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Jared's Travel Blog » Tags
Bern, Switzerland

Literally. To celebrate Queen’s Day (April 30th), the area of town known as Dam has been overtaken with cotton candy vendors and carnival rides. This is a city that is never lacking for energy and with the country’s biggest holiday approaching, the city is in full celebration mode.

Saturday, I hung out all day at Vondelpark which is apparently the thing to do when the weather is nice. The park was absolutely packed. Alcohol was flowing freely, frisbees and kites flying, soccer balls were kicked around. Young, old, affluent and ghetto alike – everyone comes to the park to hang out and enjoy life. The Dutch word “gezellig” comes as close as any to describing this spirit.

According to Wikipedia, when “one is with family and/or friends, light is right, people are right, music is right, conversation is right, then the atmosphere ‘gezellig’.” All of life in Amsterdam seems to revolve around this attitude. Enjoy life and the the rest will work itself out.

Amsterdam offers up a slice of all parts of humanity. It is a famously international city with a festive spirit that is matched in few corners of the earth.

A tradition dating back to the 17th century, the Friday Alkmaar cheese market is purely a tourist spectacle. But it’s fun; how many times in your life are you going to get to see a pair of grown men running with cheese?

For centuries, cheese porters (wearing colored hats indicating their guild) present their goods to buyers wearing white coats. Buyers will insert a hollow rod into a wheel to test the cheese’s fat and moisture levels and if its satisfactory, the porters will load up a truck with the day’s purchase.

After walking around the cute town for awhile, I stopped in an Italian cafe/restaurant. While making my sandwich, the waiter asked if I was there for the cheese market.

“It is stupid. All these people come just to see the men…” He searched for the right phrase and gestured as if he were picking up a wheel of cheese from the ground and chucking it on a wagon.

“Toss the cheese?”

“Yes. Toss the cheese.”

I agreed, but said that it was a good show. He couldn’t disagree with that.