Colorful tulips to brighten Xi's visit to Holland

Olympic skating brothers Michel and Ronald Mulder show their medals during the opening of the 65th international Keukenhof flower show in Lisse, the Netherlands, on Tuesday.

President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan are scheduled to enjoy a short weekend break from their tight European schedule from Saturday to April 1 to visit Keukenhof, the famous spring flower park.

The couple are also expected to visit pandas in a zoo, which is about 60 km away from Brussels, after they wrap up their visits in France and Germany.

The visits are sure to draw more publicity for the two parks and influence more Chinese to plan trips to follow in the couple's footsteps.

Before Xi takes part in the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on Monday and Tuesday, he will meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and then attend the Sino-Dutch Economic Forum over the weekend.

Xi and his wife are then scheduled to visit Keukenhof with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima on Sunday.

"Of course we are very happy about (their) stop in Holland," said Annemarie M.M. Gerards-Adriaansens, public relations manager of Keukenhof. "It means that we have a lot of promotions for the Netherlands around the world, especially for the tulip, and we are always happy when an important person visits our park."

With an area of 32 hectares, Keukenhof, also called the Garden of Europe, is the largest garden in the world, with approximately 7 million flower bulbs planted there.

Located near Lisse, the park is open to the public from March 20 to May 18.

Currently, it has the theme of Holland and is showing an exhibition about the history of the tulip.

"In the 17th century, the tulip was a very sought after and expensive product, and we would like to show the amazing Holland tulip to the world and to the Chinese president," she said.

She added that the Netherlands was still freezing in April last year, while this year the tulips are flowering earlier, "which we are happy with".

"The blooms should be in by one or two weeks, and the flowering will last until mid-April."

State leaders, first ladies and royalty from different countries have visited the park. In 2008, then-premier Wen Jiabao also visited Keukenhof.

Most of the park's foreign visitors are from Germany, the US and Britain. In 2008, it had about 25,000 Chinese visitors, and last year it had roughly 30,000 Chinese visitors during the eight-week flower exhibition.

"It will become bigger in the coming years," Gerards-Adriaansens said.

Yuan Ding, a PhD student in anthropology at KU Leuven and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in Leuven, said it has been a tradition of the association to organise trips to the park since 2009.

Last year, two buses carrying more than 100 Chinese drove to Keukenhof. And this year, they will organise two trips, one on April 6 and the other on May 3, due to the number of participants.

"We are excited, yet a little bit regretful after we learned of President Xi and Madame Peng's visit this Sunday," Yuan said.

"If we had known earlier, we could have set up our trip on that day."

"We also know that this time there will be a new tulip variety named after Peng Liyuan. We are looking forward to seeing which kind of tulip could represent Asian beauty," Yuan said.

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