Saturday, July 7, 2012

Abbey Medieval Festival: Part One, The Others!

We've been here long enough to establish traditions now. 

And long enough to stop seeing things through a stranger's eyes.

The Watoto Children's Choir has been to Tracey and Neil's church twice since we've been here.  Last year was the first time I had heard the Christian viewpoint of one truth, one way, only through Jesus, in English in quite a few years.  I found it profoundly disturbing.  Although, the choir, from Uganda, was amazing.

This year I felt the universal consciousness within the Christian viewpoint. 

This weekend we are at the Abbey Tournament, the largest medieval festival in the southern hemisphere.  (You learn - that since the rest of the southern hemisphere is Africa and South America - this means that it is bigger than the one in Sydney!)

It's been a full year then since I've wanted to share my impression of medieval festivals on three continents. 

The Americans, as usual, go all out.  The venue is acres, the time frame is months, the entertainers are semi-professionals touring all year.  There are elephant rides and jousts where the audience ranges in the thousands.  It is magic and fairies as well as lords and ladies.  Plus a few Jedis who always manage to go where the alternative gather.  Food and drink everywhere.  And, of course, shopping shopping shopping.  The stalls look like Macy's would have looked like in the 15th century.  The finery is finished.  The extras extravagant.

It is fun and fantasy; an immersion in another reality.

The tournament in France, in comparison, was on a huge empty field.  The paths were mostly empty.  Noone was dressed up.  The joust took place on a field.  Everyone just gathered round to watch.  They didn't charge extra admission to the joust and there were no stalls to buy finery or accoutrements like wooden swords or fairy costumes.   There was LOTS of food and beer though.  And the muddy paths were realistic.

What sticks out in my mind ten years later is the real live bear act - a bit disturbing, but again, appropriate to the times - and the photo we have of baby Andrew drinking beer.  Huge European mug.  Tiny three month old baby.

Once again, I have to adore the French!

German medieval fests take place in medieval towns.  In the cold and in the rain.  The narrow cobblestone streets are crowded with people who WILL run your children over if they stop.  It is dark and grey - the mood and the weather. 

Esslingen's annual Medieval Christmas Market features candle making and axe throwing for the kiddies.  (This is considered child friendly!)  But there are also plenty of Christmas stalls and hot mulled cider - Gluehwein - whic tends to take the edge off being pressed in asses to elbows (copyright, Jay)  with a bunch of strangers who would rather spit on you than look at you even as you share virtually the same pavement space. 

Horb's event features steep one lane paths filled with people unwilling to help you push the twin stroller up the hill, but who will stop and talk to one another about the spectacle of you trying to do it on your own with two other small children straggling behind.

We spent one cold winter night around the fires lit in the courtyards of an authentic 13th century abbey outside of Tuebingen.  Uh yeah, it was REALLY cool.

Tuebingen's Chocolate Festival might not have been medieval but it was under the castle and within the courtyard surrounded by houses dating from the period.  And the chocolate was good. 

It wasn't all fun, a return to a previous reality even harsher than the current one, more authentic reenactment than flight of fancy, but it was people at least attempting to escape the everyday and enter the realms of fantasy.

In any country, a medieval fest brings out the alternative crowds,  a looser, more relaxed cadre of lords and ladies, serving wenches and errant knights.  Plus at least one Jedi.

And hey, the Gluehwein is good.  Ask for the Gluehwein.


  1. Allan's religion is officially Jedi. ON the last two Censuses (? Censei? ;p) .. so just to make our descendants happy, i declare myself as wiccan ;p