Truely I am falling into the reenactment calender, some events you want to do every year.. and July means getting on the coach for Bretten in Baden-Wurtemburg! sixteen hours across France, Belgium, Luxemburg.. where they have white chocolate and strawberry magnums... and into Germany for the Peter und Paul festival.
Group shopping trip, coach unpacked, camp and bar set up and it's time for a wander into town for a beer and an ice cream, my own new tradition, and learnt that Kubel is German for 'dollop' of ice cream. "Ein eis mit Zwei kubel, ein Walnuss, und ein Malaga.' ends any confusion, although I still get ice cream on my hat.
We were required on day one to all kneel before the Hauptman and the flag and take a solemn oath:
'Do you all swear to serve the Bretten council and have a bloody good time doing it!?'
The battles are a number of small encounters loosely telling the story of 1504 but no one would say the reenactment is a major part of the festivities just one of many draws on the menu. There is a lot going on and a lot of 1504 life of the craftsmen and guilds of the time, be they carpenters, radish farmers or even a few lepers, and a lot of flag twirling and drumming.
Whilst hardly a campaign weekend Bretten is to some extent an immersive experience, most of the town is so transformed that you really can be in the mindset of being a landskneckt for the weekend, its a life of swaggering about being armed in fancy togs, possibly half covered in bells to give notice and mark you out from the townsfolk, and eating and drinking and fighting. That evening at the Bretten camp/tavern there is a ceremony where those bringing large pieces of wood or bread up to a dignitary can be rewarded with a helmet full of beer and I managed to insinuate myself into being honourary helmet holder, I didn't think the offerings that great this year, no one struggled up with a tree truck, although it did mean there was enough for a free beer for me. We landskneckts don't do stuff for nothing you know!
This immersion was also why I insisted on keeping my Katzbalger (side sword) on at all times, it is a status symbol of our profession.
Not being on duty Saturday was largely a day of pottering about, and shopping, I bought a nice leather pouch to replace the linen money bag I had to keep wrestling with, and sometimes losing, and of course MORE BELLS, three separate ones and a string of them for my other leg, and a fridge magnet. Random act of German kindness this weekend was walking up for what Id taken to be a small bar and asking for a beer only to discover, drink being handed over, that it was just someone's tent.
Volunteered again for being amongst the Surgeon's cases, this years padding being chicken instead of raw pork, although still bound in ham. Doing this means fighting in the first attack before being cruelly struck down.. and staggering into the arms of a helpful frau and ushered to the surgical station and doing lots of screaming. I don't mind missing most of the fighting as I still find it a strange mix of polite 'to me, to you, to me!' paddling and a minority of people who actually want to win like someone actually cares. Most of my comments from 'Mush' about willing co-operation still stand except you do have a limited degree of autonomy on whether you get killed early or late.. or not at all if it is your day.. because being stabbed requires a quite dramatic response whilst no one really knows where a musket ball has gone.
(incidentally my renaissance EU brooch proved popular and I may have to make half a dozen for folk if I can find a good source of brooches).
Still on the subject of food and drink one of my favourite moments of the weekend was being one of our group invited to the Herring and potatoes breakfast. This is actually all homemade and in the courtyard of someone's house which makes it even more intimate and whilst I had my doubts about cold fish and beer for breakfast when I woke up it all proved superb and I may have to put herring on the shopping list.
Instead of march, wait, march. wait, march, wait, march.. this year was only a short march, one long wait, and a long march all in one go, with lovely crowds lining the way.
A gun with a history, when the festival was (re)started back in the 50's there was an abandoned WWII 88mm anti-aircraft gun that they cannibalised to make the barrel of this cannon.
Tavern rules. Hats must be worn. no phones. No smoking. (yes, I did have to use my phone to take a picture of the no phones sign.)
A lovely couple watch the sun rise!
Heroes! some of the intrepid and hard working tavern staff still smiling after three days of it! (hopefully with some time of for their own fun)
and so it was time to clamber onto the bus for the long drive home. At Calaise I was actually worried that the sadly destroyed loins of my trousers might be an issue but nothing was said. Can they be saved? no.. but yes.. project for next year is to chop them up into a slashed pair with a different colour underneath, and maybe one pink lower leg on the left side. Also a bling gold chain to show my wealth and a peacock feather to show my affiliation with the Holy Roman Empire... or maybe a (faux) furry tail. These look quite cute but were not anything to do with the renaissance furry club and were actually meant to draw fleas away from your own clothes/body and into the tail.
Back on Brighton race hill, the end, until 2018 although there may be a UK event next June as towards the end of the Wars of the roses some European mercenaries were 'invited' to come over and fight and were best known for a battle near Stoke field, however the trials of the campaign saw most of them dead before long, but long enough to get a look in on some British battlefields and so I might get the old yellow-and-red out twice next year and invite some of our German/Swedish friends over here.