The Dutch love flowers. Not only do they enjoy fresh flowers in their homes, gardens, and outdoor window sills. They grow them year round in greenhouses and seasonally outdoors for world export. There’s the Aalsmeer Flower Auction which is housed in the fourth largest warehouse in the world. It’s a short distance from Schiphol airport. Roughly 20 million flowers are traded, sold, and shipped to every corner of the world by early afternoon from this one point. The flowers arrive the evening before. They are, sorted, categorized, and made ready for the 6am auction. Between 6am and 10am the bidding starts. There’s a clock which goes backwards indicating the selling price in reverse. You want to wait to get a good price, but if you wait too long someone else may buzz in and than it’s over, sold, and the next group of flowers role in. While that group gets loaded on trucks, trains, and/or planes ready for consumer purchase by the end of that day. There’s a cat walk over the whole thing which tourists can watch from. I’ve yet to make it there, it’s a long haul from where I am and the transit system is not 24 hours. One day, I’ll get there. if you want the full details click on the link below.
Now, this love affair with flowers goes back a long way. The most well known and documented love affair with the flower, started back in the 1600s when tulips were introduced from Turkey. There was a point when the Dutch economy rested on tulips and off course as the novelty and rarity faded the entire economy collapsed. there’s an account of a sailor eating a tulip bulb thinking it was an onion. He was hanged for the offense. Here’s a good link to read more on it.
What is the point of a flower? It really has none, other then to entice and intoxicate the senses. And in most cases throughout the world it’s an offering, a thoughtful reminder of love, respect, and an apology.
The Dutch don’t advertise or talk about their dark history in trade. You go to their sights on the history of the Netherlands and you’ll never see the words “slave trade”. Which they did participate in, along with all the other atrocities associated with making a profit. They are the original pirates of the seas. They are the Dutch East India Company.
Most of the Netherlands where utterly and completely clueless about the process and means used to acquire goods. The ships left and came back with spices, tea, coffee, drugs, perfumes, dyestuffs, sugar, and saltpeter. What happened in-between wasn’t well known. There’s definitely a lot shame, considering how they avoid mentioning it. You look at the commercial sights geared towards tourism and even Wikipedia and there’s really nothing mentioned.
Now, I was trying to make a point and I’m not finding the right way to tie it all together into a pretty bouquet. I’m afraid I’ve lost some petals and crushed some leaves, so excuse my awkwardness, in wrapping it all up. I feel the Dutch are apologizing to the world by having turned to the specialized export of the most frivolous, short lived, and beautiful of goods, the flower. They remind us that beauty exists and it’s fleeting.
An offering of apology, love, and please forgive us. Shipped to every corner of the world, used to express human and very humane sentiments between people: Get well soon, I miss you, We miss you, I love you, I’m Sorry, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Welcome, My Condolences, Congratulations, and so many more sentiments. Sometimes, we buy them just for ourselves to revel in their beauty. The unfurling blossoms inspiring feelings of peace, love, wonder, awe, and so much more.
Danke je Nedelands!
PS… There’s more I could add about Holidays, Festivals and other things related to flowers. But, it would be exhausting since the growing, showing, and selling of flowers is at the heart of Dutch culture. Here are some interesting links to learn more.