Gouda is world famous for its cheese. The first mention of Gouda cheese dates from 1184, making it the oldest recorded cheese that is still made today.
The cheese is named after the city of Gouda, not that it is made there, but because it is the place where it has traded since the Middle Ages. Gouda acquired the sole right to trade in the cheeses produced by the Hollandic farmers. It was at Gouda that the cheeses would be laid out on the city market square to be tested and auctioned.
Today, on Thursday mornings, the farmers from the surrounding area gather at the market square to have their cheese weighed, tasted and priced. They dress for the part and lay out their cheeses. The milkmaids are there as well, dressed red-white-and-blue outfits with in white lace caps, handing out cheese samples for tasting.
The term "Gouda" is not protected and is used around the world for cheese made in the style of Gouda. However, "Noord Hollandse Gouda" and "Boerenkaas" are registered in the EU as a Protected Geographical Status and can be made only in the Netherlands and only from milk produced by Dutch cows. Some 300 Dutch farmers still produce cheese and "Boerenkaas", Farmers Cheese, is made in the traditional manner using unpasteurized milk.
As we left the cheese market, the simplicity of the street names caught my eye. They are called Achter de Vismarkt, behind the fish market, Achter de Kerk, behind the church, Achter de Waag, behind the weigh house. I guess they had no mail delivery in those days.