Saturday, April 21, 2012
Alkmaar Cheese Market
This week's subject is number ten among the top ten things to see or do in The Netherlands. From the first Friday of April until the first Friday of September, the city of Alkmaar holds its weekly cheese market every Friday from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM. The market is run by a traditional "Cheese Carrier's Guild." Back in the middle ages, almost every trade had a guild and in Holland there is one for cheese carriers. Established in 1593, there are thirty men and a Cheese Father who make up the Cheese Carrier's Guild.
The market opens at 10:00 AM sharp with the ringing of a bell by either a famous personality or special guest of the guild. Next, the cheese is inspected and sampled with a grade so the buyers have a good idea of the quality of the cheese they are purchasing. The cheese is bought by way of bargaining with clapping of the hands. It is sold by kilo and the last clap seals the sale.
After the cheese has been sold, it is weighed by the "weigh master" who supervises for correctness. Honesty is strictly adhered to in the weighing of the cheese according to the old Dutch saying "Een valse Waghe is de Heere een gruwel" or "a false balance is an abhorrence in the eyes of the Lord." Once the cheese has been sold and weighed, the cheese carriers bring the cheese on an old-fashioned "cheese barrow" (or stretcher) to the trucks of the buyers. Since a full load of cheese can weigh up to 130 kilos (or 286 pounds) the two cheese carriers must be strong and not have bad backs.
If you happen to visit the Alkmaar cheese market, don't miss the cheese museum: http://www.kaasmuseum.nl
More information about the Alkmaar Cheese Market at: http://www.kaasmarkt.nl