Cats, not the musical Part I

When I was a kid I had two cats: Rajah and Shadow. Rajah was a feline princess and orange tabby that was neurotic, and I still have the six-inch scar to prove so after she clawed me in panic from seeing her mirrored reflection.

She was a hurricane kitty, meaning we adopted her after Andrew hit the Florida coast and washed away her mama.

That's probably not how it happened, but either way when it was time to adopt her, Judy, my mom, picked me up from school early to play a car game. She gave me a pen and pad of paper, and a kiss, and told me to write it down. So I wrote
Kiss, and we began driving.

It was a riddle. And thinking back on the past 17 years since this test I admit that to this day I'm not a superstar at solving riddles, word problems or ___ is to ___, as ___ is to ___. I blame it on the thick curtains of creativity blinding my logic...

We drove to the Jupiter Inlet. I don't remember what it was like that day, but I'm sure the waves were rolling in deep and into the waterways.

I'm sure the million-dollar South Florida yachts were bouncing bows while clinging on to their last yards of tried-but-failed tow in fishing rods.

I'm sure the boat-less locals were casting lines as their their scruffed bare feet squished between their toes the bait and guts water that had sloshed over the bucket beside them.

I'm sure there were palm trees, the air was salty, and the lighthouse stood as bold as ever.

Maybe we didn't get out of the car, but I wrote inlet not because I had figured it out, but because Judy pointed to the inlet and asked me what it was.

It gets better because we went to McDonalds. We went through the drive-thru, and Judy ordered an iced ted. She pointed to it, and told me to write it down. So I wrote
tea. We sat there in the car, parked in a lot and eating McDonalds as I studied the list, not because I had the notion to but because Judy told me to. My list read:

Kiss
Inlet
Tea


She was trying to spell out
KITTEN, but we didn't get that far. I'm pretty sure Judy mentioned it raining cats and dogs, and I began to imagine what that would really be like.

And, eventually, Rajah came into my life as the first noble cat after a history of hard-to-beat dogs. She was worth it (see photo).

Shadow showed up a fluffball of grey that was like putty in my hands. He melted in all the ways a cat could: drooling when purring, drooling when asleep, lying limp when picked up, lying limp when being spun around by a 12-year-old only child desperate for entertainment.

Shadow was what I envision a mentally handicapped sloth to be, only cuter and softer.

When Judy and I road tripped it from Florida to the Wild West for the first time we had books on tape, one specifically being The Shadow. The cover was a Dick Tracy knock-off imitating the detective-like character who could vanish behind corners in some crime ridden city. The narrator would say in a deep voice, "Who knows? The Shadow Knows!"

During Judy's time as a single mother with her daughter in college and only two cats to talk to, I'd witness her borderline psychotic cat communication on occasion when I visited.

One of the best outbursts was a late-night couch potato session in front of the tv, when out of nowhere Judy would look at Shadow, furrow her brow and cup her lips to lower her voice and say, "Who knows? The Shadow knows."

Awesome. But what I really said was, "Mom..." And she would say... nothing. She'd smile and scrunch her nose as if she knew her jokes stunk. I'm sure Shadow dug it.

I ditched pets that had to travel beyond glass bowls during college until that six-month stint with the Hell Demon came along. I called it Blackie, BK for short, though Lane Harlow and others who had blacklisted BK probably referred to it as the What The Fuck, Cat.

Blackie. I stood there at the pound, staring at a quad of kennels and chose:

Miss Angel: fat, cute, rolls around, and the card says loves ice cubes. And look! She's licking my hand... Aww...

Boring!

Yes, I'll take the black one that looks malnourished, the black on that's swatting at my hand, the black one that reminds me of a bouncy ball in a foot locker. Yes, that's the pick of the litter!

And what a mistake that was. After too many days cleaning up after Blackie I was over it. A pool of diarrhea on the bean bag, on my bed sheet, on my vest that I still wear today...

Too many times Lane Harlow locked her up in a room. Too many times I got a call by a neighbor saying, "We found your cat." Too many times I repeated the phrase, "Well thanks, but it's an outdoor cat."

And too many times BK left me for the hair salon babes down Remington Street until one day BK just never returned. And I moved to Europe. And that was five years ago.

And now there's QT.




