Alkmaar cheese market and beyond

After my evening sleep yesterday, I woke early, pleased my headache had gone. I edited my photos from Keukenhof until John was awake too, then made him a cup of tea in bed. Then, before long we left to visit Alkmaar where there’s a famous cheese market or kaasmarkt. We had a bit of drama getting into the car park because the barrier had broken a few cars in front of us and, when everyone reversed or turned to use the exit lane as an entrance instead, we were stuck in the middle of the road. Poor John was trying to do a 3 point turn in a 6.4 metre campervan surrounded by cars and bikes coming from several directions! We then walked to the market square where the traditional cheese market is held every Friday. We knew we were getting near because the narrow streets got busier and noisier.

Each week, lorries bring the huge cheeses from the factories to the market in the square, where the old customs and traditions take over. Two cheese carriers dressed in white then run with about 8 rounds of cheese to be weighed on a special barrow hanging between them, and samplers inspect and taste the cheese to check the quality. Then sellers and buyers bargain over the price per kilo and, when a sale has been agreed, the cheese carriers take the cheeses back out into the square. The weight of the barrow and cheeses is about 130kg. It must have been hard work dashing backwards and forwards in the sun today!

In the square, two loaders dressed in fawn throw the cheeses to each other and then onto carts, which are then taken to lorries in the street. We were lucky to get a good view of proceedings by squirming and climbing up through the back of a scaffolding grandstand and getting a birds eye view from the top. Good job we’re quite slim and agile! It was fun to watch and fascinating to find out about the 400 year old traditions.

Afterwards, we stopped at a stall to sample and buy some cheese for tea, which we’ll have with some fresh bread and red wine. Then, on the way back to the van through the town centre, we stopped for a coffee and then an ice cream.

We planned to stay at the camperplaats at Den Helder at the top of North Holland tonight before crossing the 20 mile Afluitsdijk dike to the Friesland province tomorrow. With plenty of time to spare after leaving Alkmaar, we drove around the coast of West Friesland on our way to Den Helder. We loved driving along  Zuiderdijk, the dike along the coast above Markermeer. The road on top was just wide enough for Bertie BoxLife, but luckily there wasn’t much traffic coming the other way!

It’s been a beautiful today… the sky is bright blue and the fields are a vibrant green, with water everywhere! As well as bulb fields (few of which had anywhere suitable to stop and take photos!), we’ve seen orchards today, covered with blossom, and fields of sheep, reminiscent of Wales.

After lunch in the sunshine near Enkhuizen, we continued our drive. It got very busy as we neared Den Helder and the sat nav sent us by a round about route to avoid congestion. Just in time, John realised we wouldn’t fit though a tunnel, and I got the sat nav to change the route. We found the camperplaats at the harbour easily and parked. We’ve been to the supermarket, then sat in the sun, amazed we can wear shorts in Holland in April! John had a walk around the harbour while I edited my photos. Now it’s time for cheese and wine… yummy 😋

 

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