It seems I am always a step behind when updating my blog. Life is chasing me from one strange experience to the next, and I hardly have any time to settle down. I am dead tired at the moment, yawning constantly, but this story must be told!
In september we finally got to visit the Ronneburg about 40 minutes drive from Frankfurt am Main in Germany. I dreamt about the place since last year – everyone talked about it. I just had to see it. This year it was time, and our good friends in MiM – lead by Ronnie and Constantin – had made a tremendous job organizing, lasting months before the event took place. I reckon a great number of the MiMs were involved in planning and execution of the event: http://www.14tes.eu/
Generously enough, they invited the whole of the company, and at first there were many of us planning to go, but as the event drew nearer, more and more decided to step down. In the end, we invited friends from Fraternis Militia Carnis to fill the ranks. Carl and Guffe decided to join, and the three of us went by plane from Gothenburg, after quite a drive from Växjö. Alex, Johan and Simon went by car with our equipment.
We were picked up at the airport by Constantin, who was good enough to drive us all the way to the Ronneburg, and then he actually went back to Frankfurt to spend the night with his family. I was a bit touched – such hospitality and friendlyness I have seldom experienced. But the best part was really that he handed us a pilz, first thing when we got to the car. Ah! What a welcome!
After some time we could see the lights of the Ronneburg on a hilltop. It was a splendid sight, and as we parked the car, and hauled our packs up the pathway, through the first gate, I was astonished. Nowadays, I seldom have the feeling of ”the middle ages”. I have become blasé. Not much amazes me anymore – I have seen a lot of stuff, and experienced many things. But the lantern hanging in the passage outside the guard room gave me shivers down the spine – this WAS the middle ages, even though I saw that the lantern was an electric one. Johan met us half way, and greeted us. He showed us the way into the courtyard, and even before I was there, I felt confused and lost. We were shown to a room where we were going to sleep, and managed to arrange our stuff and make our beds. Then we had food and beer.
I met a lot of familiar people. Kyra, for example. She is really nice. And Anne from Nürnberg. Ages ago she sent me a CD with pics from Nürnberg, and I have yet to return the favor; I already fixed up a CD full of pics, but I never get along to posting it, and I forgot to bring it to the Ronneburg. Don’t fret, Anne. You WILL get your pics.
I really can’t remember if I went to bed early our late. Early, I believe, as we stood up early as well. We put our armour on, and started Swedish army gymnastics on the courtyard. We were looking for Lars, a young boy, as Johan said he needed the practice – his mother wanted to make a man out of him, and we were determined to try our best. But we just couldn’t find him. We looked all over for him, and finally, we spotted him. He saw us first, and dashed to get to safety, away from burly, Swedish soldiers. Eventually we cornered him, and he promised to join us for morning gymnastics. When he came, we started out, lead by Johan.
It turned out, very quickly, that Johan wasn’t 20 anymore, and that he hadn’t in fact made any harder physical excercises clad in 14th century armour before – as soon as we started the pushups, he wilted and fell like a lump of dough. I tried my best. I think I managed about ten pushups or so, but it became painfully obvious that I myself aint 20 either… The situps were impossible in rigid body armor, so Johan had to pull me up. The gathering crowd had a good time, and so did we. Lars just shook his head, we grunted (like the old men we are becoming) about cocky young boys who should be taught a lesson, preferrably by sword (which we actually did later on, but in the form of proper fighting training). Before the morning PT was over, we ran through the castle, guns held high. It wasn’t very far, and I was pleased I could manage, even though I’m getting a bit fat. As we headed back, I nearly threw up. I had to sit down and rest. It’s tragic, really. When I was in my early teens, I was the 8th best 800 metre runner in Sweden 🙂
As the old Norse Poetic Edda states:
Cattle die, | and kinsmen die | And so one dies one’s self
I have one foot in the grave already.
Then – breakfast. German food is like Swedish, only made with love and concern. The Germans have proper butchers, proper bakers, proper brewers – the make food into an artform. It is not often tinged with finesse – the better. It is food for people in general. Robust, tasty, well made, with pride and effort. Cooked to give you strength to work, love and laugh.
One of the best meals I have ever had, was smoked pork, fried in its own fat, eaten along with coarse, freshly baked bread, by the fire, in the mist and drizzle, taking shelter under my kettle hat, my cloak and a couple of pavises. Another was bread, fresh out of the oven, with genuine, salty butter, home brewed, red beer and home made sausages made from lamb, spiced with herbs.
It is all really simple food, but made with the purpose of eating it yourself. I know all German food isn’t made like that, but some of it is. And it is divine.
That breakfast was exquisite. The bread and the sausages from Hessen – by the Lord – were they good. I even tried a sausage where the meat was stuffed inside a pigs bladder (rather than from pigs entrails). I love sausages far better than just meat; you can make whatever you want out of them, and that is a wonderful trick!
We took our position in the guard house (one of the inner gateways, really), and set up our dice board, our jugs and our armour, to look like proper guards. Guffe, portraying a knight, had a bit of a problem fitting in, as he really shouldn’t hang out with the craftsmen in the halls, the people in the kitchen or the soldiers in the guard room, plus, he didn’t know many people except the rest of the Swedes. So he mostly hung out with us anyway. We spent the better part of the day in the guard house, drinking (apple juice – sometimes mixed with a bit of beer – a classic Radler!), gambling and chatting. Some of the boys joining us came from different parts of Europe. Alexander, a MiM, was in charge of the guard operation. There was a handful of other Germans as well, plus a Belgian guy. The guard room connected to the guard house was really something. It was utterly perfect, exactly like I imagined a guard room. Small, but big enough to store weapons and to keep one man on post.
