Friday, May 20, 2011

Alkmaar Cheese Market

Happy Day!  We went to pick up a new car in Capelle a/d Ijssel.  It's an Opel with 'suicide' doors (they open towards each other).  But it's NEW and it doesn't have a stick shift.  Elder B. is happy as a clam.

You can't acuse the Dutch of not having a sense of humor.  While we were driving to Alkmaar we ran into some road construction.  There were signs every kilometer telling drivers how much longer they had to 'endure' the torn-up roads.  The sign translates to:  Still 5 kilometers. 
As we neared the end of the construction the signs started to have a happier face.  Now there's only 2 more kilometers.
We survived the construction and arrived safely in Alkmaar - a very old city about 45 minutes north of Amsterdam.

We're getting quite good at spotting the water towers.

The boats can get around easier than cars today - not nearly as much traffic on the water as on the roads.

We enjoyed strolling along some of the back streets.  It reminded me of Venice, Italy.

More 'connecting-with-heaven' roofs.  I wonder if it works.....

This is the location of the Friday morning Cheese Market.  The building is the 'Weigh House' where the cheese is weighed before being taken to the sales floor outside.

What a colorful scene.  The cheese is in large, round wheels - each weighing between 12 and 13 pounds.  This little sleigh on which the men transport the cheese would weigh over 125 pounds, counting the sleigh.  They ran with it to entertain the crowds, and crowds there were.

Each cheese company that sells their product at this market has their own color.  The men, all dressed in white, had a colored band around their hats that identified which company they represented.   There were four colors in all:  red, blue, yellow, and green.

The cheese that was purchased was loaded onto these racks to be put into waiting semi-trucks.

The men who transported the cheese to the waiting trucks didn't get to wear as colorful costumes as the ones who carried the sleighs.  They should protest!

Here a worker pushes this wooden cart loaded with cheese from the salesfloor to the trucks.

That's a whole lot of money you see sitting on those mats.

The woman in yellow had a microphone and explained the procedure to the tourists in several languages.  The men in white coats were the inspectors.  They evaluated the taste, smell, and quality of the cheese, which directly affected its price.

I couldn't believe how much cheese was laying out in the sun.  Is that okay???

These inspectors have cut open a wheel of cheese and are scooping out samples to test the flavor, creaminess, etc.  The cheese in this shape is called Gouda cheese. 

As different pieces are purchased, the carriers take it to the trucks.

Yes, that's yours truly.  I loved watching this fun tradition!  The market has been operating every Friday morning in Alkmaar for over 400 years.  Our country isn't even that old!

A lovely Dutch girl in native costume.  She was about 6 foot 2 inches tall.  The country of Holland has the tallest people in the world.  It's not uncommon to see men over 7 feet tall.  (And we do quite often.)
Some of these carriers weren't spring chickens.  I wonder if their backs hurt when they're thru for the day.

Loading the wheels of cheese from the sleighs to the carts would also be back-wrenching work.

Giddy - up!

Another girl in native costume.  The crowds love the color and the show.

We were able to buy a chunk of fresh cheese for 5 Euro.  Elder Beckstrand couldn't resist.  It was really good!

He's really putting his back into it.....

The loaded trays are electrically hoisted into the trucks.  Soon the cheese will be on its way to markets all over Europe.

After the market closed we took a little walk through the city. 

The architecture never fails to interest me. 

At the end of the block is a huge church.  Every Dutch city has one.

This area was pedestrian traffic only.  On Fridays there wouldn't be room for cars in the centrum.

Many people are shopping and enjoying the atmosphere, just like us.

This fine old fellow is doing a good job of scaring off tourists.

Back at the car, we say goodbye to Alkmaar.  What a fun morning!  We were even able to find a sporting goods store where we could buy some pool cues for our JoVo FHE game tournament on Monday. 
All in all - a very profitable and enjoyable morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment