Gouda was another town recommended by my friends. I was a bit wary, if one googles Gouda the top sight is the cheese market and the carrying of the cheese.. Something I wasn’t even remotely interested in seeing. However, google doesn’t do the city justice. It is a very pretty town and, as apparently everything in the Netherlands, has a lot of very old buildings. The main sight is the central town hall from the 15th century situated in the middle of the market square. It is also home to the longest church in the Netherlands, although I must admit on the ground you don’t notice it so much. There is another interesting story about that church though. Back in the middle of the 16th century, Gouda was affected by the iconoclasm, protestants were rising up and eager to destroy all things catholic. But the church had just recently been renovated and restored, after lightning had struck in 1552. The town’s council and the richest merchants wanted to protect their investments, the expensive stained glass windows, so they decided to pre-emptively carry all statues, art and belongings out of the church for the protestants to destroy and thereby take the incentive to enter the church (adding a few armed guards to deter those that still wanted to touch their precious windows). This worked, the church today contains more than half of all stained glass windows from the 15th century in the Netherlands. In any case, there is lot of evidence that Gouda’s population were smart businessmen. They’re main fortune came from trading,and from a water lock. Back in the twelfth century a water lock was installed and Gouda was the one deciding when it would be opened, leading to a lot of boats having to wait (sometimes several days) for the lock to open. In the mean time the sailors would spend their hard earned money in Gouda’s pubs and brothels. Smart. In the 16th century this monopoly was threatened. Prince Wilhelm needed a larger lock for his warships and you can’t say no to a Prince. However, you can bargain and the final solution was that the new larger lock would be built, but that every ship using that lock would have to stop in Gouda for 36 hours first. Making sure the pubs and brothels didn’t loose their customers!
Since Gouda was a merchant’s city, a lot of institutions put a lot of effort into having the biggest, highest, bestest something to show their importance. So it happened that when Catholics were allowed back in the 19th century, they built a church that was to have the highest tower in Gouda. Now Gouda is built onto turf, so the ground isn’t particularly solid. So a ‘normal’ church was built and a wooden tower construction set on top to make sure the church had a higher tower than the last catholic church, which was now officially protestant. It make look weird, but as long as it’s the highest, that’s fine!
Of course the biggest, largest, highest does not apply to everything.. Especially if it’s open to everyone. Some of the streets I took could easily make you claustrophobic.. I felt the urge to cross sideways on more than one occasion!
And one more picture of the town house because it’s just so pretty: