How a tramp ate a 3,000 florin "onion"

In the middle of the 16th century, a certain Ogir Giselin de Busbeck was the envoy of the Austrian emperor in Constantinople. In 1554, the ambassador visited the Turkish Sultan's garden, where flowers of unusual beauty attracted his attention. These were tulips, not yet known in Europe at that time.

The envoy acquired several bulbs and, returning to Europe, handed them over to the garden of Emperor Ferdinand I. The garden was managed by the botanist Karl Cluzius, who became interested in tulips and began to develop new varieties that can survive in the cold European climate. Soon, Clusius was invited to the Dutch city of Leiden and appointed head of the Botanical Garden at the local university.

Clusius, who continued his experiments with tulips, managed to develop frost-resistant varieties after a few years. The beautiful and rare flowers quickly gained popularity in the upper strata of society, becoming a symbol of wealth and prosperity. More and more new varieties were bred. In 1612, 100 varieties of tulips were published in one of the flower catalogs.

Bulb prices reach fabulous sums. Some rare specimens were estimated at thousands of guilders, while it should be noted that the annual income of the average Dutchman was about 150 guilders. It turns out that an ordinary citizen of the country had to work for several years to buy just one onion. However, they were not designed for ordinary citizens; only representatives of the elite could purchase planting material of rare varieties.

It is not surprising that in Holland a story has survived to this day about how one tramp ate a tulip bulb, which cost as much as 3, 000 florins. Florin was the name of a gold coin issued since the 13th century in Florence, which later became widespread in many European countries, including Holland.

According to this legend, one tramp, idly loitering in the port, saw on the horizon a ship belonging to a local wealthy merchant. The ship was delayed en route, and its owner was already pretty worried. The ragamuffin rushed to tell him the good news, hoping to receive some reward for his service.

The merchant, delighted with the long-awaited news, took out a fat herring from a barrel and handed it to the tramp. And he, in turn, leaving the office, noticed an onion on the table. Deciding that the herring would be much tastier with onions, the tramp put it in his pocket.

After a while, the merchant noticed the loss. It was a tulip bulb "Eternal August", for which an amount was paid that a beggar could not dream of even in the sweetest dreams.

When the kidnapper was found, he ate fish and onions with appetite. Alas, the dinner cost him dearly - the poor fellow was sent to prison for embezzlement on an especially large scale.