Cover me baby


I once told a boyfriend of mine in high school that he was the frontman for a cover band, and then he broke up with me. He should have, being labeled a cover band means you lack creativity as an artist to a point where you can't make your own music. No one likes to be called a copycat, not even serial killers in Sigourney Weaver 1990 thrillers.

But let's say, as a musician, your status is at a pro level. Now you've earned the right to cover songs because a) we all know you're not a copycat, and b) you know that covering a song isn't a verbatim ordeal -- it can still carry individuality. This makes all the difference. In my opinion, experienced bands have higher potential to play good songs in a good way, and that's that... be it covers or self-created pieces.

Still, this doesn't work out for every song a good band has covered (hence the potential and no concrete establishment of the claim). I recently heard Tom Yorke and Sparklehorse cover a Pink Floyd song, and I thought I was going to gauge my eyes out as an equal distraction. And I love Radiohead.

My Morning Jacket tried Rocket Man, and I thought someone was drowning.

I also think Rufus Wainwright's "Across The Universe" voice is extra nasally and sounds like a deflated balloon when someone slowly squeaks out air. Then again Rufus, some songs are just too good they can't be covered better.

Bob Dylan has proved over the decades that he will never fall into that category, everyone with a voice covers his song better than him. But Bob I still love ya, you scary, old, hat-wearing skeleton poet you.

But I love music and I like covers, a lot. Especially when they're done well and with some new flavor. I bet that high school sweetie of mine's band can wail on Zeppelin covers. CCR's I Heard It Through The Grapevine is what, over seven minutes long? And no one seems to mind because it rocks.

Aretha Franklin covered The Weight by The Band and pulled a rock-soul fusion of glory bleeding through speakers that's just electrifying. You can hear she's always liked that song, and maybe that's the principal musicians really should follow before they decide to cover a song: love it like you wish you made it first. That's how I feel about New Belguim's Bier de Mars.

Anyway, here are some covers below I've been especially diggin', but know that a lot of these covers are acoustic ones. Most of these links will take you to YouTubes or songs posted by thankscaptainobvious.net, and if you haven't checked this site out you can thank me later. Welcome back mix tapes.

TV On The Radio covers Mr. Grieves (by The Pixies)

The Shins cover Strange Powers (by The Magnetic Fields)

Mumford & Sons cover Cousins (by Vampire Weekend)


Fleet Foxes cover It Ain't Me Babe (by Bob Dylan)


The Eels cover Fools Rush In (by Elvis)


Emmy The Great covers Where Is My Mind (by The Pixies)


Florence & The Machine cover Postcards From Italy (by Beirut)


Elliott Smith covers Jealous Guy (by John Lennon)


Rogue Wave covers Maps (by Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Metric covers Don't Think Twice It's Alright (by Bob Dylan)

Mates of State cover These Days (by Jackson Browne)

Regina Spektor covers Real Love (by The Beatles)

It's Real Love,
Audrey

We didn't plan to be stranded on a rock


We didn’t plan to be stranded on a slab of volcanic rock that night. But unlike tourist cities that still hold a steady off-season population, Mediterranean islands are ghost-town dead in October. This occurred to us in a fashionably late sense, or in other words, as the catamaran sped away and left us docked on Croatia’s island of Mljet. And by the time I had convinced Jesse our best plan of attack was to rent crummy mountain bikes, venture off (illegally) into Mljet’s national forest, and as the sun was setting only then should we look for a spot to sleep… there was just no where else to go.

It was three days into our trip, and as we scoured the mini mart’s barren shelves for food on our ten-buck budget, Jesse questioned my “method” for traveling. Since rejecting the only room from the only hostess in this town, and insisting on camping in an unfamiliar foreign forest we’ve never seen, I was losing points as a logical European traveler by the minute.

“But it’s going to rain,” said Mario, a local baker who began following us up and down the street, trying to turn us off from the plan.

I looked at the cloudless blue sky, and back at Mario’s shiny round head drowning in an oversized pair of Terminator sunglasses. He had a few molars just recently pulled, hence the constant pill popping his hands were busy fiddling with (after I asked him, jokingly, if they were crazy pills).

