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The story behind the Old Amsterdam cheese commercial

One of Holland’s favorite TV commercials is a 30-seconds spot for Old Amsterdam cheese — showing black-and-white film clips of Amsterdam:

TV commercial for Old Amsterdam cheese

The antique film fragments — apparently from the 1920s and 1930s — include the brand name Old Amsterdam on, among other things, a delivery van, a tram, a cart, and a shop window. That’s interesting, because at that time the brand name did not yet exist.

In fact, as Het Parool — Amsterdam’s daily newspaper — points out, the song heard in the spot is older than the brand of cheese. The commercial was produced in 2004.

The lyrics translate as follows:

You can spend hours there
The parks are green
You can walk along the canals
That’s something you really ought to do
You are free as a bird
Because everything is possible there
In every human heart
You find Amsterdam

The text used in the commercial is cobbled together from phrases in the song Amsterdam, originally written and performed in 1975 — not, as you might imagine, by an Amsterdam native, but by Flemish artist Kris de Bruyne.

Enjoy the full version of his song:

A lost love

The text makes clear that Kris Bruyne is singing about a lost love with whom he frequently visited Amsterdam. Freely translated:

You can buy books there
That you seldom find here
You can walk along the canals there
Your hair loose in the wind

You can spend hours there
The parks are green
You can see Van Gogh
That’s something you really ought to do

You are free as a bird
Because everything is allowed
So close
And yet so far away is Amsterdam

Because over there in Amsterdam
You are so far away from me
And yet I feel Amsterdam
So painfully close to me

In the Concert Hall
There often is a celebration
You remember, don’t you, that even Randy Newman
Played there for us

Who of us could suspect
That you there all by yourself
Have found a hiding place
We used to go there together

Who of us is free as a bird
Who of us who still can do anything
So close
And yet so far away is Amsterdam

Paul Arnoldussen, writing in Het Parool notes that Bruyne’s “vogelvrij” — translated here as “free as a bird” — is something of an anomaly. It is clear what the author meant, but the word literally means ‘outlawed’ – with the specific, though outdated, connotation that anyone and everyone is free to kill one so declared. Poetic license, perhaps.

Old Amsterdam Cheese

As for the cheese itself, it is fantastic. The award-winning cheese is produced by Westland, a family-run business.

Old Amsterdam Cheese

Old Amsterdam is ripened to perfection and regularly checked for flavour. Old Amsterdam can only be sold when flavour and quality meet the strict standards of our quality control. The result is a cheese of exceptionally high and consistent quality, that cuts with ease. Just like the famous wines of distinction, Old Amsterdam is now recognised with ‘Premier Grand Cru Classé’. Old Amsterdam is outstanding in warm dishes and a delight just on its own.
– Source: Old Amsterdam, Westland

Old Amsterdam cheese is sold in 80 countries.

You can also buy Old Amsterdam cheese via Amazon.com

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An Amsterdammer last updated this post on CET (Central European Time)

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