Monday, March 30, 2009

Say Cheese!!!!

Here is another lunch time vacation...a bit of my travel blog from the summer of 2005


            Cheese anyone?  Lots and lots of it?  I went up to Alkmaar this morning to get to the cheese market that happens there every Friday morning during the summer—and has for a long time!  They have records of their being a scale there since 1352!  650 years of cheese markets—we just don’t have any traditions like that at home.  It was fun to see it and realize that it has been going on so long!  And it wasn’t just a standard market.  The cheese makers lay out their wares—28,000 kg this time though in the middle ages it was close to 300,000 kg!  Anyway, so the cheese is laid out in long lines (we are talking 20 kg wheels and 10 kg balls here) by gentlemen in blue shirts, part of a guild in the market square, or Waagplein.  The buyers and maker reps then sample the cheese and finally agree on a price per kg by slapping hands.  But, each wheel weights slightly different so it all needs to be weighed. In comes another guild, the cheese carriers.  There are 4 teams of 7 men who carry the cheese.  They are dressed in shirts with straw hats brimmed in one of 4 colors so that they can be identified in their group.  The guys in blue load up these cart/sled things (not sure how to describe it—it has no wheels, is completely carried) with up to 8 wheels of cheese and two of the carriers attached ropes on harnesses they wear to the sled and carry it to massive scales.  The carts weigh 150-200 kg total when loaded.  After weighing, overseen by another guild, the carriers then take the cheese over to another area where another guild, dressed in brown, load them on to carts and nowadays then into truck though it used to be onto boats.  In all, it takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to sell all the cheese now though it used to take until midnight in old times.  Needless to say it is a colorful spectacle and they carriers seems to have a great time, and constantly play some with the crowd—taking some people around on the sleds and one cart I saw go by had 8 wheels of cheese and a 4-5 year old girl on it—I assume they took her off before weighing and didn’t charge the buyer for her weight as well! :)

1 comment:

Courtney said...

That makes me so hungry! The first shot almost looks like Krispy Kreme donuts :-)