Bild zum Weblog A soliloquy on Renaissance faires

A soliloquy on Renaissance faires

Burghausen, translated by my puny powers as "Castle home," is the longest castle in Europe. Its name is also incredibly descriptive. From the museum descriptions and my cursory research, the hill was used as a defensive location long before the dukes of lower Bavaria built on it. Its location makes it very feasible as a fortress: it is high on a hill with only one entrance, having the Inn river on one side, a lake on the other, and sheer cliffs to the peak.

The castle became very large very quickly from the salt trade in nearby Hallein. The Bavarian dukes turned it into a high-tech, virtually impenetrable fortress with a single keep, five additional outer courtyards, and three moats. Sadly, no one cares about that today, because Burghausen is home to a mighty Renaissance faire, and not a fearsome military power.

So! Renaissance Faires. What are they, and why do I keep spelling "fair" with an extra e? Renaissance Faires are confusing. They are dedicated to the time period of the "Middle Ages" from roughly 500 to 1500 AD, but they are still named after the Renaissance. The main point of a faire is to sell trinkets, baubles, tidbits, garbage, and historically inaccurate clothing. The faires I'm used to are places where it is socially acceptable for obese people to become unfashionably drunk in the name of the middle ages. They are places where the real middle ages are forgotten in favor of the more palatable fantasy genre. Tolkein is king. However, the faire in Burghausen is a Mittelaltern Fest, had incredibly few obese women hitting on strangers, and only one person wearing elven clothing, but I'm choosing to use the more inaccurate, more comfortable American "Faire." I understand that this may lose me some points with the sticklers, but I'll live with that.

Back to the point at hand. Burghausen is the longest castle in Europe, and is, therefore, home to the longest faire. There is roughly a kilometer of dreck to buy, horrible, fried food to eat, and gorgeous, easily defensible castle to see. I walked through all of it, watched a swordfight, listened to an Irish song being sung in German, watched a cannonade, talked to a Hungarian (was offered a job as an English teacher by a Hungarian [turned down a job offer from a Hungarian]) and found my favorite part of the castle: the roof. I was able to go into the main building in the keep of the castle, see medieval and Renaissance art, and walk up four flights of stairs to the roof. From the roof, a photo-happy tourist can take pictures of the entire city, castle, and surrounding countryside. A sensible tourist can eat lunch. I decided to be both. I turned to Brooke and asked "How many of the other Sprachstudenten do you think will find this roof?" She said she would bet a fiver that the number would be zero, if she was a betting woman. I think her bet would have been safe. No one else I talked to had tried to go inside. It looked like you needed a ticket. There were angry-faced German tour guides jealously guarding the entrance. Only because I'm a gutsy son-of-a-gun did I even attempt to go inside.

There were a few things I learned from Burghausen and its Ren/Middle ages/Faire/Fest. One thing I learned is that I can find 15 Euro chili powder advertised as "Dragon's Blood/Drachenblut" anywhere I go. Another thing I learned is that though Germany may not have a glut of fantasy books, they still enjoy themselves a little roast mutton now and again. And finally, I learned that sometimes you have to risk the angry eyes of a German tour guide in order to see life like a Duke. And that, my friends, is a lesson worth remembering. (Robby Van Arsdale)

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Bildnachweis: Molly Gibbs