Tulip mania, or tulpengekte, tulpenwoede, bollenrazernij in Dutch are all words that refer to the hysterical tulip trade in Holland and Utrecht in the 17th century, the first economic bubble in world history. During those days, a bag of tulip bulbs, imported a century earlier from the Ottoman Empire, was worth so much after a period of three years that you could buy a row of canal houses for them. And then, just like that, the lucrative trade collapsed in 1637.
This winter, the tulip craze returns to Amsterdam. Over by the bridge at the Herengracht and the Leidsestraat, two colorfully lit beds of tulips rise from the water.
The tulips don’t just rise from the water spontaneously, however, just as the economic boom in the 17th century didn’t fall from the sky. Instead, it was the result of prosperous trading and people working together. Working together is what defined the Dutch Golden Age and what these tulips need to rise above the water; they require actual human strength.
That’s the reason for the 20 pumps that line the bridge. Those who want to discover tulip mania in 2014 will have to work for it. City residents, passersby, tourists – everyone is invited to participate in this collaborative project. Pump, and let the tulips bloom.