“Oh yeah? Rain when?” I asked, throwing up my hands and giving a half smile. Jesse was lingering in the mini mart’s doorway, eyeing a potential dinner platter of apples, chocolate bars, bread and jam. If I had been paying closer attention I would have noticed Jesse’s flushed face, slight fatigue and sneezing. Instead, I kept wondering what was taking her so long to decide between grape and strawberry.

I looked at Mario and the row of rusty, rinky dink mountain bikes behind him. “How much for two of those bikes?” I asked. The only English speaker out of three locals, excluding two American honeymooners watching from a terrace above, Mario quickly became our liaison with negotiations. Unfortunately for us Mario’s suggestions took the side of his island friends, and it was a struggle to clarify we had no interest in accommodation.

“The old lady upstairs want fifteen euros for bikes,” said Mario, pointing to the round, elderly woman seesawing down the stairs with a cane. “Or you stay in her room for thirty euros… and you get bikes, free!” The elderly lady nodded as she plopped herself on the steps, the tip of her cane eye level to my waist.

They began speaking Croatian. I tried to talk over them, “Right, but just for the bikes…”

“Why you not want to sleep on bed?” Mario interjected, too wrapped up with his side conversing to notice I was speaking. “It’s nice room, good price, off-season price.”

“Off season price!” said the elderly lady, catching my surprise to see her chime in with some English. The American honeymooners had fixed a spot on the dock and were sun tanning. Jesse was still at the sidelines of my triangle consulting, indecisively juggling packets of jellies.

Mario and the elderly woman weren’t desperate for money. Holiday season had just ended and the accumulated pile of tourism gold was at its grandest. Confusion lied within the fact they simply didn’t get why sleeping in the woods was winning over sleeping in a bed. When the romantic concept of camping under the stars finally got through to them, well they still weren’t very convinced but at least the negotiations ended. Twelve euros for the mountains bikes, return tomorrow, no room.

As I turned to enter the mini mart Jesse was right behind me, empty-handed.

“Hey you sure this is a good idea?” she asked timidly, myself still blind to her symptoms of sickness. “I mean we don’t know this place, it’s getting dark soon, and I’m afraid we’re going to get lost in the forest without any food.”

Jesse had a point. And Jesse had also taken outdoor survival courses (I had not). And Jesse was also beginning to look a little sick. But in my mind it was decided. The bikes were in our hands, and I had bargained too much to be thrown into a cushy bed and breakfast with two American honeymooners. So I gave a pep talk on how backing out is for suckers.

“Dude it’ll be fine. Easy. We’ll get some food here, take off for the night and return the bikes tomorrow. It’s an empty island with seventy-two percent being a huge natural forest. We came here to camp, right? Let’s just do this.” She reluctantly nodded and stepped back into the mini mart, grabbing a fistful of jams as her voice trailed back that we need to hurry.

“But if you decide to come back when it rains, the lady said she has your room ready,” shouted Mario as we began biking into Mljet National Forest.

As the elderly woman with the cane had advised, we quickly passed through the entrance without stopping to pay. “And if they find you and ask for paper you say, ‘Oh! Sorry! I don’t know where it is! I am just visitor!’” she suggested.

So we whizzed past the Roman ruins gate from 6th century, then immediately were slowed by a steep uphill lasting a good five miles. Well, I thought, forest rangers won’t have a problem catching us now.

Luckily we managed to scramble off paved roads unspotted and pedal through Mljet’s scenic countryside. Streams from the Adriatic Sea had carved volcanic landscape with lagoons and saltwater lakes. We spotted a monastery from the 1100s resting on a mini island and accessible only by boat. About 500 years ago Mljet had a serious snake problem. The place was infested with slithery reptiles, which I tried to forget (and never told Jesse about) when we rolled out our sleeping bags on the big, flat rock.

“There’s no place that is, I don’t know, a little softer?” I asked Jesse. “You’re sure?” She shook her head; she had already scouted out the area. Sleeping by the path was a no for fear of being caught. Sleeping by the lake was a no for fear of falling in. Sleeping in a nearby soft-nettled area was a no due to the slant.

Jesse had taken outdoor survival courses, I had not.

So we laid on a rock that night made from a volcano that erupted probably some million years ago. Perched high above ground and bundled in our bags as dusk turned to night, we listened to the paddle of fisherman boats echo over the lake (because, to be honest, we were afraid they had seen us and were now going to come looking). We dozed in and out of sleep, softly waking to a bright moon and the white band of the Milky Way, or tensely jolting alive from catfight screams and howling hounds.

