Alkmaar Cheese Market or Donut Hole for Inexperienced Tourists

On the cheese market in Alkmaar, the Netherlands.

On the cheese market in Alkmaar, the Netherlands.

If we talk about Holland, we recall windmills, cheese, and tulips. But do you know the Netherlands is the second-largest producer of cheese in the world? The first one is France. Although my wife and I prefer French cheeses, we couldn’t resist the temptation to visit the Alkmaar cheese market (Kaasmarkt) in Holland, a region on the western coast of the Netherlands.

At the end of our two weeks of travel around Belgium and the Netherlands, when we already finished the investigation of key features of the Holland school of painting, we decided to visit Alkmaar, the Dutch city which is similar to our favorite, Bruges, Belgium, with its architecture and canals. It was Friday, the special day for this city, when usually cozy and quiet Alkmaar turns into a world-famous tourist center.

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A Holy City in Cappuccino Style, Assisi, Umbria, Italy

The city of Assisi, Perugia, Italy.

Pietro di Bernardone was a successful silk merchant in Assisi, Umbria. Like every normal man and businessman, he wanted to have a son who would continue the family business letting his father relax under the tender sun of Italy when time and age would demand their tribute. But his wife, a French noblewoman, Pica de Bourlemont, gave birth exclusively to girls. There were already six of them, when upon his return from another business trip to Provence, France, Pietro found out about the birth of his first son. History is silent on how many months the father was absent.

Pietro was so happy that he named his boy Francesco (Francis) because he adored France. Apparently, France was a brilliant country even in the 12th century. Francis grew to be a smart, fun, and good-looking boy, very attractive to the girls, and his father’s wealth made this attractiveness irresistible. The young man had nothing against such a destiny and was enjoying the life of a rich loafer until his father put him to work in their shop. In this, Francis was also successful. It was no wonder, because most of his buyers were women.

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Keukenhof: Legendary Garden of Tulip Country

Flower river. The Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, Holland, the Netherlands.

Flower river. The Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, Holland, the Netherlands.

If I ask you to name a country which you think is the motherland of tulips, most likely, you will say: the Netherlands. This European country has actively maintained this association for many hundreds of years already. However, the first tulips were bred not in the Netherlands, but in Central Asia (today, it is Turkey and neighboring countries). The first large consignment of tulips was delivered to Amsterdam, the capital of the Dutch Republic, in 1562, and this modest flowerÂ’s conquest of the world began.

At first, the price of tulip bulbs was so high that merchants weighed them on precise apothecary scales and sold them by the piece. Collectors were ready to pay a huge sum for rare sorts. It’s known that one gentleman gave 4,600 guilders and a carriage with two horses for one bulb of Semper Augustus. In those times, you could buy a house for such money. Thank God, today, we buy tulip bulbs for our country house’s garden much more cheaply, although the label on their pack still reads: Made in the Netherlands.

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