The famous cheese comes from a city in the Green Heart of the Netherlands with 70.000 inhabitants. The region is called the Green Heart because it is mostly farmland and nature surrounded by one of the most densely populated areas in Europe.
In Gouda, the rivers IJssel and Gouwe come together. Its historical city centre has two main monuments. The beautiful City Hall was built in 1452 and the St. Janskerk (Saint John's Church) owns its fame mainly to the Goudse Glazen: the Windows of Gouda. The story goes that Prince William of Orange (the most important predecessor to the present House of Orange on the Dutch throne) donated some huge stained-glass mosaic windows to the church in the 16th century. But he never actually paid the bill for the unique collection, which depicts Jesus Christ and his apostles. Other mosaic glass art pieces were also donated by royal highnesses, such as Philip II of Spain and Margareth of Parma. The church was devastated by fires three times, most 'recently' in 1552. The 123 meter building is the tallest church in the Netherlands, located behind the Marktplein (Market Square) that surrounds the City Hall.
Gouda received city rights in 1272. It's a cosey, historical city with plenty of canals, other waterways, typically Dutch courtyards called hofjes, storehouses and museums (for instance on cheese, pipes, resistance in World War II and the harbour). The tourist office has issued a city walk for visitors to get a nice glimpse of the old streets and Middle Age buildings, as well as the modern shopping area.
Besides the cheese, Gouda is also known for candles, pipes and a Dutch treat (no pun intended) called stroopwafels, which in its Gouda form is even mentioned by my notable Van Dale Dutch-English dictionary:
stroopwafel <de> 0.1 treacle waffle • 2.1 Goudse ~s treacle waffles from Gouda.
As of March 1, 2002, I will be living in the beautiful Van Baerlestraat in this city. Feel free to stop by if you're in the neighbourhood...