Friday, 5 October 2012

Sepia Saturday - Alkmaar

Symbolic or not, Alan's theme for this week consists of a picture showing a crowd, an arriving sea ship, a tug boat and a vessel that looks like a river barge. With Alan on the high seas(?) he leaves us in the capable hands of Kat Mortensen.

Although The Netherlands may be regarded as a seafaring nation, I have to admit that I have no photo's in my shoe boxes reflecting that. However, I did find a picture postcard of the center of the city of Alkmaar. And it is showing two of the elements I was looking for namely a crowd and a barge. The card belonged either to my mother or to my mother-in-law. I clearly omitted to make proper inventory notes here when I obtained this card!
A crowd gathering on the Waagplein in Alkmaar with
the rear of a barge to the left.
The card has never been mailed to anyone. On the rear it only says in red print: P. Delemarre, Alkmaar, Nadruk verboden meaning that reprint was prohibited. Judging by the clothing people are wearing, I guess the picture was made some time during the 20s or 30s of the past century. Obviously these people were there for a purpose. They are all looking towards the photographer. Why? I haven't got a clue.
Today the situation is very much the same. Houses can still be recognized.
The street to the right, on the other side of the canal, is the Mient.
The name Waagplein literally means Weighing Square. It was (since 1593) and is the place where cheese is weighed. These ball shaped Gouda and Edam cheeses are produced by local farmers. They are visible on the first picture and on the one below. Trading takes place in the city every Friday morning during summer. For more info on the cheese market, please click here.
Carrying cheese in Alkmaar
I had the good fortune that a couple of weeks ago I received a pre WW2 photo album from my friend John D. Among many others was the picture shown above. It shows members of the cheese carrier's guild. On the left hand side of the Google screen dump, you see a canal with a bridge at the end. The slightly overexposed photo below is taken from that bridge and shows the Waag building.
Waag building
For more stories about ships, crowds and/or the sea, please see the Sepia Saturday site!

Update Oct. 12, 2012: The Alkmaar Archives did inform me that the first picture probably was made during the installation of a renewed wooden statue of a trumpet player (klaroenblazer). That event took place during the summer of 1923. The Algemeen Handelsblad of Sunday May 6 of that year already mentioned this upcoming occurrence.


  1. My wife and I have been in the middle of a discussion about the picture of the cheese carriers. I say we once had a jigsaw puzzle showing the carriers in a wider market; my wife remembers the oicture but not the puzzle.That first shot is a gem.

  2. @Bob
    If you click on the cheese market link in my post and then play the vid on the right, you get a nice impression of the (wider) market.
    Better still, pay a visit :)

  3. Gaaf die oude foto's van Alkmaar. Peter. Er is overigens ook een Facebookgroep waarin ook veel oude foto's van Alkmaar te zien zijn.

  4. I can't imagine how the photographer got the attention of everyone in that huge crowd unless he was walking a tight rope or had a monkey on his head. But the real story of interest FOR ME is the cheese-carrying thing. What was the engineer's thought behind it? Does it benefit the carriers or the cheese?

  5. I seem to be learning lots of new languages since I joined Sepia Saturday, I haven't a clue whether I'm clicking on the right word or not when leaving a comment!
    I was fascinated by those cheese carriers, I've never seem them before, how interesting, it's amazing what you learn about in your old age!

  6. Peter, Interesting to see all the people looking up, perhaps somebody important, perhaps the Queen was up there! The picture is fantastic, with the barge coming in or leaving? I do like Gouda or Edam cheeses. How interesting a guild of the cheese carriers. Well, Switzerland had may guilds too. Learned and saw something interesting about your country. Thank you.

  7. These photos are very evocative - thank you.

  8. A fascinating photo, Peter. With all those people staring intently at something above the camera, I had to take a closer look through the magic of Google Maps. The photographer was in an upper floor window of the Kaasmuseum but everyone looks at the tower above and behind. Is it possibly an animated clock on the tower? A balloon? A flying cheese? Whatever would cause so many people to gather so close together?

  9. @Olga
    Dank je maar voor oude foto's van Alkmaar kijk ik meestal op de site van ene Olga :)
    The cheese-carrying thing is called a cheese berry. I did a quick check about its origin but alas... Possibly the idea behind it is that this was the best way to show the cheese for the buyers during the auction.
    You picked the right clicks! I would have thought that Blogger automatically translates all these terms once someone with a foreign IP-address views a blog in a different language. But apparently this is not so.
    Maybe it was one of the cheese girls drawing the crowds attention :)
    They were meant to be ;) thank you.
    I go for the flying cheese ;)

    Thank you all for dropping in on this rainy Saturday morning.

