Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday's postcard: Cheese market in Alkmaar, Netherlands

This is an undated postcard (my guess is late 1950s or early 1960s) of the cheese market in Alkmaar, Netherlands. The photo was taken by Giovanni Trimboli.1

Alkmaar, which dates to at least the 10th century, is notable for its key role in the Dutch War of Independence, for the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, for being the birthplace of cartographer Joan Blaeu2, and for its Beatles Museum (John Lennon's first guitar was made in Alkmaar).

But Alkmaar is best known, perhaps, for its traditional cheese market, a tourist attraction that is held on Fridays from April through early September. The cheese market is described in these excerpts from Wikipedia:

Dutch cheese markets entry: "Dutch cheese farmers traditionally brought their cheeses to the market square in town to sell. Teams (vemen) of official guild cheese-porters (kaasdragers), identified by differently coloured straw hats associated with their forwarding company, carried the farmers' cheese on stretchers, which typically weighed about 160 kilograms. Buyers then sampled the cheeses and negotiated a price using a ritual system called handjeklap in which buyers and sellers clap each others' hands and shout prices. Once a price is agreed, the porters carry the cheese to the weighing house (Waag), and scale of their company."

Alkmaar entry: "Every Friday morning ... the Waagplein is the backdrop for this traditional cheesemarket. ... It is not actually possible to buy cheese at the market itself, which is really only a demonstration of how this merchants' market operated in times gone by. However, the demonstration, which takes place in front of the medieval weighing house, is surrounded by many specialized stalls where it is possible to buy all kinds of cheese (and non-cheese) related products. The Waag (pictured at right) is also home to the local tourist office and a cheese museum."3

1. Here are some online references I found to Giovanni Trimboli:
2. One of Joan Blaeu's maps was featured in the Papergreat post "Maps, maps and more maps."
3. The Waag in Amsterdam was featured in this July 2011 Papergreat post.

1 comment:

  1. Yay Dutch cheese!!! My luggage weighed a lot coming back from Amsterdam the other year, because I stuffed it with OVER $100 WORTH OF CHEESE. There was no way I was going without back in the States!!! Oh, gouda.... Since then, I've started collecting bits and pieces of Nederlanse Kaas related ephemera -- a 1970s Gouda sticker here, a couple of old cheesebearer pins there... Slowly but surely...! :D