Alkmaar (The Netherlands)
Alkmaar has approximately 93,000 inhabitants and is situated on the North Holland Channel, around 10 km away from the North Sea. The city with all its canals, drawbridges and vaults, its churches and the bulwarks along the former town moat, that still today encircles the town centre, is an interesting and attractive visitors' point, not least because it lies at the edge of a nearly untouched landscape of polders and dunes constituting a nature reserve. The old Great St Laurens Church is the centre of the town. Patrician houses, the Excise Tower and many irreplaceable cultural values from the past are popular sights. The Cheese Market alone, steeped in tradition, is worth a visit to the picturesque town.
Generally, the cheese plays a very particular role in the provincial capital of Alkmaar in northern Holland. It was with cheese that the Alkmaar people defended their liberty in 1573: they are said to have shot at Spanish aggressors with balls of old cheese. This victory is commemorated in the town's coat of arms with the slogan "Alcmaria Victrix", and it is celebrated every year on the 8th of October with a town feast.
The town's name comes from "almere" (many lakes). The waters have been diked in the late Middle Ages and were pumped dry by wind mills. Ever since the first dikes were built in the 12th century, the protected flatland has been best suitable for the raising of dairy cattle. The Cheese Scales at Alkmaar were first mentioned in 1562. Since that time there is the famous Cheese Market (every Friday from April until the first Friday in September). Today it has lost its economic significance to factories, but for locals and tourists as well it is still a popular spectacle. This is why the time-honoured guild of cheese porters never died out.
Alkmaar lives from the water. Crossed by many canals, Alkmaar is located on the North Holland Channel, its economic and traffic artery. The townscape preserved its character as an outward-looking small trade centre. The historical town centre is marked by friendly brick buildings, constructions with two and a half storeys, with narrow, tall and nicely decorated windows - just a feast for the eyes. And even the new districts appear neither oppressive nor desolate, but they rather present an architectural variety and planning appeal. One feature is particularly picturesque: many tenants have anchored their boats on the canal to make small weekend tours through the extended waterway system of northern Holland.
The twinning of Alkmaar and Darmstadt was arranged in 1958 already, and thus it counts among the oldest twinnings, together with Troyes and Chesterfield. The towns of Alkmaar, Troyes and Darmstadt maintain partnership relations among each other, and are united in a partner circle.