We would wake up early the next morning and bike until Jesse passed out from her fever in a van en route to the other side of Mljet. We’d treat ourselves to a room and at dawn the next morning take a car ferry to the mainland, only to unsuccessfully hitchhike and ultimately trek five miles into a tiny rural Croatian town called Ston. We would finally make it back to Dubrovnik and eventually to our destination in Kotor, Montenegro… needless to say we checked into a hostel.

(Jesse, for what it’s worth, I still feel bad for making you camp outside when you were shivering out sweat.)

Four years ago...



The cheapest way to fly across the pond from the US four years ago today was to hop on a one-way cargo carrier to any destination in Europe. I was dropped in Vienna with the perspective of Denmark being a stone's throw away; a dragging ten hours later I arrived in Aarhus, DK, the first stop on my Erasmus Mundus adventure.

My jet-lagged slumber was shaken the next morning by a loud knocking. King-size bags sat unpacked in a corner, and my half-naked body was rolled in a blanket like a hotdog... on a mattress still lined with plastic. I had forgotten what I was doing in this barren dorm room, or where I even was.

The knocking continued. I scooted to the doorway and soon found myself standing in front of two unexpected visitors: A short, curvy young Indian woman beside a lofty Ukranian in his late 30s with goofy glasses and an amusing grin. I squinted at the figures in front of me to help my eyes focus. It was a puzzling few seconds of silence before one of us spoke.

"Hi, we're your new classmates," said the woman from India, Ankeeta. I stood there awkwardly draped in my down comforter with sleep in my eyes and a frizzed head of hair.

I was still convincing myself this was no dream when the Ukrainian, Alexander, chimed in with giggly broken English and startling enthusiasm, "Yes! And we have come, and invite you to a nearby beach!"

Perhaps the only thing my body was capable of that day was sprawling out on beach sand, so I managed to mumble an agreeable reply. My hands fished beach attire from my bags, and five minutes later I stumbled out of my dorm with two new acquaintances bounded for Moesgård Strand.

Once there, Alexander wasted no time stripping down to his Speedo, splashing and galloping into the icy Danish waters. Ankeeta struggled with her modesty for a solid half hour by attempting to change into her swimsuit, whilst keeping a towel wrapped around her body, to avoid anyone catching a glimpse of her privates. It was a highly entertaining episode for this American to witness, and this was just Day One.

Four years deep I still have vivid memories of my first day with Alexander and Ankeeta. The situation was a first for me, yet the entire two years of Erasmus Mundus would expose me to situations I never knew could exist in my life. This invitation to sun bathe by the North Sea was just the beginning of a lifestyle that followed the theme of "What have you got to lose?" I even roll with that saying today, and encourage others to give it a try: The outcome is always worthwhile.

A happy four years of Audrey in Europe since Aug. 22, 2005.

Rock solid: Molotow


When the Beatles first left England to grace this earth with legendary music in 1960, the initial spark was a 48-night rockstar bender two blocks down from Hamburg’s venue, Molotow. The Reeperbahn's historic nature of driving visitors to debauchery was no exception for four Liverpool moptops: the overindulgence of sex and drugs, arson arrests for burning condoms, and George Harrison's eventual deportation is just scratching the surface.

“Every fucking band playing in the Molotow, as soon as they drop their guitar cases they ask, where did the Beatles play? Where did they walk? Where did they hang out?” says Molotow owner Andi Schmidt. “This is where they started their career.”

Fifty years later Reeperbahn's sinful reputation continues to generate the classic raw and gritty body rock 'n' roll lives to penetrate, and for the Europe rock scene, Molotow is an essential organ. Standing since 1990 in a virtually lawless district of Hamburg, Molotow mirrors its streets by providing a forum to rock without curfews, drinking limits or smoking bans.

“Germany is crazy and strict with everything, but Hamburg is like an outlawed place," says Schmidt, who has lived in Hamburg since almost 40 years. “You can't say, ‘Fuck your law’. The way we handle it is to say, ‘Yes I know the law but I can't check everything’.”

In essence, Molotow’s fusion of perspective with placement makes a gristly yet harmonious blend of luscious attraction for band performances. Yet Molotow is a musician’s haven because it follows the principles of a good venue: unique character, a solid sound system, and genuine kindred spirit to the rock scene.