I had time to saunter the castle, and as it was light outside, and as I kept to the parts of the castle I knew, I didn’t get lost. I checked the craftsmen in the halls – without exception they were excellently skilled. That is maybe the best thing about the reenactment scene – people have vast knowledge about their specific areas, and you can learn so much. I am not a craftsman, but I love crafts, and to learn about them, so I had a needle maker tell me about how he made pins. It was a proper science! I could never believe all the shrewd tricks and tools used in the making of such tiny things. I believe I bought 18 of those pins for Elisabeth.
But there were loads of other craftsmen too – shoemakers, cobblers, belt makers, painters, chain mail makers, paternoster makers, makers of wax tablets, embroiderers, tailors, dyers – I really believe that I missed some of them out, in spite of that dire list. This photo shows Bertus and Isis, our dear friends from Deventer Burgerscap, sewing and embroidering.
And then, there was the kitchen. Good lord, the kitchen. Lead by Kyra, loads of people worked their fingers to the bone, cooking for well above 50 people (someone told me that we actually were more than 80 people taking part in the event). The kitchen was always bustling, and I might have annoyed more than one kitchen worker when I was trying to get the perfect photo, but I got a few splendid pics. That evening, we were treated with loads of dishes – all cooked in that period kitchen over open fire. They even baked patés, and made their own marzipan – skillfully worked into the shape of an eagle. I’ll tell you more about that banquet later on – the day wasn’t half finished yet – but before I continue I would like to show you a pic from the ambiguos kitchen – serene, yet pulsating with effort.
The smells, the noise. The words. The sights. Light sifting in through the smoke from the fires. Heat. Sweat. I really love kitchens. I love working with food (did you know? I worked as a chef for nearly two years!). In that aspect I can become what I most desire. I can become a craftsman, and I can make wonderful things.
I stood devotional in that kitchen for at least an hour, snapping photos when I could, trying to keep out of the way (I make people standing in my way in my kitchen into sashimi). Then I had to go. I had duties to perform at the guard house, and soon we were going to take part in a gunnery display. But first, I took a breathtaking (in many ways) tour up the tower. The view was really pretty, but as with most places today, you can always notice the modern world in some way. That meant I could see villages on all sides, roads and other things belonging to the 21st century. Too bad, but still very beautiful.
When I got back to the guard house, nothing had happened. The boys were still gambling and drinking, and admiring the peacocks striding along here and there. I had a seat and joined the game.
Some hours later it was time for us to make ready the guns. First of all we were (a bit unwillingly, I admit) dragged into a fashion display at the inner courtyard. They wanted to show different kinds of warriors, from knights to simpler mercenaries, like ourselves. But after that, we loaded up our guns. We wanted to make a good display, and as we practiced quite a lot this summer, we hoped to really give that audience something to look at.
To my dismay, we hardly made three shots in a minute. I was really disappointed, plus I got a nasty powder burn in my face (that’s just manly). This calls for even more practice! We need to get better. We need to impress, otherwise we will not be much more than just regular medieval guys with a couple of guns – and really – most fighters in the reenactment world has bought one. We promised Lars that he could have a go at the guns, under our supervision. Like everyone trying it out, he left as a true believer.
We packed up our gear, and returned to the guard room. During the lull between dinner and display, we took quite a few pictures of each other on the walkways along the battlements (we were later told that we weren’t allowed up there, so we have no intention of ever going there again. The pics were nice though.), where some of the boys collected peacock feathers. As dinner drew nearer, we had some sword practice with Lars. He is becoming a proper soldier, and when he gets a bit older, we’ll recruit him.
In the dying daylight, we had some more photos taken. We convinced bertus to portray a Swedish Burgher that we assaulted in a gateway (we portray Germans living in Sweden, or Swedes of German descent – in some epoques of the middle ages, the two groups (Swedes and Germans living in Sweden) were bitter enemies). On the left is one by Franziska.
Then it was finally time for the banquet. We drank loads of good beer, and we were amazed by the skills of the kitchen staff. They had worked like slaves in that kitchen, in the heat and smoke for a whole day, and I was really thankful for the food. I hope someday I will be able to repay them. If they ever come to one of our events, I will give them such treats! Heck! I will even do a dirty dance.
The food was good, but what I appreciated the most was the work put into it. People working ”below deck” seldom gets even a ”thank you”, and that is why I am making such a big deal out of it.
I stayed up late, drinking and chatting and probably bragging, and then came morning. And really, that was more or less the end of it. We didn’t have much time to do anything but get up, pack our stuff, eat and leave. Our plane was leaving much too early, so we had to go. Oh, yeah – I had time to give Johan a shave as well, but that was it. We said quick goodbyes to people, and then headed for the car. Constantin drove us to a nearby train station, we took the train to the airport, and suddenly we landed in Gothenburg again. And gone was the magic…
My dearest thanks goes out to the MiMs, and in particular Ronnie and Tino, for having us. Furthermore, I’d like to thank everyone taking part in this splendid happening. Hope to see you soon!