Info Shymkent - A carpet of Tulips in the Keukenhof, Netherlands

Tulips – From Red Hill to Keukenhof

Info Shymkent made a trip to the Red Hill – a hill full of tulips – to learn more about the history of the Tulip and its origin in Kazakhstan.

On a sunny spring day Info Shymkent to start another one day trip. This time we went on the motorway in the direction of Taraz. But this was not the final destination for this day. After a 45 minutes drive we left already the motorway to the left after the village Azatlyk heading into another village called Kulan.

Close to the village we saw already our travel destination: In the landscape of fresh green hills was only one hill deep red. It is Шұбайқызыл қыраты or the “Red Hill”. Every spring thousands of wild tulips blossom and turns the hill into its red color. Yes! Wild tulips!

When many people talking about Tulips they have very fast the Netherlands, especially the Keukenhof in mind. But do you know that the tulips have there origin in Kazakhstan?

The tulips appeared about 10 million years ago in the region around Aksu-Zhabagly national reserve at the foothills of the Tienshan mountains.

But how the tulip came from Kazakhstan to the Keukenhof in the Netherland?

In the 16th century a part of Kazakhstan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. His soldiers discovered the tulip and they were impressed with it’s beauty. So they brought the flower to their leader of the Ottoman Empire – Sultan Suleyman I (1494 – 1566). His gardeners first started to cultivate the tulips in the gardens of Constantinople, now Istanbul. The Sultan Ahmed III felt so strong in love with these flowers that he celebrated a huge party during the first full moon in spring to celebrate the tulips.

Through these days the tulip became very popular and was a symbol of wealth and power. The sultan showed the tulip on their turban. Maybe this fact and the form of the blossom gives the tulip its name. The Persian word tulipan means turban.

The sultan felt so strong in love with these flowers that he celebrated a huge party during the first full moon in spring to celebrate the tulips. They still celebrating the Tulip Festival in Istanbul today.

Info Shymkent - Istanbul is the old Constantinople
Constantinople – now Istanbul – was the first stop of the tulip from Kazakhstan to Europe.

Sultan Suleyman gave also his loved flower as a special gift to important guests. One of these guests was Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522 – 1592) a Viennese ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. This was the moment that the plant arrived Europe.

The tulip bulbs were planted in the Viennese garden of medicinal plants. The garden director Carolus Clusius (1526 – 1609) was excited of the tulip and carried several copies of tulips to Holland after he became professor at the University of Leiden in Holland and first praefectus of the city’s new botanical garden Hortus Academicus in 1593. It is one of the oldest botanical garden in Europe. During his time at the University Clusius made research on tulips and laid the foundations of the Dutch tulip bulb industry.

A sailor, captain of the Dutch East Indian Company named Adriaen Maertensz Bloc (1582 – 1661) bought ground in Lisse, South Holland in 1638 and built a castle and a garden on it. He called this place Keukenhof.

Info Shymkent - Tulips in the Keukenhof, Netherlands
A carpet of thousands of cultivated tulips in Keukenhof (Netherlands)

This place became more and more popular because of its huge amount of different colorful tulips and is well known with the name Garden of Europe now. Over 1.5 million people visiting this garden every year.

Botanists found over 34 wild species in Kazakhstan. The most popular one are the Tulipa alberti, Tulipa greigii and Tulipa kaufmanniana. Cultivated tulips reached the number of 3000 registered species world-wide. Most of them are ancestors of these kazakh tulips.

The best time to see the “original” tulips is the end of April and beginning of May. The Kazakh steppe looks like a bright endless carpet – Because of the thousands of flowers that blossom the Kazakh steppe looks like a bright, colorful and endless carpet.

We could see on the “Red Hill” at the end of April red greigs tulips (Tulipa greigii). Sometimes there were over 60 tulips on one square meter!

Info Shymkent - Tulip Fountain
The tulip fountain in Shymkent.

After our trip back to Shymkent we stood at the huge tulip fountain and recognized that we learned very much about tulips and were still impressed of the beauty of the tulip and their history.

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