26 July 2009

Friesach Spectaculum Medieval Festival

The Austrian medieval city of Friesach holds a Mittlealter Spectaculum (Middle Ages Spectacular) every year on the last Saturday in July. The city is closed to cars, electricity shut off and set ablaze with torches and fire pits while the people party. We found a nice farm house apartment rental out in the countryside in the hills above Friesach and are spending a few days here. It's beautiful. On to the medieval madness...

The entire town is transformed into a festival, with musical groups, bards, dancing, and sword fighting on every corner. There was always something going on. Some of the sword fighting was pretty rough, and they really didn't hold anything back when it came to bashing on each other. You can see an example in the quick video we put together below of some of the various sword fights we filmed:

The various market stalls had a lot of interesting handmade leather items for sale. Everything was very expensive. Very high quality, but most stuff out of our price range.

Except for the swords, shields and crossbows. We had to buy these for Elora. She was so excited to get the sword and the shield after watching the sword fights.

This was pretty funny. A young girl was taking bets on mice in a maze. A 1 pfennig bet (1 euro) would win you 3 pfennigs if you guess which way the mice would exit the maze (there were 4 possible exits). We thought the suckers placing their bets would be happier to lose to a girl. Perhaps they'd feel more cheated if she was an adult!

Add this jousting station to one of our projects to build when we go home. Elora was really excited to hit the wooden knight with her shield. But if you weren't careful or fast enough, the knight would spin around and hit you with a wet sponge!

Next was the crossbow station. Elora knocked down all the targets (with her eyes closed), thanks to a bit of help.

Sword fights were everywhere! But it wasn't all sword fights and battles. The video we shot below shows a bard, playing a medieval "hurdy gurdy" (aka wheel fiddle), singing a story about a young prince and a maiden. We mixed the video together with some shots of the fire eater who was blowing and eating fire. After the fire eater in the video, there is a group medieval dance, which Elora loved even more than the swordplay. The medieval musical instruments are very cool and have a simple, raw, primal sound.

As the day drew on the crowds started showing up! This is just a small glimpse amount of people that were there.

Friesach is a very pretty city, and we're going to explore it more after the festival.

Elora and Oliver both took turns napping in the stroller.

You may have heard of the famous Viennese Sacher Torte, but have you heard of the even tastier Friesacher Torte?

At one of the stands, kids could shape modeling clay and paint it. Elora really enjoyed this.

Both Oliver and Elora liked the court jester and his puppet.

Raaaarrr! Elora was a fan of the battle axe. We really like the crossbow you can see by her feet, so we bought it. She really likes shooting the arrows. This is another wooden toy we're going to have to figure out how to make when we go back home.

Here is one of the dance performances. Ollie got up to dance during the performance, while Elora quietly sat down next to a group of kids and watched in awe. You can see the dance in the video with the fire eater.

You had to change in your money for ancient Pfennigs that the town had made up to look like medieval money. Friesach was famous in medieval times as one of the Roman empire's coin minting cities.

We snacked a lot on soft pretzels and pastries, so at dinner time the hearty soup in a huge bread bowl was looking quite tasty! Ollie enjoyed playing with the wooden spoon -- there wasn't any plastic in the middle ages!

While we were waiting for one of the events to start Elora joined a bunch of boys as they were sword fighting. She was unsure at first, and it was cute to watch her slowly creep up on them.

But all the boys were very nice and took turns sword fighting with her. No injuries! (for Elora at least)

Ollie even joined in!

Elora taught this Junge a lesson he'll not forget: never trust a girl with a sword! While most of the kids were hitting each others swords and shields, Elora went straight for the hands. Take that! Look closely at the sequence of pictures above and note the expression on this boy's poor face. We felt a little sad, but he was ok a minute later. Afterwards, Elora said, "What was he crying for?"

More sword fights! Schaukampfen mit Schwert! (show fighting with swords)

Ollie really enjoyed watching the different performances.

When the sun went down, the city was lit with torches and pit fires. The party actually went all night long and ended with a torch walk up to the castle on the mountain. But we left at 10:30 after the fire eater performed. If you haven't watch the video up above, do it, it's amazing!

It was really fun. Unfortunately we couldn't stay out until midnight partying with the rest of the Friesachers. But we'll be back next year. (who will join us?)

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