Today we headed to Alkmaar not far from Amsterdam. When we first arrived in Europe two years ago we visited it to watch the Keukenhof Flower Parade. It’s part of the celebration where locals decorate floats with flowers and then drive them through the local villages. The parade goes for about thirty kilometres passing through heaps of small towns.
Alkmaar Cheese Market
Thinking that Alkmaar would be a place off the tourist map we decided to visit it on Friday. Well we were in for a surprise. The normally sleepy city comes alive on Fridays for the cheese market. Cheese rounds weighing up to 30 kilograms were unpacked from cheese barges and transferred onto wooden pallets.
Men dressed in white shirts and pants with boater style hats quickly slid carry straps around the handles of the pallets and were off. They smartly carried the pallets of cheese inside the weigh station to be weighed.
Around the square ladies dressed in traditional Dutch costume greeted the tourists. It was a scene which really took us back to yesteryear.
The Alkmaar Cheese Markets are held every Friday from late March to the end of September from 10am until 2pm.
Around the heart of Alkmar the streets were buzzing with people. The old ships stern type buildings were alive with boutique stores selling all sorts of treasures and trinkets. It really is a shoppers paradise.
Like many Dutch cities the old section of Alkmar is intersected with canals so as the weather was so beautiful they were packed with canal boats filled with tourists.
We wandered through the old town checking out the different shops and markets eventually arriving at the grassy parklands overlooking the canals of Singelgracht. It was a nice place to stop for the picnic that we’d packed. There was lots of action on the canal with tour boats, and locals so we were kept entertained.
Great St Lawrence Church
After lunch we headed back through the centre to Great St Lawrence Church, which had an interesting history.
The current Grote Sint Laurenskerk (Great St Lawrence Church) was built in the 12th century. It replaced other churches which dated back to 600 AD maybe even earlier. The tower collapsed in 1468 destroying the tower and part of the church. Reconstruction started two years later and eighty years later finally completed. Boy they must’ve dragged their heels on that job. During the 1566 Iconoclasm Riots much of the interior and exterior of the church was destroyed. The Calvanist reformists attacked the Catholic statues and symbols. Eventually after the Reformation in 1572 the church was claimed as a Protestant church.
It remained a church until 1996 when it became multifunctional becoming a museum, church and cafe. The new multi use has breathed life into the church with lots of people stopping for a coffee or looking at the displays. Around the interior of the church was a display on refugees from the local area. Large scale photos with short histories of the people tell the story of the people’s flight from their homeland and plight in their new country. There’s a lot of sad stories but also some of hope for a better future.
Around the church markets spread out in all directions fruit, vegetables, tourist goods and of course flowers. The little felt clogs are so cute.
Molen Van Piet
We headed on to Molen Van Piet, a Dutch windmill still operating on the canal in the heart of the city. It was a great opportunity to get a photo of one of Hollands icons. As we headed back to the bike we stopped at a traditional dutch hardware store. It was quite small and really took me back to growing up in a small town in the country. There was a wide range of good quality items made locally, not all of it hardware. These days it seems the big hardware chains have killed off stores like this by selling cheap poor quality items.
The day was getting on so it was time to head back to Almere the forecast is for poor weather so we might have to stay indoors tomorrow.