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From Westland

Rooftop Greenhouse Tour Urban Farmers The Hague

The view is spectacular. From the rooftop on the 6th floor you can see all of The Hague. When you squint your eyes you can even see the Westland. The area where they grow and have been growing fruit & vegetables in greenhouses on the ground for centuries. The year is 2017 and we are at Urban Farmers The Hague, standing in a rooftop greenhouse full of vegetables, fruit and…fish?!

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August Events in the Netherlands

Summer in Holland is fantastic. Long, colourful days with nice temperatures and a good amount of sunshine ( most of the time at least).   Whether you like music, food or flowers, t here’s always something to do. Most of the time you can even combine all of your interests, passions and hobbies by going to one place or even one festival. In the post  Summer Festival Hopping you could already read about my favourite festivals in the province South Holland. Now, to make sure you won’t miss out on some typical Dutch activities during your Holland holiday I wanted to highlight some August events in the Netherlands that Verita’s Visit organises themed food & flowers.

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Holland Greenhouse Festival Kom in de Kas

It takes place the first weekend of April.  Some call it the ‘get into the greenhouse’ event. Although it takes place in different areas of the Netherlands,  I love visiting the Holland greenhouses of the Westland. The Westland is not only a bike ride away from The Hague or Delft, it is also the cradle of the horticulture in the Netherlands. Here’s what the region has in store – or better, in the greenhouse- for you.

 

In Dutch the event is called Kom in de kas. In English I would call it Holland greenhouse festival. It’s more than a visit to a Dutch greenhouse, it’s a celebration which is great fun for all ages. The different bands playing enroute of this Holland greenhouse festival get you into the festive mood, you can taste paprika smoothies or radishes with chocolate or just relax in the sun with a cup of coffee & cake, children can participate in all kind of fun activities and of course you can buy your favourite flowers, fruit & vegetables at a stand located at the end of the Holland greenhouse festival.

Greenhouses in the Netherlands open their doors for visitors only one time per year. The reason is that  young, growing plants are vulnerable and easily infected by diseases, which is why hygiene in the greenhouses is extremely important and visitors are often not allowed inside or can only visit when they follow strict hygiene rules.

So, it’s quite a unique opportunity to visit a greenhouse and see how fruit, vegetable & flowers are grown. A colleague once called Westland the all year round Keukenhof and it’s true. You’ll be amazed by all the different types of flowers grown in the Westland, also known as Glass City.  You can see all the fantastic greenhouse innovations and developments, ask the growers all your questions about the plants that are being grown and many greenhouses put (Dutch) signs which explain all about the horticulture.

The Kom in de Kas ( get into the greenhouse) event takes place on Saturday 1 April from 10 AM – 5 PM  & Sunday 2 April 2017 from 10 AM – 4 PM.  The Holland greenhouse festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so it’s extra special!  In Westland the focus is at Honselersdijk/ Naaldwijk where 10 greenhouses open their doors. There are lovely cycle routes from The Hague & Delft to Wateringen and visitors are advised to come by bike. Really don’t feel like cycling? There are free busses at the flowerauction Royal FloraHolland bringing you to the walking zone. More info (in Dutch) in this online flyer.

 

Can’t make it on Saturday 1 April or Sunday 2 April 2017?  Send an e-mail to veritasvisit(@)gmail.com for more information on Verita’s Visit’s (bike) tours & events to the Holland greenhouses.

Impressions Flower Parade Westland Day 2016

The last years I’ve seen the floating Flower Parade Westland on Delfland day, the last day of this local festival in South Holland. It was like a tradition, you could find me near the Schaapwei mill in Rijswijk, near ‘t Haantje and later on near the Nieuwe Plantage in Delft.  This year I wanted to see the boats decorated with flowers, fruit and vegetables at the start. I chose the Westland day on Saturday for a special reason.

Picnic time at Flower Parade Westland
Picnic time at Flower Parade Westland

Flower Parade Westland, it is a Dutch celebration

What I like about the Dutch is the way they turn a local festival like the Flower Parade Westland into a full day family outing. Early morning they load their stuff on their bikes or in the trunk of the car and head to their perfect spot to see the flower and vegetable decorated boats pass by. They reach their destination far before the start of the parade and then settle. Take out their foldable chairs, their picnic material, put their children on a blanket with some toys, give their dog a bone and then they’re set.

Colourful boat supporting sick children.
Colourful boat supporting sick children.

Now I’ve followed their example and the last years I’ve taken my picknick basket. Then I discovered that on Saturday, the Flower Parade Westland Day there were all sorts of small local markets in the Westland towns. So, I decided I would buy some Westland produced local fruit and vegetables on the way. After the first stop, Sonnehoeck, a historical grape grower I became more and more excited. Everywhere were these stalls where you could buy tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With my basket loaded with all kind of yummie stuff I cycled to the start of the Flower Parade, the Trade Park Westland where the first decorated boats where already passing by.  A man saw my basket and a big smile came on his face. Turned out he had worked at a grape nursery in the Westland as a teenager and had a summer job in picking tomatoes. That was before he moved to the east of the country where he met his Chinese wife, who simply is delighted to see all the boats. He brings her to the Flower Parade Westland every year and while she is enjoying the decoration, memories flash through his mind. Love the way you can so easily get in contact with people during a local festival. And, at the Flower Parade Westland you’ll find out a lot of the spectators have some kind of personal link to the festival.

