Cheese is one of the legal things that Holland is known for. The round, yellow, tasty cheese that everyone knows and that one can imagine fired off ancient ship cannons instead of metal balls.
Gouda is the Dutch town that competes with a couple others for the primacy of cheese. Our expectations upon visiting it didn’t span much further that, but it admittedly surprised us with a few unexpected jewels, and our time in Gouda was chilly yet super nice. Read on to find out why.
The very first nice thing about Gouda: the statue which adorns the train station entrance summarizes everything that used to happen here three centuries ago: cheese wheels were collected, weighted and traded by see.
A short walk will take you to the main square, one of the largest in the Netherlands. At the time we went, the main source of noise was a large ice skating rink. Quite usual in cold Netherlands, but for the first time I’ve seen kids pushing around various plastic shapes, probably as a learning tool. The prize for the best one goes out to a deeply unexpressive penguin.
The same square hosts a special building: the oldest inn of the country, no less! Or, at least, that’s what they claim it to be. Its name is quite evocative: de Oude Zalm, Dutch for “The Old Salmon”. The façade is nothing extraordinary, but one of the walls tells a funny story. A salmon appears as a bas-relief, with the Dutch phrase “Niet te hooch, niet te laech – van passe”. It means “Not too high, not too low: just the right height” and it refers to the story when the hotel was forced to adjust the ceiling between the ground and the first floor.
And yet another pleasant surprise: the city’s cathedral. A massive church which displays amazing stained glasses for the windows, which in turn have an important history: during Second World War, they were all taken off and hidden in a multitude of farms in the surroundings to prevent contact with the Nazi’s greedy hands. We weren’t able to take nice pictures of them, but here’s a nice view of the church inside.
Only at the end we found what we were looking for: a mountain of cheese. Shops let you taste about twenty different varieties of the diary gold, so you can choose your favourite from intriguing ones such as wasabi, sambal or truffel cheese just to name a few.
To sum up, Gouda is lovely beyond its cheesy reputation. If visited with low expectations as we did, it’s even better. So don’t read this post before going.