Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Tulips from Amsterdam

What a strange subject, you will think. Tulips in the midst of December. Well, I was looking that dumbfounded when I was planting tulips in our garden and discovered daffodils on the verge of blossoming. With Christmas we will have Christmas daffodils!

For my birthday I got a large packet of various flower bulbs. In fact I only asked for tulips from Amsterdam. The giver did not realize that crocus, iris, anemones and daffodils all grow in abundance on the island. I was happy to be able to put a lot of merry coloured crocus in the ground. The autumnal crocus just disappeared and for spring here they do not know any crocus.

The bright yellow daffodils from Holland got a place just next to their Greek fellows, the pale yellow daffodils. When they hurry up I will have for months at a row blossoming daffodils. However I hesitated planting the anemones. In a few weeks these flowers will be colouring our landscape, the first anemones last winter were out on the 1st of January. To put cultivated anemones near their wild sisters... The same thoughts were for the iris. In a little bit of time there will be plenty of them all around.

I was pretty happy with the snowdrops. As far as I know they do not exist in the Lesvian nature. Well, that is a pity because these white fragile flower heads bungling from a green tiny stem might be the most prettiest harbinger of spring. I really do hope that they will not get mixed up by our strange weather. A few days it was cold, these last days the sun shone away the chilly northern wind and today it is lovely and warm. However, when those small white beauties like it here and multiply, know that when you will discover them here in some ten years they originally came from Amsterdam.

The flower bulbs coming for sure from this region are the tulips. In the 16th century the famous tulips from Amsterdam were imported from Turkey (Lesvos in that time was under Turkish rule). In the midst of the 17th century there was even a 'Tulpo mania' in Holland: the bulbs were precious merchandise, they were subject of speculation and crazy prices got paid for them. One man once changed 2 loads of grain, 35 litres of beer, 2 loads of rye, 1500 kilo of butter, 4 fat oxes, 500 kilo of cheese, 12 big sheep, 1 silver cup, 5000 litre of wine and one pack of fabric against one tulip bulb! When this craziness was over like with a crash on the stock market many Dutchmen went broke. Now nobody speaks anymore of Turkish tulips. The Dutch took over the commerce and got world famous for it.

Some books say that there are tulips here in the Lesvian nature. For sure they are on the island of Chios. But I did not find them. Where is the tulip hiding on this island?

Lesvos is not famous for its spring flowers nor for it's cyclamen which make the autumnal landscape so pretty. Lesvos is famous for its olives and at this moment you can learn everything about this harvest. Everywhere you hear the sound of the click-clacking of the sticks against the trees, the chatter of the women picking the olives from the ground, the panting of the men carrying the loaded sacks to the cars, the mount of olives growing by day at the Olive Presses.

It is a good year for the olives. Thanks to the bad harvests in Spain and Italy the Greeks get a good price for a kilo of olive oil (In Greece they do not know litres but all is calculated in kilos) and the trees are just loaded with dark blue black olives. So many an olive farmer can bring in workers. And these days even labourers are well paid: 30 euro a day. Which makes everybody happy. Even the weather seems to cooperate. It looks like spring here on the island. And that is what the daffodils thought as well.

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

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