Butts and bottles

A small, dark basement with maximum capacity of around 300, soundproof walls emit the wreaking stench of Beck's beer and St. Pauli cigarettes. The low ceiling suffocates skin pores as the air thickens with sweaty, damp humidity. Sandwiched between bars in the front and backroom is the frenzied heat of the stage, where the crowd and band merge into a giant ball of sound and body explosion. Bands love it.

“There’s a lot of action on stage because you’re so close to the audience. Our frontman climbed around, people stage dove; it was sweaty and loud,” says Frederik Mohrdiek on performing at Molotow with his former band The Sissies. “It’s tight and focused on the stage, but it’s company rock ‘n’ roll enjoyment.”

However, complimenting Molotow’s unembellished exoskeleton is sound of near-perfect acoustics, not to mention ambitious employees who know how to work a venue well enough to evoke approval from all forms of rock.

“Plus the place is very open-minded and willing to book bands they’re convinced of even if they know they might only pull 20 people from it,” says Hamburg-based DJ Andreas “Baze.djunkiii” Rathmann who spins with Lars “Das Audiolith” Lewerenz as Plutonium Pogo at Molotow. “Amongst DJs and musicians in indie and rock, the reputation is high; everyone seems to know the place all over.”

“It's definitely more important for us to have good bands and good music here, not the money. As silly as it sounds some venues just don't care about it, many don't even have their own PA system,” says Schmidt. “Here you can hear every instrument and vocal; there's no feedback, and if there is there's a guy right on the spot taking care of it. That’s the way it should be.”

Bands and Fans
Molotow's fame rises from its underground reputation of acting as a launch pad for some of rock's most famous additions over the past 15 years. Proudly resting above the entrance is a long list of prominent alumni, from The White Stripes to The Killers, The Rakes to The Black Keys, Billy Talent, At The Drive-In and about 130 others.

“Molotow was The Hives first sold out show of their career, and in their first music video they rebuilt our entrance on their set in Sweden. They held up a sign in front of some place saying Molotow and it had a huge queue. When they come to town they always come by,” says Schmidt.

A pile of signed guestbooks collects dust on a bookshelf at Molotow’s office. Inside are short blurps, long-winded notes, face illustrations and phallic doodles to name a few. Enon drew a rabbit, The Lawrence Arms “hearts Hamburg, hookers and sex”, while Piebald “occupied the building where this book lives and thank you for it. We like Molotow.”

“A lot of now famous bands with a big fan base played at Molotow long before they caught attention, and one can’t ignore that,” says Baze.djunkii. “Even if you are coming from an electronic music background, there is a lot of room to experiment because the people that go there are really open-minded.”

Molotow might be 28 stairs below ground, but the stage is a small step up from the crowd floor. For fiends of audience contact, Molotow dares to provide a band-fan connection stripped from platform barriers.

“I once saw Battery play there, and I jumped on stage and put the singer in a headlock. But it’s okay, some people want to go onstage and just be with the band,” says Mohrdiek, who still plays at Molotow with current band Bangkok Kash. “It’s good to be in touch with the audience if they’re going wild. It’s good to be on ground level; you have direct feedback.”

“We don’t have drunk jocks, drunk fights are not a problem. It’s all about having the right people at the door,” says Schmidt. “Some places hire karate guys with jackets looking for trouble. If you don’t do that, you’re kind of cool.”

Rock ‘n’ roll hospitable respect

The venue’s acquirement of distinctive quality, impressive performer history and an energetic audience is no fluke. Molotow’s resistance towards usual venue “norms” develops from experience on knowing where to draw the line between lifestyle and pure insanity.

“Although I like them a lot, I turned down Towers of London because they wasted and wrecked about every venue they played in,” says Schmidt. “I once sent home a Swedish band because they were totally drunk, and I couldn’t imagine them playing since they couldn’t even stand. It’s okay to be punk rock, but it’s stupid to wreck a place.”

This is not to say booked bands can expect rigid communication. In contrast, Molotow is a venue to offer not only a smorgasbord of food and drink to their performers but also accommodation: the office’s spare rooms are equipped with beds and blankets.

