AMSTERDAM — Even when the city's canals freeze and its prolific bicyclists don heavy parkas and woolen mittens, the famous Dutch tulips are still in bloom, if you know where to look.
The tulip fields of the Netherlands are blooming in April, but the Amsterdam Tulip Museum is always awash in a kaleidoscope of color, from yellow and orange to pink and purple. In cold weather, museum director Sjoerd van Eeden brightens even the gloomiest day with plants from the Southern Hemisphere.
Beyond the small gift shop, visitors descend a spiral staircase into the basement museum, where you learn how a flower indigenous to Asia made its way to the Netherlands.
"At the end of the 16th century, the tulip came to Western Europe," van Eeden explained. "Holland and Britain were economically the most prosperous nations. They were discovering the planet, … and there was an enormous curiosity among the rich for things exotic."
Tulip prices soared in the early 1600s. At one stage, bulbs, by weight, were worth more than gold. Three prized bulbs could buy a canal boat.
Though bulbs now are far more economical and are sold at the museum, they are offered only in autumn. Van Eeden cautioned his guests that some unscrupulous Amsterdam vendors sell them year-round, knowing they will never flower.
"That's cheating tourists," he said. "They will never bloom, not this year or next year."
Van Eeden's family has been in the bulb business for six generations. But it wasn't until 2006 that he opened the museum after the idea was suggested by an American friend.
"You have to be a foreigner to see something so obvious, that Amsterdam was lacking a tulip museum," he said.
The Amsterdam Tulip Museum (011-31-20-421-0095, amsterdamtulipmuseum.com) is centrally located at Prinsengracht 112. It's open daily, and admission is 6 euros (about $8) for adults and 15 (about $19) for a family.Copyright © 2015, CT Now