With a better weather forecast than I’d had the previous day, hopes were high for a dry day exploring Gouda. I made it to the station by mid morning with the intention of getting to the city in time to see the cheese market. As The Netherlands is quite a small country, all train journeys are relatively short, and I was soon in the small city of Gouda.
Gouda is known worldwide for its cheese, and I’d come on a Thursday specifically to see the weekly cheese market. As I wandered through the streets to the city centre where the market is held, I saw cheese wheel bunting decorating the streets, and a large blow up archway welcoming visitors to the market. Although the rain was starting to lightly fall, the market was well underway.
In the main market square surrounding the Town Hall, there were normal market stalls with cheese, snacks and crafts. But the main attraction was in the centre – laid out on crates in rows were wheels of cheese. By each stack was a cheese seller, some doing deals as I walked past. There’s none of the usual chat here, deals are done by the clap of a hand. The seller and buyer press a hand together as if they’re about to shake hands. Each time one makes an offer or counter offer, they clap the hand of the other person. When they finally reach an agreement, they shake hands, and the wheel of cheese is taken away.
Ladies were walking up and down the rows of cheese dressed in the traditional dairy maid outfits, and it was probably all for tourist purposes but I loved it regardless! Towards the end of the market, which is only on for a few hours, a horse and cart comes down the middle. The cart is loaded with cheese wheels, which are then taken away. The nearby Waag where they used to, and still do, weigh the cheese was home to a ‘guess the weight’ of a cheese wheel. Inside, they were also using the massive scales to weigh some of the huge cheese wheels there. And by massive scales, I mean big enough to fit a person on!
After looking around all the cheese places and perusing the market, I stopped for a coffee and slice of apple cake to get out of the drizzling rain. The city wasn’t rammed with tourists as there isn’t much to do there other than cheese-related activities and a canal tour. As I’d made the effort to come, I figured I might aswell have a look around, and just wandered the streets admiring the Dutch architecture I’d grown to love in Amsterdam and somewhat missed a little in the ultra modern Rotterdam.
Before long I spotted the cathedral, and me being me of course went in. There weren’t many people in there, and I took a seat to admire the stain glass windows the cathedral is known for. I should have paid a bit more attention because a concert soon started, with one of the most enthusiastic organ players I’ve ever seen. Enthusiastic, but not necessarily good, and a few people left. I felt bad there weren’t many people there when he was so into it, so stayed for the whole thing. As the last note rang out, I thought it had finished and I was free to leave. I was in fact shepherded into another part of the cathedral where there was another mini concert. This time it was actually quite good, thankfully, and once it finished I tried to leave as quickly as I could before there was another concert in some hidden area of the church!
I’d seen everything I’d wanted to in Gouda, and took a slow walk back to the train station via the shopping centre. Gouda is a charming city, and I was glad I’d made the effort to visit despite there not being much there. But for now, it was back to Rotterdam!