If you kindly allow, I’ll begin my photo stream from Amsterdam Sloterdijk station at 6 o’clock in the morning, when my night bus just arrived from Paris. The day hadn’t started yet, but the spring allure already lurked there.
Croissant and coffee is never better than at a station in a cold morn, after a long night on the road. I then took a train to Alkmaar. There was some accidents on the rail, so I had to go to Hoorn first, then from Hoorn to Alkmaar. The sun was rising over shimmering canals and ponds. Old and modern windmills lay in the distance. The closer I approached Alkmaar, the more cattle and birds I saw on the meadow. Right, I was in the land of milk and cheese.
In Alkmaar, it’s the opening day of their “traditional” summer cheese market. Direction guide to the market, in the form of a cheese cube, was posted everywhere. The path from the station to the city center is a pleasant walk with many pretty houses and peaceful alleys.
Street vendors had already installed along the path, selling typical Dutch souvenirs: flower bulbs, wooden shoes, blue ceramics,… I hope at least they are not made in China.
The cheese weighing rights and weighing scale which were granted to Alkmaar in 1365:
You can see bikes in all of my photos in Holland. Cliché, but they were indeed everywhere I pointed camera to. Beautiful orange cheese wheels lined up the square in front of the weighing house (which looks as imposing and sacred as a town hall). I don’t know why, the sight of food stacks always cheers me up. Perhaps because my country had been rather poor during my childhood and food have become precious to me.
Boats carrying cheese on the canal:
At 10am, the market opened. There was a small parade: the guy at the head of the parade, dressing in black, was introduced to be the author of the music he was singing (that piece of music was quite melody-less, but that’s part of the fun).
Those Dutch ladies in costume could certainly pose, and they look like a joyful painting: red skirt, blue apron, blond hair and rosy cheeks.
They invited us to taste and buy the cheese. The price was quite reasonable: 10 E for a nice bag of 4 cheeses and a souvenir. The cheese was good too. In the end I think I bought like 10 kg of cheese and I just dragged the bag along.
The cheese porters arrived with their colorful straw hat. They carried the cheese to the weighing house, measured its weight and value, then carried it back to “buyers”.
If they ran and waved their hand in sync, it’s not really for the show: the cheese cart is really heavy and the two men can’t have carried it if they hadn’t been in sync. It looks easier said than done. The town mayor stood forth for the task (the gentlemen in suit), but once the cheese cart was strapped to his shoulder and back, he could only move slowly. The carrier behind him tried to accommodate, but he surely thought it wouldn’t work.
After a while, he fell flat on four and quit. Poor guy, I hope his back was undamaged. Children sprawled on the cheese wheels to play, and the cheese porters picked up some small children to carry around on their cart.
Even the gulls were interested:
With 1 E you can weight yourself on that ancient scale. Children adored it.
The flea market around was on full swring. Herring for only 2 E, some shoes master demonstrating his skills on set. The ceramic did look tempting, but I didn’t buy it, because I was going to Delft afterward.
Roaming around the town:
I saw a long queuing line outside of this ice cream shop, so I tried it. The ice cream was tasty, with only 1.2 E/cup! I thought that price didn’t exist anymore.
The Dutch lion looks rather cute than majectic here:
The cheese museum, I didn’t go in:
Alkmaar’s history in the cheese museum (I’m so glad Alkmaar won the Eredivisie in 1981 and 2009, though normally I’m an Ajax fan).
St. Laurenskerk, I love its medieval look, its interior was not heavily decorated, but paintings and motifs popped up where you didn’t expect:
The plaques on the long walking path all had different motifs on them, nothing too sophisticated but still a hidden treat:
Now I look back at this fountain, I realise that it was shaped in cheese wheel form:
Every corner is photogenic, but I had something to do in Amsterdam so I must leave.