At first glance, it looks like a giant child with a giant box of crayons has been set loose upon the landscape and drawn dazzling stripes of purple, yellow, red, pink, white, orange and green.
In fact, this is the northern Netherlands in the middle of tulip season. The Dutch landscape in May is a kaleidoscope of color as more than three billion tulips burst into bloom.
In the 17th century, tulip mania swept the globe and the most eye-catching specimens changed hands for a small fortune. The Netherlands produce more than nine million bulbs a year. Once the flowers are gone the land will be cultivated for crops of vegetables.
Canada has a special relationship with the Netherlands, and with its tulips.
During World War II Canada sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In 1943 Princess Julianna gave birth to Princess Margaret at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was officially declared temporarily to be international territory so that she would be born in no country and would inherit only her mother’s Dutch citizenship.
When the war ended in 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is held annually in May in Ottawa. It claims to be the world's largest tulip festival, displaying over one million tulips. More than 500,000 people visit annually.