The Netherlands is famous for its flowers. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the world's flowers pass through this tiny country. The Aalsmeer Flower Auction is where approximately 17 million flowers change hands daily. The auction is held 10 miles outside Amsterdam in an 8.2 million-square-foot building -- the equivalent of 182 football fields -- which makes it not only the world's largest flower auction but also the largest enclosed commercial space.
The night before each working day at the auction, trucks are unloaded and the fresh-cut flowers are refrigerated overnight. At 4:30 a.m. the following day, the flowers are pulled into a collection hall and grouped by variety. Inspectors assess the quality of the flowers and assign each lot a number. Then, the carts are hooked onto a tow chain and pulled into one of the four auction rooms reserved for cut flowers (a fifth room is devoted to potted plants). The auction begins promptly at 6:30 a.m.
The flowers are sold through a process known, appropriately, as a Dutch auction. Unlike American-style auctions, the opening price starts high, not low. Auctioneers announce the flowers that are to be offered, the nursery they came from, the minimum quantity, and any comments from the quality inspector.
The bidding is led by giant clocklike screens with markings representing hundredths, tenths, or fifths of a Dutch guilder; a flashing light on the screen starts at the highest price asked and counts down. Each bidder presses a button in front of his seat when the light hits the amount he is willing to spend. (In a remnant of tradition, the bidders are all men, though some of the auctioneers are women.) The bidders represent mostly flower wholesalers, exporters, and large retailers.
Eighty to 90 percent of purchases are shipped within 24 hours. Refrigerated trucks transport most of those bound for Europe, but flowers for destinations such as America or Asia are sent via air freight. The flowers often arrive in New York the evening they're sold, and wholesalers in the city's Flower District receive them as early as 3:30 a.m.
The variety of flowers sold at Aalsmeer is staggering: Roses account for the highest volume, but carnations, narcissi, calla lilies, Easter lilies, sweet peas, euphorbia, and other species abound.
Passable part of an inundation in the form of elevated terrain, a road, (railway) embankment or waterway.
Collective term for projectile weapons.
Also called bulwark. An outward-projecting pentagonal structure, suitable for delivering flanking fire.
A storage site for military equipment. The parks in the Defence Line are spread out over sectors (sector parks) and groups (group parks).
A battery that is positioned behind armour plates.
A fort with one or more armoured artillery positions.
A number of artillery pieces combined into one group.
Shielded position from which defenders can harass the enemy.
A (low) defensive structure that extends into the moat and can be used to give flanking fire.
A space that is protected against enemy fire and is outfitted with a gun port, behind which a piece of artillery is placed.
An army division whose tasks include, amongst other things, the construction of temporary and permanent defensive structures. The term ‘engineer’ is derived from the French word ‘ingenieur’.
Also called covert way. A pathway that is protected from enemy fire by an earthen wall and can be used for transporting soldiers and military equipment.
Also called stop-log sluice. A temporary dam that stops the inundation water when beams are stacked up in its recesses.
Water purification system that improves the quality of drinking water by extracting iron.
Earthen elevation surrounding a defensive structure, featuring a breastwork.
A (wooden) shed where artillery and military engineering equipment were stored.
The part of a terrain that can be fired at.
Long-range flanking fire: fire support for the secondary forts. Short-range flanking fire: fire that covers the surroundings of the defensive structure itself.
Known in Dutch as ‘Vestingwet’. The act of the 18th of April 1874 that stipulated which forts would become part of the Dutch national defence system.
The side of a defensive structure that is facing away from the enemy.
In the Defence Line forts this is a casemate giving short-range and long-range flanking fire.
Undercarriage for a cannon or other heavy firearm.
Shell that is filled with highly explosive material.
The flooding of land to keep the enemy at bay.
Also called inlet sluice. A sluice that is constructed with the aim of letting water into a certain area.
An independent system of connected defensive structures.
Artillery that gives frontal fire over large distances, directly aimed at enemy positions.
A simple (temporary) defensive structure manned by a small number of soldiers.
An underground connecting passageway that is shellproof.
Known in Dutch as ‘Kringenwet’. Act of January 1853 that stipulates restrictions with regard to the construction of buildings in the vicinity of defensive structures, the so-called forbidden zones (‘kringen’), in order to guarantee a free field of fire.
A chart that is installed next to the gun port to give the operators of the artillery insight into the distances of targets and the corresponding firing angles.
A place of last refuge for the defenders of a fort, which can be defended independently.
A turret that is lifted up to give fire and is retracted and thus made almost invisible once the firing has stopped.
Position that provides shelter to retreating troops.
Battery that is situated in close proximity to a fort and performs some of the tasks that have been assigned to that fort.
The ability of a building to withstand gunfire thanks to brickwork, concrete or a bottom layer.