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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