One of the things I look forward to the most on this trip to Holland is to visit the city of Alkmaar and its world famous cheese market. Every Friday from April to September, an open air cheese market magically appears in the city’s main square. Thousands of round yellow cased cheeses are displayed, tested, and sold amongst the various buyers and sellers. The buyers and sellers are easy to spot due to their traditional white outfits and colorful hats. Having first heard of this event only recently through a television program, I am quite keen on experiencing it in person. As I grab a train from Amsterdam Central Station and ride it the 45 minutes north to Alkmaar, I assume that there will be quite a few tourists present. The first sign of just how popular this event has become can be seen by the rows of tour buses parked just outside the city.
To say that it is crowded at this event is a major understatement. The mass of humanity before me is at least ten persons deep all around the square. This forces me to stand on my tippy toes in order to get even a marginal view of the proceedings. The several sets of bleachers to my right and left are already full. It is clear that I would need to arrive incredibly early to even get a chance to occupy one of those seats. The only other option would be to stay at an Alkmaar hotel the night before the event.
As I depart Alkmaar less than an hour after arriving, I feel quite disappointed. My spirits are quickly lifted, however, at the thought of what is next on my itinerary. Upon entering the Keukenhof Gardens, it becomes clear to me very quickly why this place is so famous and beloved. Open every year between the months of March and May, it contains millions of tulips of every imaginable color and is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Originally used as a royal hunting grounds back in the 15th century, it was turned into a public garden in the 19th century. Despite being visited by thousands of tourists every single day from all across the world, Keukenhof’s 32 acres ensures that it never feels overcrowded. This allows me to walk along the rows of brightly colored tulips and be one with nature.
As I prepare to depart after a two hour visit, I suddenly recall a course I took back in college that examined various world religions and philosophies. One of the religions/philosophies that caught my attention at the time was deism. Deists believe that one can see the intelligence in the universe through the beauty and majesty of the natural world. Walking amongst these rows of beautiful tulips, this philosophy is starting to strike a chord with me. As a result, Keukenhof is not only my favorite public garden, it is also a place that has affected me in a deeply spiritual way.