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Susan | profile | all galleries >> Netherlands 2008 >> Alkmaar tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

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Alkmaar

The Alkmaar cheese carriers¡¦ guild is responsible for moving and weighing cheese during the cheese market on Fridays. The guild consists of four groups (vemen) of seven men each. Each veem has its own colour: red, yellow, green or blue. The head of the four vemen is the 'cheese father', the supervisor. As a sign of his office, the cheese father carries a black stick with a silver knob. The cheese carriers wear the traditional costume: a white suit and a straw hat with a ribbon in the colour of their own veem. An experienced carrier is known as a vastman (a regular). Before then, he is known as a noodhulp (temporary assistant). The oldest cheese carrier in a veem is called the tasman (bagman). He can be recognised by the black leather bag he wears. The tasman puts the weights on the balance when the cheese is weighed.
Every two years, a leader is chosen for each veem: the overman. He can be recognised by a little silver escutcheon with a ribbon in the colour of his veem. The board of the guild appoints a provost and a servant. The provost helps the guild board and is known 'executioner' by the cheese carriers. He notes the names of latecomers and collects the appropriate fine. The provost wears a silver cheese barrow on a ribbon in the colour of his veem. The servant does the odd jobs for the guild.


On Fridays, the square is prepared before the cheese carriers¡¦ guild goes into action. The market inspector supervises the removal of the cheese from the trucks as they are positioned on the square in long rows by the zetters.

When the bell is rung at ten o'clock, the zetters load the barrows and the cheese carriers carry them to the balance to weigh the cheese. Sworn weighing masters supervise the weighing and complete the weight slips.

Meanwhile, on the square, traders and inspectors determine the quality of the cheese on offer. Haggling about the price takes place using the handjeklap system, literally clapping hands with other merchants.
Alkmaar train station
Alkmaar train station
Stadhuis (Town Hall)
Stadhuis (Town Hall)
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cheese being traded on the Waagplein (literally, Weighhouse Square)
cheese being traded on the Waagplein (literally, "Weighhouse Square")
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dressed in traditional white garb, cheese porters carry the cheese away in barrows after it has been weighed
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Lost and Found
Lost and Found
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