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Gratifying Gouda

With its picturesque streets, medieval buildings, countless bridges and the unmistakable aroma of cheese and treacle waffles, Gouda is small in size but rich in experiences and charm.

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Iris van den Broek

With a population of only 70,000, Gouda is a city of modest size. It was founded in the 11th century and grew to become a thriving trade centre. Gouda may be small, but it’s name is known around the globe. Gouda cheese is world-famous and sold from the Americas to Asia. But Gouda is also known for its candles, mouth-watering treacle waffles and, more recently, the first Fairtrade street in the Netherlands. The best part is, it takes only an hour from Amsterdam and as little as twenty minutes by train from Rotterdam to get there.

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Gouda cheese

It’s Thursday and the cheese market is in full swing. This traditional market is held every Thursday from April until the end of August in front of the impressive city hall on the central Markt square. As in the past, the farmers and traders negotiate the sales price for the cheese. Cheese and Gouda are synonymous. We even found cheese artwork in the middle of a small canal. Cheese can also be seen hanging above the shopping streets.

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A fun place to shop is ’t Kaaswinkeltje on Lange Tiendeweg. It’s the only shop in the Netherlands where they only sell farmhouse cheese produced at farms around Gouda using traditional methods. Unlike factory-made cheese, these cheeses are not pasteurised, so they maintain their fantastic flavour. You can even sample various types of cheese in the shop.

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    Aromatic syrup waffles

    The aroma of cheese in the city alternates with that of treacle waffles. Those who had intended to limit their calorie intake will be hopelessly lost in Gouda. After all, the sweet creamy aroma of treacle waffles is impossible to resist. We follow our nose and end up at the Kamphuisen shop on Markt square. Here they make their own syrup waffles according to the oldest recipe in the Netherlands and, the best part is, you can tour the small factory at the back of the shop, taste the syrup and see how the waffles are made.

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    But why syrup waffles and not treacle waffles? At Kamphuisen, they make a very fine distinction. “A treacle waffle is a single biscuit that is cut into two halves and syrup is poured between them. We make syrup waffles that are made of two separate, crispy biscuits and spread a layer of syrup between them.” The family recipe dates back to 1810 and is still a secret, but they’re willing to give us a hint. “We use real butter in both our biscuits and the syrup. And salt!” No fewer than 40,000 syrup waffles roll off the conveyor belt every week.

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    Wandering through picturesque streets

    The best way to explore Gouda is without a plan. The centre is so compact that everything is within easy walking distance, and it’s almost impossible to get lost. Take the Peperstraat, for instance, with its romantic little bridges. Or Naaierstraat, full of traditional and sometimes crooked facades. At house number six, you’ll find the late gothic building De Vier Gekroonden from the sixteenth century. The unique facade frieze with Gothic ornaments was once the advertising sign for the stonemason who worked here.

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    Sustainable shopping

    Gouda is big on sustainability. Since 2011, the city has been a Fairtrade Municipality, a title that indicates that shops, food service establishments, companies, organisations, residents and local authorities collaborate to promote fair trade. The numerous antique and collectible shops along the canals give a second life to antiques and there are vegan cafés and shops with an eco focus all around town. On Lange Groenendaal, they’re impossible to miss. This street was proclaimed the very first Fairtrade Street in the Netherlands due to the high density of shops with a sustainable focus on a single street.

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    The clothing shop Karakter, for example, sells sustainable clothing, shoes and accessories. All of the brands for sale in this shop all have a good story and are produced in a fair way. In other words, you won’t find mass produced products here!

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    One of our other favourites is located down the street: Heb ik VIA. The owners Maaike and Belinda offer small entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their products in their mini department store. These entrepreneurs come from all over the country, and Maaike and Belinda try to create a varied range of products. “We want to prevent too much of the same thing in the shop.” And with success. From cacti in concrete pots to old suitcases from the musical ‘Titanic’, you won’t easily get bored wandering around this unique concept store.

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    For a great-tasting and healthy lunch, Curcuma is the place to go. This vegetarian lunch café is located at the intersection of Korte Groenendaal. Everything on the menu is organic with lots of vegan options. The sweet potato waffle with grilled vegetables is a must!

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