  10. For the life of me I was so puzzled what in the world are all those round shaped balls. Cheese! Never even thought about cheese. That first photo is amazing with everyone smiling and waving to the photographer. Makes you wonder if someone else of importance was on the balcony too. The last photo of the Waag was it, very stunning shot. All these photos are picture-perfect for the theme, and you brought them from outside of the shoebox! Enjoy your weekend- Karen

  11. Peter, this is sooooo interesting! This post has introduced me to things that I have never even thought about before. I'm sure that the cheese balls are covered in something to keep them clean, but they don't look like it.

    Great post, thank you.

    Kathy M.

  12. Sorry to hear it's raining there Peter. It's bright and sunny here - but then it nearly always is! That first picture is a gem and it's got us all guessing. It certainly appears to be a special event, celebration day or the opening of something. Edam happens to be my favourite (non-British) cheese!

  13. The first photo is fascinating, all the faces looking up. If it was an English photographer he would have been shouting "cheese" to get everyone smiling in the photo rather than pointing out the flying cheese, LOL. I'm now wondering what you say in Dutch to get the smiling effect, I don't think it can be kaas.

  14. @Karen
    To the best of my knowledge there is no balcony there. But there are windows so... I guess the solution of this riddle will remain hidden until someone digs up the relevant article in the local paper.
    The cheese making process provides the cheese with a crust. Usually that is removed prior to consumption.
    @Little Nell
    I'm sure they sell Edam cheese in Lanzarote. I'm told they even produce it in Spain :)
    If they would use "kaas" here, all pictures would show astonished people ;) Haven't got a clue as to what they use here. Everyone is smiling here anyway...

    Thanks for all your visits.

  15. There must have been a lot of cheese carriers if they had a guild.

  16. Sometimes I wonder if I should spend so much time on Saturday reading all the Sepia Saturday posts. But I have learned something new once again and enjoyed your explanations and photographs. And no - there are no translations while posting comments. But I'm learning to recognize the words!

  17. @Postcardy
    In Alkmaar the guild consisted of 4 groups of 7 carriers each plus a few men taking care of the guild organization. The fewer members in the guild, the higher the turnover for each of the guild members...

  18. When I saw that first pic, I noticed right away those, thinking they might be cannonballs or something. A much nicer thing to discover it is cheese. That is a whole lot of cheese!!!

  19. Such an interesting post! And thank you, Peter, for your comment on my vintage photo awhile back...I had never heard the term "penny farthing tricycle", but now it pops in my head every time I look at that little photo!

  20. I find it fascinating to compare the postcard with the google photo! Thanks for including that. Also interesting is the cheese and how it was carried.

    And Wendy had a good point. How DID the photographer get everyone to look at the camera in the postcard?!

  21. I did a quick search at the beeldbank of Alkmaar but I could find the solution either. Nice photo's, beautiful city!

  22. I was doing so well reading through all the Sepia posts until I got to your mention of Gouda which sent me scurrying to the kitchen.

    And fascinating that the card boldly said not to copy, but didn't bother to say anything about what it was. Someone had their thinking cap on upside down.

  23. @Ticklebear
    People here like their cheese, it's part of our national genes like the tulips...
    We like to think that the Dutch invented cycling. That may or may not be true but in any case the penny-farthing name was not invented here since in those days we only had guilders and cents...
    @Jana and @Rob
    I asked the Alkmaar Archives whether they could find out what was going on there and then.
    @Tattered and Lost
    Hope you found what you were looking for ;)

    Much appreciated all your visits to the Alkmaar cheese market!

  24. I just can't stop wondering what everyone was looking at.
    One man (5th from bottom on the right) has the iconic "say cheese" expression. It makes me think they knew they were getting their picture taken.
    Thanks for the information about Delfshaven. I went to the link but it was in Dutch. I"ll look it up on Google (as you suggested) now that you've piqued my interest.

  25. @Barbara
    In Google Street View you can possibly see the building as well.
    Thanks for your visit of the cheese market and my blog :)

  26. We've been to the cheese market in Alkmaar last spring. It was wonderful and very crowded, as usual.


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