Do you really want to understand what goes on in the Alkmaar Cheesemarket every Friday? Do visit the attractive Kaasmuseum in the Waaggebouw. You will be told every little detail. The fact of the matter is that the cheesemarket is the biggest tourist-draw in town. However, ther is no actual trading in cheese. And no cheese is produced in Alkmaar. Yes, there are some excellent cheese shops in Alkmaar. The spectacle on the cheese market is only show, the way things used to go in the past. In the 18th century there was a cheesemarket four days a week. The area round the Waag on Alkmaar’s harbour used to be the busiest market place. Not just for cheese but for all agricultural produce of the region. As trade keeps on growing, more space is required. The Waagplein has been expanded more than eight times over the past two centuries, constantly by neighbouring buildings being pulled down. Transport in and out took place by ship or cart. When in the 20th century trucks appear on the scene this leads to a big traffic problem. The fire in cinema Diligentia in 1912 is so devastating that clearing up the rubble creates a new access road to the Waagplein. A blessing in disguise, this ‘breakthrough’, now called the Marktstraat.
The cheese carriers, performing the cheese market show, are united in the cheese carriers’ guild. The history of the cheese carriers dates back to 1593. The cheese supervisor watches over the respectability of the carriers’ conduct, despite their contagious jollity. The carriers use a berry to transport cheese. They wear brightly coloured hats, distinctive of their ‘veem’ (group). When one veem is committed to a trader, the other one should abstain from interfering. That is how the work is divided. As the supply of cheese fell off as a result of factories selling directly to the traders, the actual cheesemarket disappeared. After a difficult period the town has managed to revitalize the activities, this time as a tourist attraction. Quite an achievement.