5 September, The Netherlands – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’
Alkmaar Cheese Market wouldn’t have been top of my list of places to visit in the Netherlands, but I’m glad I did, even if I left a bit confused by the whole place. We were there to film the last day of the cheese trading, where piles of gouda cheese are stacked up in the market square, then placed on sledges to be carried by men in traditional Morris dancing type costumes and weighed in the cheese hall before being stacked on carts and pushed off round the corner.
The whole thing is a pretty big deal, with crowds of tourists watching proceedings from behind barriers and a big screen broadcasting a presenter walking round with a mic interviewing participants. Iain and I got dressed up in our colourful boaters and white overalls and ran around the square bothering Dutch milk maids and various other people who looked like they’d stepped out of an 18th century painting. At one point we had to take turns running the cheese in and I promptly fell into a pile of the stuff trying to stand up with the sledge ropes around my shoulders.
Whenever I asked what the point of all this was I got very cryptic answers that I was having a hard time making sense of, and by the end of the day I realised why. Parked round the corner were a load of lorries carting the cheese off to wherever I assume it had come in the fist place. The whole thing seems to be an elaborate piece of theatre to get people to come to the town and celebrate the place’s cheesy heritage. Seeing as that cheese was sitting outside all day I have a strong suspicion that it’s now lying in a landfill site somewhere!