Top 3 from a Dutch cheese journey
Every Friday morning from April to the end of September, a show takes place on the square in the small town Alkmaar. We are in North Holland, home for Nord Hollandse Gouda PDO. But this is not just a show for tourists (even though lots of tourists come). This is still a cheese market where 30 tons of gouda this morning is evaluated, sold, carried to be weighted and off to the buyer. What makes this market very special is its roots that go back to 1593. (Even though cheese trading took place before).
The market is run by the old ‘Kaasdragers Gilde’ which means cheese carrier’s guild.
The guild from 1593 keeps alive the old rules. For instance, you are not allowed to swear on the market place. If you do, you pay a small fine. If you’re late, you pay. If you’re clothes is stained, you pay. The money from this and the cheese sales was collected and shared between the cheese carriors during winter.
In the old days, the guild took care of the cheese carriors and their families in case of illness and death.
The cheese father is above all. Until 1920s he lived in the guild’s house by the square. But still he today, the other cheese carriers call him ‘dad’.
Once a cheese carrier, always a cheese carrier. And that is still true.
To carry eight goudas (108 kg / 238 lb.) plus the wooden barrow requires balance. To start off well, the one in front always starts with the left leg, whereas the one behind starts with the right leg.
Four teams are working on the market. Each team consists of six carriors and one purseman who used to receive the money for the sold cheeses. An official oversees still today that everything is correct.
It was obvious to see that the cheese carriers had fun. Also I found it interesting to see how the past still lives in the presence. And how important cheese has been and still is for this area.
Visit the market
You can visit the market every Friday morning from April to the end of September. Read here about how and where. Beside the market is a cheese museum and a gift shop with a broad range of cheese souvenirs.