Alkmaar: From Cheese....

Trip Start Apr 03, 2009
Trip End Apr 15, 2009

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Friday, April 10, 2009

Alkmaar is an hour north of our base. It dates back to 1366, when it was little more than a refuge for wayfarers. The main square holds a cheese market every Friday as it has done for the past 500 years.

Dutch cheese comes in huge round blocks covered in red, yellow or black wax. The market square was filled with rows of stacked cheeses. At one end there was a cheese weighing station. The white-clad, straw-boater wearing carriers raced up and down to it, bearing stretchers laded with cheese between them. The stretchers were hung from harnesses they were wearing, rather than being carried. The men moved at quite a pace and I have several photos of them racing out of shot.

Actually, considering the crowds it is surprising I got any photos at all. It was heaving. We struggled through the tourist market and decided to try to escape the hustle and bustle by taking a 'rondvaart'. Rondvaart literally translates as 'round trip' and in this country it is usually on a boat.

The kids, naturally had a giggle at 'rondvaart', as you do. My favourite Dutch Name of the Day had to go to a bed shop which translates loosely as Bed-Experts. It is actually called 'Bedweters'. Would you buy a bed from them?

I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, the boat trip. This lasted about 45 minutes and took us around the canals of Alkmaar, pointing out the historic buildings as we went. It turned into a bit of an adventure trip as we passed under 22 low bridges. When I say low, I mean not just "mind your head" low, but "mind your back and shoulders" and "squat right down on the floor, or else" type of low. Great fun.

The market shut at 12.30 and we still had half of a beautifully sunny day. We decided to head south, away from the crowds.
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