An ancient city, a hand clap, and a lot of locally made cheese. Where are you? The Netherlands, of course – at the Alkmaar Cheese Market. Located in North Holland, Alkmaar is a city that dates back to the 10th century. The town is full of medieval buildings, a beautiful canal, and a central marketplace called the Waagplein (weighing square). From April through September, the Almkmaar Cheese Market runs every Friday morning. This is one of only 4 cheese markets still in Holland.
Tradition runs strongly throughout this cheese market – from the hand clap that starts the market to the sleighs that bring the cheese out and the traditionally garbed cheese carriers. Now don’t get excited about all those rounds of cheese – this part is just for show! However, you can purchase cheese (all locally made) at shops around the Waagplein. You can also visit a cheese museum (swoon!).
- The cheese market is a 400+ year tradition, full of customs that may seem unfamiliar or archaic to us. Take a look at the traditions of these cheese men (and the cheese guild!). What other European guilds have such traditions? Why do you think they still exist today?
- Watch this video of the cheese market. What drew your eye, when seeing the cheese market?
- Read one traveler’s experiences at the Alkmaar Cheese Market. What is the role of museums and displays of traditions, in maintaining or teaching about culture? At what point does something cross from interesting to, well, cheesy?