To pronounce Gouda correctly is to sound as over-the-top Dutch as one possibly can. I mean, really, it’s just short of haucking a loogie. Ha, I’m serious! This city keeps you smiling all day, though, even if it’s not \”gooooda\”.
The sun and the air and the blue sky were perfect October, so to Gouda we went – by bike. It isn’t more than 28 km and this country is designed for cycling. The bike paths take you through Zuid Holland’s Groene Hart, the rural land in between the major cities of Utrecht, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Den Haag. There are too many grazing cows to count, lots of sheep, rows and rows of flower farms, and hectares upon hectares of beautiful green, green pastureland.
After a midway stop for lunch along a canal, we arrived in Gouda on Market Day. The little city center was bustling! Vendors under tents lined the streets, with the steeple of Sint Jankserk shooting up in the sky just beyond the shoppers.
After wandering among the fruits and vegetables (and trying Prickly Pears for the first time), we sat in on an hour-long (and gratis!) classical violin concert inside Sint Janskerk. Its stained-glass windows are famous and the church itself dates back to 1280 or so. Needless to say, a live concert inside brought goosebumps (or, as the Dutch say, chicken-skin).
Of course, though, Gouda = cheese. And it’s endearingly funny how much the city loves its claim-to-fame. We stopped in more than one cheese shop thanks to free samples – cheese, especially Gouda, comes in more colors and combinations than I knew.
And then there was the cheese museum, The Kaas-expomuseum. It is housed in Gouda’s original 17th century cheese weighhouse. The curators are beyond obsessed with cheese and Gouda’s history, and I’d like to share with you this little fact I learned:
The history really is impressive – cheese-making in Gouda can be traced back to 800 BC in clay pots. A video explained the entire modern day process; it is an art, for sure. And every new fact I learn about the Dutch Dairy Industry makes me fall more and more in love with cows. The Holstein-Friesian cow, a German-Dutch breed, is the most important for cheese production… did you know they can produce 7,500 litres of milk a year and eat 80 kg of grass a day?