“Backstage there are snickers, M&Ms, bread with cheese and sausage, and one crate of beer,” says Mohrdiek.

“Tons of places you feel like a burden. In the UK you get a pack of crisps for the whole band,” says Schmidt, who has played in bands for about 30 years. “We treat bands nicely. We care for them, give them good food and a place to stay.”

Despite ongoing battles with keeping a punk rock environment in a stringent society, Schmidt has enough funding to keep Molotow alive for at least another three years.

“If you love sweaty basement clubs with nice stuff, good music and an ecstatic crowd then go. If you’re lucky enough you’ll catch some future legends on stage at the very beginning of their career,” says Baze.djunkiii.

The era of live Beatlemania might have ended decades ago, but it’s venues like Molotow that keep Hamburg standing as an arena offering a music subculture most European cities would die for. Check it out, but try to refrain from condom bonfires. Try.

- Audrey Sykes

When the 17th century Dutch elite became enthralled with flowers in a time notoriously known as Tulipmania, the most sought-after and expensive tulips were infected with bugs and viruses.

The attraction to “Broken Tulips” was its magnificent mutations of color, form and size. Pedals seemingly dipped in porcelain, laced with spring hues, edges frayed and feathered – Broken Tulips were a representation of Golden Age novelty and exotic discovery.

“The tulip was grown about the elite group like a toy among the rich,” says Sjoerd van Eeden, co-owner of the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. “It was after Tulipmania where tulips then became in the hands of farmers.”

Tulipmania's peak in February of 1637 was a frenzied swirl of contract agreements and market exchange, seen in retrospect as folly-ridden senselessness. One Viceroy tulip bulb sold for four tons of beer, while one Sempur Agustus bulb for 12 acres of land. Ten years later, Dutch historian Theodorus Schrevelius would write, “Our descendants will laugh at the human insanity of our age, in times tulip flowers have been so revered.”

About 300 years later, in 1949, ten prominent Dutch bulb growers and exporters opened the first nonprofit showcase for The Netherlands flower industry near a castle garden just outside of Lisse. No more than 35,000 visitors were expected at the new attraction, fittingly titled Keukenhof from the land’s previous use as an herb garden and hunting ground. Opening year visitor totals topped an unpredictable 250,000.

“It was a way to ask foreign business people to come and buy bulbs from Holland,” says Keukenhof’s General Manager Piet de Vries. “It was overwhelming at the time. We had no toilets, maybe one for the growers. We had no restaurants. At the time we just weren't prepared.”

As Keukenhof celebrates its 60th anniversary on March 19, the world’s largest flower garden will have attracted more than 44 million visitors since its conception, offering 150 acres of land hosting 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties, 7 million flower bulbs in total plus 2,500 trees.

“We are the show window for the Netherlands and for Dutch bulb growers in the industry,” says De Vries, who currently works with 93 growers around the country whom supply Keukenhof with flowers free-of-charge. “We have prominent growers and growers with special varieties. We have a long list of people who want to show here.”

Keukenhof itself is considered a national landmark, but the Dutch tulip industry today holds its own international fame. Boasting a market share of around 70 percent in universal flower production and 90 percent of trade worth about €540 million, it is estimated that there exists well over a thousand growers in the country who work at a national and global level.

“To say we are working together goes too far,” says Van Eeden, who was raised amongst a family of international bulb exporters. “One person grows red tulips while the other person grows yellow tulips. We're competitors, yet countries who demand tulips can be large enough to buy from fifty exporters.”

Nearly one quarter (over 900 million) of Netherlands flower exports are destined for the United States each year.

Tulips carry an economically nomadic disposition throughout its history. The flower’s native landscape is the Himalayan region, filling valleys with over 60 percent of today’s wild tulips.

“The Ottoman empire, with its huge trade route area, was the first thought to have collected wild tulips. It caught on, hybridizing began, and the tulip became a garden flower because of Turkey,” says Van Eeden.

The tulip’s introduction to The Netherlands is believed to be the work of Flemish botanist Clusius, Latin for Charles de L’Ecluse, who first planted tulips at the University of Leiden’s botanical gardens around 1595. Interest rose among wealthy Dutch enthusiasts, and tulip demand eventually ignited the world’s first stock market exchange.

