Summer means many things to many different people. To the citizens of the western Dutch city of Gouda, however, the warm summer months inevitably come to mean the season of cheese markets. A historic institution dating its inception back to over three hundred years ago, the Gouda cheese market takes place every Thursday morning from the end of June until the end of August.
Unsurprisingly, in all those years, the ceremonial aspects of the Cheese market have changed very little.
In the early morning of every Thursday from the last week of June until the last week of August of every summer, farmers from all across the country arrive in Gouda bearing their cheese stretcher stacked high with wheels of cheese. Once the cheese market opens at exactly 10:00, the farmers and cheese dealers (yes, that is an actual job!) barter and haggle in order to get the price they consider the most appropriate for the exchange. Once a price has been agreed on, the batch is sold. It is then taken on its cheese stretcher to the Weighing House to be weighed. The sight of the bartering, stretcher-carrying, and cheese-weighing is a ritual that has not changed in the three hundred years it has been in place, and is definitely a sight to be seen - being there and seeing it close up is definitely an invaluable Dutch experience.
Throughout the cheese market, young men and women dressed in traditional Dutch garb wander around handing out samplers of cheese to the market-goers, and are more than happy to pose for photographs with tourists. The Dutch Boys are also responsible for the carrying of the cheese stretchers. Alongside the cheese market, you will also find a traditional crafts market and an exhibit of locally produced crafts including clogs, pipes, earthenware, farm produce, waffles, as well as of course cheese.
Although preparations for the market start early, the market itself opens at 10:00. By around 12:30, however, the last of the cheese has been sold and carried out so make sure to be there early to experience the cheese market in its entirety. And of course, make sure to get your hands on some delicious Gouda cheese.
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