It’s tulip season in the Netherlands and what better way to enjoy that than by cycling past the splendid colours of the bulb flower fields. Taking in this wonderful sight is a favourite pastime for Dutch people and tourists alike. With the exceptionally good weather over the past Easter long weekend many people joined me in a trip to the tulips.
It’s one of the perks of living in a small country; every corner of it can be reached in just a few hours. You can then enjoy the sights and be back home in time for dinner. I went to the north of the province of North-Holland, about 70 km north of Amsterdam, to go to the many bulb flower fields around the town of Schagen. This is a familiar part of the country for me. Not only do I have family from my mother’s side in Alkmaar now (I showed you how I cycled to my aunt’s birthday last year), I also have a somewhat macabre connection to Schagen itself. My grandparents and one of their sons used to live in Alkmaar. The crematorium in Schagen is the nearest one to Alkmaar and for all three of them I attended a ceremony here. Fortunately, I was in Schagen on a happier occasion now, but I really only got an OV-Fiets (rental bike) at the station and cycled straight to the colourful countryside.
I have a few connections to that countryside as well, this time via my father’s side of the family. My grandfather was in hiding here in World War II. My grandfather was released from a POW camp north of Berlin, after being made prisoner during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. When later in the war all Dutch men had to report to the Nazi’s to do forced labour, he refused to do that and found a place with a farmer who grew tulips just north of Schagen. My grandfather spent the final war years here in hiding, doing the tulip grower’s book-keeping. Maybe this family history is why my father was drawn to this area of the country. We spent many holidays here when I was a small child, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was very good to see, about 50 years later, that the road through the dunes to the beach had not changed at all! I even saw an elderly couple pulling a wooden cart with children in it. Just like my mother had done with my sister and me in the cart. Lovely childhood memories!
This area is still a great place for vacation and recreation. A lot of Germans from the west of Germany come to the beautiful sandy beaches of the North Sea in the Netherlands, because that is nearer than the German beaches of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea all the way up north. The Germans cycle too, but some of them stand out like a sore thumb with their helmets on normal upright bicycles. Some even clearly wobbled while they rode the bike. As a Dutch person you sometimes forget that being able to cycle so well needs skills that you have to develop by riding often. The Dutch people over 70, on their e-bikes, were riding more confident than some of the German teens.
My video came out like it was meant to be Holland promotion for the tourist board. Which may be timely since it is the Dutch national holiday this Saturday, but it’s simply hard to make it any other way with all those clichés staring you in the face with every turn you take. All that you see in the video was created by people, including the land itself; from the straight lines of the planted tulip bulbs to the straight polder roads and canals on the former bed of the sea, all of which kept dry and safe with the sea-dikes. Man-made nature in a man-made landscape. Enjoy!
Map of my 34 km impromptu ride from Schagen.
Cycling to the tulips in the north of North-Holland.