“Holland was already the economic center in Europe with money. The Dutch were prepared and had the means to finance a curiosity with tulips,” says Van Eeden. “People from the lower classes also looked at the tulip as an opportunity for investment and profit.”

“There was a tulip mania. There were flower bulbs calculated for two thousand euros per bulb,” says De Vries. “At the end of tulip mania we had the first stock crash that we've seen, because of flowers.”

The stock crash of 1637 is argued to be the first recorded economic or speculative bubble burst of its kind. Traders went from monthly earnings of roughly €30,000 to a total loss in weeks.

“There was a lot of money going around, it was early capitalism, and then this crazy spinning out of control took place. Many people were burned and fell out,” says Van Eeden. “But people love that story.”

Research on documented economic devastation launched by the tulip market crash shows considerable exaggeration to the story. Tulip obsession since the crash, however, has anything but vanished.

In 2007, The Netherlands exported 4 billion flower bulbs worldwide. Keukenhof’s eight-week window of floral spectacle estimates a reel-in of 800,000 visitors, more than half from abroad. The 15 floating stands at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt offer “groene vinger” customers buckets of flower bulbs regardless of the flower season.

“Buying tulip bulbs right now is impossible, yet there are thousands at markets. Sellers will tell you at the flower market to wait until the fall, but it will never bloom,” says Van Eeden. “The Dutch market is a bit messy. Anyone can go to a grower, get some bulbs and sell them in the street.”

Hybridization in the past centuries has led to over 5,000 garden varieties, and about 50 new types are expected this year. One of this year’s attractions at Keukenhof is a section of tulips named after celebrities from Hillary Clinton to Sponge Bob.

“We have people who work here all year, preparing, planting, making the grass trimmed like a golf course, making everything look perfect for those eight weeks we are open,” says a Keukenhof employee. “Everything is planned, but we can’t predict Mother Nature.”

A desperate tourist will shuffle around Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum, exiting with lost hopes of tulip purchasing and settling for painted wooden replicas. The tourist will breeze in and out of the world’s largest tulip field, marveling enough to deem Keukenhof the most photographed place on earth. As a frantic attempt to reward their home garden with Dutch novelty, the confused tourist will reconsider a handful of out-of-season tulip bulbs at the bloementmarkt.

"We travel a lot to all the famous tulip parks all over the world, and we are very open because we do not have any competition. The biggest risk for Keukenhof is if there are no tourists traveling, but people are still traveling,” says De Vries.

It is argued that the documented “human insanity” of tulips died with Tulipmania. Perhaps the overwhelming social fandom for flowers followed suit with its cherished Broken tulips, and has simply just altered its form.

Tulipmania lives


When the 17th century Dutch elite became enthralled with flowers in a time notoriously known as Tulipmania, the most sought-after and expensive tulips were infected with bugs and viruses.

The attraction to “Broken Tulips” was its magnificent mutations of color, form and size. Pedals seemingly dipped in porcelain, laced with spring hues, edges frayed and feathered – Broken Tulips were a representation of Golden Age novelty and exotic discovery.

“The tulip was grown about the elite group like a toy among the rich,” says Sjoerd van Eeden, co-owner of the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. “It was after Tulipmania where tulips then became in the hands of farmers.”

Tulipmania's peak in February of 1637 was a frenzied swirl of contract agreements and market exchange, seen in retrospect as folly-ridden senselessness. One Viceroy tulip bulb sold for four tons of beer, while one Sempur Agustus bulb for 12 acres of land. Ten years later, Dutch historian Theodorus Schrevelius would write, “Our descendants will laugh at the human insanity of our age, in times tulip flowers have been so revered.”

About 300 years later, in 1949, ten prominent Dutch bulb growers and exporters opened the first nonprofit showcase for The Netherlands flower industry near a castle garden just outside of Lisse. No more than 35,000 visitors were expected at the new attraction, fittingly titled Keukenhof from the land’s previous use as an herb garden and hunting ground. Opening year visitor totals topped an unpredictable 250,000.

“It was a way to ask foreign business people to come and buy bulbs from Holland,” says Keukenhof’s General Manager Piet de Vries. “It was overwhelming at the time. We had no toilets, maybe one for the growers. We had no restaurants. At the time we just weren't prepared.”

