Yes, this is supposed to be a site about unusual journeys and, yes, tulips in Amsterdam are about as unusual as finding a long queue and a surly stare at airport security. But…look! They’re so pretty! And it’s spring (up here in the icy northern hemisphere) and the theme is “bloom” for this week’s #FriFotos and, and…
Oh, all right. I’ll give you some information about the cutesy things.
Not only do tulips feature in the warbly 20th century song but they actually played a prominent role in creating a financial bubble, long before the housing market, the dotcom crisis or the South Sea Bubble came along.
Back in 1637, a single tulip bulb could sell for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman in the Netherlands.
Well, the short version says that when tulips arrived in the low countries from the outposts of the Ottoman Empire, they were the boldest, brightest flower that Europe had seen and they soon became a luxury item. Desire was high and supply was scarce, with Dutch merchants setting up futures markets in taverns and inns across the country. Bulbs changed hands up to ten times a day (on paper at least, ) with those with narrow coloured stripes seizing the highest prices of all (We now know that those stripes come about thanks to an infection from a virus, which rather strips some of the glamour away from the affair but there you go. Diamonds come from squashed lumps of coal after all and that didn’t stop Nicole Kidman and Marilyn Monroe cosying up to them and making them their new best friends.)
And then “tulip mania” came to an end, possibly as a consequence of an outbreak of bubonic plague in Haarlem. Prices collapsed, fortunes were lost and tulip bulbs were left to grow mouldy. The only good thing to come out of the affair was a curious title for a book called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds written by a chap called Mackay and published in the 19th century.
And the song, I suppose. Which, in part, leads to the tourist fascination with the flowers – and the appearance of these fine petals in 21st century Amsterdam.
Happy Photo Friday everyone.
Disclosure: I travelled to Amsterdam thanks to InterRail and stayed as a guest at the Moevenpick Hotel in the city. I don’t think that either company had anything to do with the tulip bubble. Or the song.
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