Close up artistic creation Westland Flower Parade winner
Close up artistic creation Westland Flower Parade winner

I took my picknick basket and found a spot on top of a bridge, which offered quite a different perspective and from there took some pictures and some vids. The vids can be found on my Instagram account.  More pictures can be found on My Google Collection Festivals in the Netherlands.

This boat even used flowers in the costumes!
This boat even used flowers in the costumes!
This decorated boat is my favourite. Love the mix of vegetables and flowers
This decorated boat is my favourite. Love the mix of vegetables and flowers

 

In March this year we made a cycle tour through the Westland and visited an orchid grower in Wateringen. This post is a bit of a teaser.

 

On a Bike to a Greenhouse in South Holland

 

The Day I cycled to a Greenhouse in the Westland with a Finnish Family

An orchid grown in Holland-veritasvisitOn an early Spring day when the air had still a fresh touch and the sun was just warming up for her a grand entrance a Finnish family, two OV-bikes and an amazing road bike were waiting for me in front of the City Hall in Delft. Yvonne, the daughter had contacted me a few days before. She was looking for a cycle tour through the Dutch countryside and asked me if it was possible to combine it with a visit to a greenhouse. Her parents were now about to retire, she added, but had a farm in countryside in South Finland. After many pleasant conversations by phone we agreed to make a bike ride to an orchid grower in the Westland.

How a Polder taught me about Swedish-speaking fins

As our cycle tour mainly goes through Dutch polders I’m just about to explain what they are when Yvonne’s mother says it’s the same word in Swedish. Now, I’m not really surprised about the word polder existing in other languages, what I am surprised of is that she talks about the Swedish word and not the Finnish word, as you would presume. Later on, Yvonne explain that her mother tongue is Swedish. Apparently there are around 25.000 people in the Asland islands and 265.000 people in the rest of ( West & South) Finland who are actually Swedish-Fins and have Swedish as they’re mother tongue. Wikipedia says they are descendants from the migrants who moved to Finland during its occupation by Sweden between the 13th and 19th century. It’s an interesting fact that I would never have known about if I wouldn’t have met this family.

Where greenhouses were born

We enter the Westland through the old gate of the  long gone summer residence Sion. There’s this idea that the residence’s  flower and vegetables gardens were the reason for the region’s inhabitants to start the horticulture in this area.  At this very moment a new district is being built on the spot where the summer residence used to be. The project is called Rijswijk Buiten and is meant to recreate the atmosphere of an estate with one main house in the centre, huge farmers houses, courtyard dwellings and a courtyard with lush gardens.

A Mill, a Polder and A story about a Dike

Through the Dutch polder on a bike to a greenhouse
Through the Dutch polder on a bike to a greenhouse

We follow the canal and cycle below the water (this you do have to experience yourself) to the place where the typical Dutch polders, its dikes and mill are a delight for the eyes. This is where you can see how water was managed with mills in the old days and how it is done now with modern electrical pumping engines. While cycling on the dike you get a good view on the different water levels.

Water is everywhere in the town called Wateringen. Although the town was built on a dike to protect it against the water and the many floodings in the Middle Ages, the name for the town is taken from an important family who had built a castle here in the 13th century.

 

How to reach a Dutch greenhouse by bike

Once we cross a viaduct a large greenhouse comes to sight. Van Laak Orchids actually has two huge greenhouses in the same block covering in total 125,000 m2. You can imagine it’s almost a full cycle tour just to get to the entrance.

What DUtch Herring and Finnish Potatoes have in common

Yvonne tells me a bit about her parent’s greenhouse. It was for domestic use and much smaller than this one. They grew potatoes. The new potatoe, sold from the end of April, is nice and sweet and have a very soft skin. It’s very small, you could compare it with a Dutch krieltje They’re very expensive, but Fins look forward to them the whole year and are willing to pay large sums of money. These new potatoes taste best with just a knob of butter, a pinch of salt or some dille. When I hear this story I immediately thought about the new herring in Holland.

When a florist met a orchid grower

Listening to the personal story of Mariëlle van Laak on an exclusive tour through a orchid greenhouse in Holland
Listening to the personal story of Mariëlle ter Laak on an exclusive tour through a orchid greenhouse in Holland

Mariëlle, an enthusiastic florist, married one of the Ter Laak brothers and shortly after opened a  shop inside the orchid greenhouse. The shop is for private sales and a huge success. Mariëlle can’t wait to tell us  the story behind the growing of orchids. She takes us to an elevated platform where we have a great view of the orchids in its last stages.  Yvonne and her parents are very much interested and their questions show their experience in the field of nursery and farming. Mariëlle is happy to answer all questions and while making a short tour explains the intensive 2 year long  process of how a small cutting in Taiwan or Bleiswijk becomes a beautiful grown orchid beaming in your living room.

Want to Bike to a Greenhouse?

It’s a fascinating story and one that you could hear, see, feel as well. Just read all the options,  check the calendar for the next Westland greenhouse cycle tour,  or contact me directly to find out about customized tours.

A view into a orchid greenhouse
Come have a look inside a orchid greenhouse