Kaasmarkt – Kass or Cheese Market
When we arrived the market had already started, tourists were about 10 deep all around the market square so it was difficult to see all the goings on. The rounds of cheese sitting in a huge square had me drooling, it was a sight to see – I’m a lover of Cheese rounds not so readily available today. Cheese rounds have such a different flavour to what we buy in sealed plastic from the supermarkets. This looked a feast. The Kass or Cheese Market is famous for Gouda cheese.
If you wondered what was going on – there are buyers in the square sampling/tasting and testing the different varieties of cheese on display. Watch for the slapping of hands between the negotiating parties in the square, this is the traditional method for negotiating cheese prices. A handshake finalised the deal.
When the parties have reached a decision the Guild Porters, very smart in their white uniforms and colored hats, take the cheeses on the sledge to the Weigh House (de Waag). Guilds formed in the Middle Ages for most trades or profession, in this instance the Cheese Carriers Guild. The color of the Hat and sledge indicates which guild they belong to.
Once in the weigh house (de waag) the cheese is weighed by the ‘tasman’ or purse man. This is a very busy time with guild porters running to and fro from the weigh house carrying the cheeses. Once weighed the guild porters take it back to the square and load it from the sledge into the wagons for the buyers.
If you get their early you can get a good view, otherwise it can be a struggle to see. We headed for the weigh house tower which gives a really good view. The weigh house is a beautiful old building, originally a chapel, added to in later years when it became a hospital for the poor and sick. It became a weigh house in 1582. A fascinating old building worth exploring. Apart from the view it has a wealth of history about early times in cheese production and dairy. It is not only a Weigh House (da Waag) today but it also houses the Tourist Centre and Cheese Museum.
Watching all the goings on was really a fun experience at the cheese market, as well as a little cheese tasting. Pretty young women in traditional dutch costumes carrying baskets, walked around the inside edge of the square with leaflets and samples of cheese for the tourists. After 11:00am you can take a look at the enormous scales in da Waag and let yourself be weighed on the ancient old scales.
The Kaas – cheese market is held every friday from 1st April until 2nd September, 2016, between hours of 10:00am to 12:30pm at Da Waag in the centre of Alkmaar. Entry is free into the Kaas Markt and the Museum.
Alkmaar is the biggest Kaas- Cheese Market in the world and dates from Medieval times. Behind da Waag, a market is held at the same time as the Kaasmark; souvenirs, craft and food, plenty of delicious cheeses to choose from. Couldn’t resist some fresh poffertjes dusted with icing sugar, and topped with fresh cream – yum yum!!
Streets of Alkmaar
Now for a stroll down the streets of Alkmaar.A typical Dutch medieval town, fabulous kaas or cheese shops with so many varieties for tasting. You are able to taste and then buy smaller quantities of the cheeses sliced from the fresh golden rounds.
Known as the Great St. Laurens Church it is hard to miss when walking down the main street. An impressive old church built between the years 1440-1512, now the centre for arts, cultural and community activities. The St Laurenskerk has two world-famous organs, concerts are held in the summer. Check with the tourist office at da Waag while you’re at the Cheese market, there maybe one happening that day. Look for the ancient town shield (15th Century) placed on the east end of the St.Laurenskerk.
South of the Kass or Cheese market is the old vismarkt or the fish market which dates back to the 1500’s. Very quaint medieval statues on the roof of the vismarkt building; in front an ancient old fountain and a stone bench where the fisherman displayed their catches for sale. From a nearby stall we tried fresh herrings which were really fresh and tasty. Very taken with the window painting on some of the seafood shops. Much to our delight there were a number of windmills in the area too. Nearby, a beautiful ‘old world’ Cafe De Buren where we enjoyed a much-needed caffeine hit!
One more stop on our list today – Haarlem and the Great Church or St. Bavo’s …..
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- The Hague – Netherlands
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