As Keukenhof celebrates its 60th anniversary on March 19, the world’s largest flower garden will have attracted more than 44 million visitors since its conception, offering 150 acres of land hosting 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties, 7 million flower bulbs in total plus 2,500 trees.

“We are the show window for the Netherlands and for Dutch bulb growers in the industry,” says De Vries, who currently works with 93 growers around the country whom supply Keukenhof with flowers free-of-charge. “We have prominent growers and growers with special varieties. We have a long list of people who want to show here.”

Keukenhof itself is considered a national landmark, but the Dutch tulip industry today holds its own international fame. Boasting a market share of around 70 percent in universal flower production and 90 percent of trade worth about €540 million, it is estimated that there exists well over a thousand growers in the country who work at a national and global level.

“To say we are working together goes too far,” says Van Eeden, who was raised amongst a family of international bulb exporters. “One person grows red tulips while the other person grows yellow tulips. We're competitors, yet countries who demand tulips can be large enough to buy from fifty exporters.”

Nearly one quarter (over 900 million) of Netherlands flower exports are destined for the United States each year.

Tulips carry an economically nomadic disposition throughout its history. The flower’s native landscape is the Himalayan region, filling valleys with over 60 percent of today’s wild tulips.

“The Ottoman empire, with its huge trade route area, was the first thought to have collected wild tulips. It caught on, hybridizing began, and the tulip became a garden flower because of Turkey,” says Van Eeden.

The tulip’s introduction to The Netherlands is believed to be the work of Flemish botanist Clusius, Latin for Charles de L’Ecluse, who first planted tulips at the University of Leiden’s botanical gardens around 1595. Interest rose among wealthy Dutch enthusiasts, and tulip demand eventually ignited the world’s first stock market exchange.

“Holland was already the economic center in Europe with money. The Dutch were prepared and had the means to finance a curiosity with tulips,” says Van Eeden. “People from the lower classes also looked at the tulip as an opportunity for investment and profit.”

“There was a tulip mania. There were flower bulbs calculated for two thousand euros per bulb,” says De Vries. “At the end of tulip mania we had the first stock crash that we've seen, because of flowers.”

The stock crash of 1637 is argued to be the first recorded economic or speculative bubble burst of its kind. Traders went from monthly earnings of roughly €30,000 to a total loss in weeks.

“There was a lot of money going around, it was early capitalism, and then this crazy spinning out of control took place. Many people were burned and fell out,” says Van Eeden. “But people love that story.”

Research on documented economic devastation launched by the tulip market crash shows considerable exaggeration to the story. Tulip obsession since the crash, however, has anything but vanished.

In 2007, The Netherlands exported 4 billion flower bulbs worldwide. Keukenhof’s eight-week window of floral spectacle estimates a reel-in of 800,000 visitors, more than half from abroad. The 15 floating stands at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt offer “groene vinger” customers buckets of flower bulbs regardless of the flower season.

“Buying tulip bulbs right now is impossible, yet there are thousands at markets. Sellers will tell you at the flower market to wait until the fall, but it will never bloom,” says Van Eeden. “The Dutch market is a bit messy. Anyone can go to a grower, get some bulbs and sell them in the street.”

Hybridization in the past centuries has led to over 5,000 garden varieties, and about 50 new types are expected this year. One of this year’s attractions at Keukenhof is a section of tulips named after celebrities from Hillary Clinton to Sponge Bob.

“We have people who work here all year, preparing, planting, making the grass trimmed like a golf course, making everything look perfect for those eight weeks we are open,” says a Keukenhof employee. “Everything is planned, but we can’t predict Mother Nature.”

A desperate tourist will shuffle around Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum, exiting with lost hopes of tulip purchasing and settling for painted wooden replicas. The tourist will breeze in and out of the world’s largest tulip field, marveling enough to deem Keukenhof the most photographed place on earth. As a frantic attempt to reward their home garden with Dutch novelty, the confused tourist will reconsider a handful of out-of-season tulip bulbs at the bloementmarkt.

"We travel a lot to all the famous tulip parks all over the world, and we are very open because we do not have any competition. The biggest risk for Keukenhof is if there are no tourists traveling, but people are still traveling,” says De Vries.

It is argued that the documented “human insanity” of tulips died with Tulipmania. Perhaps the overwhelming social fandom for flowers followed suit with its cherished Broken tulips, and has simply just altered its form.