Summer in Holland is fantastic. Long, colourful days with nice temperatures and a good amount of sunshine ( most of the time at least). Whether you like music, food or flowers, t here’s always something to do. Most of the time you can even combine all of your interests, passions and hobbies by going to one place or even one festival. In the post Summer Festival Hopping you could already read about my favourite festivals in the province South Holland. Now, to make sure you won’t miss out on some typical Dutch activities during your Holland holiday I wanted to highlight some August events in the Netherlands that Verita’s Visit organises themed food & flowers.
They all come to Gouda, city of cheese. Cheese fans from all over the world look forward to the new season of the Gouda cheese market, which opens on Thursday 6 April 2017. Whether you like Old Amsterdammer, Beemster cheese or Edammer Cheese, Gouda is the place to taste the different types of delicious round gold. Gouda cheese market is only on Thursdays though. So, what kind of cheese related things can you do when you visit Gouda on another day? And, is there anything else worth seeing & tasting? Let’s find out.
It’s Saturday. In a Gouda cheese farm, a 5 km bike ride from Gouda, city of cheese, the women are making cheese. We arrive to early, the cheese is still curd and spinning in a big tub. So, I suggest to hit the road and visit the cheese warehouse first. Enroute we are thrilled with the sight of the typical Dutch landscape, we are amazed by the flat organised structure of the polders. Seeing the first windmill makes us clap our hands in excitement. It can only get better. And it does. When we reach the cheese warehouse, our jaws drop.
Gouda Cheese Museum & Cheese Shop
We do visit the Gouda cheese farm again, see the cheese go in the presses. Then we head back to Gouda city of cheese, because we have a full program. The Gouda cheese museum is first on our list. A volunteer of the museum guides us through the history of cheese and other dairy products. We are almost done with the cheese part of our visit to Gouda. We have tasted quite some Gouda farmer cheeses at the Gouda cheese warehouse and the cheese farm, but at ‘t Kaaswinkeltje we not only see the golden version, but also many other colours. One last time we taste different types of cheese, one last time we buy another Gouda cheese, this time a cheese with cumin.
Gouda city of cheese soup & syrup waffle dessert
After a lunch of Gouda cheese soup on the terrace of Belvedère, with view on the very attractive Saturday market, we pass by a couple of the stroopwafel shops to taste and buy the different syrup waffles – and yes, there is also great difference in the syrup waffles you get in Gouda-.
Gouda stained glasses & pollard willows
We’ve kept the best for last. On our way to the Gouda cheese farm & warehouse, we saw these special type of pruned trees along the canals. Apparently you don’t see them ( that much) in America. In the Netherlands we are used to them and they are centuries old. In the St John church of Gouda, famous of the large stained glasses, there is a pane that also depicts these pollard willows. The upper part of this stained glass depicts a scene in the life of John the Baptist. Although it doesn’t take place in the Netherlands, these pollard willows at the riverside give a Dutch touch to this Middle Eastern scene.
To be able to point the others to this specific stained glass in the St John church ánd to be able to show them Gouda city of cheese and so much more, made me immensely happy. And, not just me…
There he was, with rosy cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes, talking energetically to his conversation partner. I stepped up to him to introduce myself and in no time Jos van Riet had taken my hand to show me the fine details of handjeklap, the traditional negotiation between cheese farmer and cheese trader.
Natural Beauty and Local Farmers
In between Utrecht and Gouda, surrounded by idyllic Dutch landscapes there is a gem of a city called Woerden. Although it is a precious small city, perfect for a daytrip from Amsterdam or Utrecht, not many people know about it. Woerden came up with a fantastic plan to put the city on the map. As the capital of the Green Heart, a large green nature area between the bigger cities in Holland, the focus was set on the natural beauty of the area and the authentic local flavour in the city centre itself. This local flavour does make Woerden quite a warm and joyful place and to extend that feeling a farmers and cheese market is created where you get so close to the Dutch cheese farmers and traders you can actually shake hands with them, or in my case, do some handjeklap.
Woerden had one more idea to put the city on the map and that was the introduction of the Cheese King. Every year a highly estimated and highly qualified person in the local cheese business is chosen to be Cheese King of Woerden. I think this is a fabulous idea, because it makes the whole Dutch cheese business so much more personal.
Cheese King Netherlands
Jos van Riet was crowned Cheese King Woerden shortly before the Graskaasdag beginning of June. His main task as cheese king is to tell as many people as possible, visitors, bloggers, tour operators, all there is to know about Woerden and the Dutch cheese process: from cheese making to cheese selling. Now, if you get a chance to meet this man and talk to him, please do. He’s not the type of person just telling mere facts. He will introduce everyone he knows, and he knows every person in Woerden. He is a storyteller, as soon as he starts talking you enter his world of Woerden.
Together with Jos I visited the Woerden farmer & cheese market on Saturday morning. He’s a man of words and actions, introducing the cheese farmers, the cheese traders and stepping right into the scene to comment and explain everything in detail. We headed for a tour in a Dutch cheese farm where Jos enthusiastically showed every step in the cheese making process. After a few hours with him you know all the anecdotes, gossips of the city, have experienced all the mayor events in Woerden’s history and can tell a thing or two yourself about Gouda cheese, farmers cheese, handjeklap, cheese making.
For more Culture & Cheese, join the tour .