenth century. One day he was talking to a sultan and he noticed that he was wearing an attractive flower in his head wear. Busbecq was curious about the flower and pointed to it and enquired its name. In Turkey the name of the flower was a Lale but the Sultan tought he meant what is the name of his hat so he told him it was a Tulipan or turban and Busbeqc, who completely misunderstood, acquired some bulbs and sent them back to Europe with the information that they were called Tulipa.

        Might be true, might not be, I hope it is!

  6. Rob

    Ah, memories! In 2011 at exactly this time we caught a bus from Leiden (all the hire bikes were taken) to fabulous Keukenhof, where the (orange of course) bikes were available from a chaotic hire outlet – cycled to the fields and the coast, had superb weather and a wonderful time. And here in Brisbane it’s autumnal (and we have bike path bridges over main roads too!) – also perfect cycling weather. Getting out our trip diary, time to reminisce……

  7. Caroline

    Loved the pictures, Richard. I’m so glad I found your blog. It’s always interesting and let’s me ‘revisit’ my second ‘homeland’ vicariously through you. Thanks!

  8. Nice story, Andrew (above)!

    I knew that tulips came originally from Turkey – and probably still do when the Dutch spring is so late arriving!

  9. We all know you got on the train since you didn’t want to take on the headwind on the way back.
    Fair weather cyclist it seems…
    (I’m just jealous that there is nowhere as interesting to ride in Sydney so easily even though I have a new bike!)

  10. Some great sites along your route. I love the water tower! You are making me jealous – riding in one of the homes of cycling.

    • It was a great ride, Chris. There were a few kilometres of juddering over tiled or bricked sections, but that’s a quibble. Almost the whole route was on designated cycle paths, separated from cars by at least a white line. And no question about the quality of the scenery.

  11. I don’t think I could ever tire of tulips either, what a gorgeous day for a bike ride.

  12. Reblogged this on Write Light and commented:
    My grandfather came to America from Holland, so I appreciate your wonderful pictures. Makes me feel like I’ve connected with my ancestors in a vague sort of way. I never met my grandparents, they’d passed on before I was born. From what I understand, the part of Holland they hailed from is now under the great sea.

  13. You’re such an adventurous spirit, Richard – love the pics! Oh – and the “break for koffie and appeltaart” – why no pics of that? 😉

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