Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Medieval Faire

Several weeks ago we had the opportunity to attend a Medieval Faire at some beautiful castle ruins.  The grounds were staffed with a reenactment troupe, and they had many different activities going on.  Although my primary intention was to bring a nice end to Sunburst's study of the middle ages, there was something fun for everyone.  It was a really grand day.... and it didn't rain once!

First of all, the castle itself was fantastic to behold.


There was an immaculate Elizabethan garden filled with herbs and flowers.  At the far end of the garden is a large cage filled with a few local birds, including pheasants.  We felt a bit sorry for them having to live in such a small cage.

Then there were the reenactments.  They had some kind of show going on every half hour, from trials to jousts to exhibitions.  Canons were fired, and soldiers made quite a show marching around in their armor.

My favorite part was walking around talking to the reenactors.  Some of them were very well informed about their time period, especially the map-maker and the stained glass-maker.  I was so absorbed in the conversations I missed the opportunity to take many pictures.  However, here are a few examples of the things we saw:

Canon ball carving.

Arrow making.

Cart building.

The games tent, where Kitty Bill was completely absorbed in a game of Gl├╝ckhaus.


Medieval music on the recorder.


Cooking, in all it's manifestations.


I did manage to take a couple of pictures at the mapmaker's tent, two that I was really excited to share with you all.  Remember the measurement block from Waldorf Grade 3 where children learn the earliest forms of measurement?  Moonshine saw this picture that the mapmaker had drawn and nearly jumped up and down about it.  It's a furlong!!

What a great image for the main lesson book, no?  I will definitely be drawing from this when it's Kitty Bill's turn to do measurement.

The mapmaker was so impressed that Moonshine knew what a furlong was, and of course this tickled Moonshine to no end.  Then the mapmaker showed Moonshine an antiquated chain and quizzed her on how many chains make a furlong, and so forth.  You can see the chain on the left.

I think it's pretty telling that of all the attractions of the day, this was the crowning glory.  As homeschoolers, we put forth so much effort into creating a sense of understanding within our children.   It's not often that we get to see some of the archaic knowledge come spilling back out of them.  The wonder and recognition was really palpable in that moment.  Rods and chains and furlongs-- they really do exist!

As for Sunburst, she wandered off after the jousting display, and we knew exactly where we'd find her.  We only had to follow the scent of horses...


On our way out, the girls and I ran into the shoemaker's tent and ended up in a lengthy discussion about the proper way to make shoes in the middle ages.  We watched him work for quite awhile, and it was so fascinating!  The girls had endless questions, but I finally had to pull them away for the long drive home.  I'm sure it's a day that they won't soon forget.

Friday, June 01, 2012


The prolific and inspiring blogger CCETSI asked me in the comments about the Swiss museum we went to that had the section on the Black Death.  I had to have a look through my pictures to remind myself which town it was in, and I was instantly carried back in time.  It was such a wonderful day.

Rheinfelden is a small city in northern Switzerland.  As you have probably already guessed, it's along the River Rhine, and it's a wonderful medieval city-- just stunning!  We had only been in Switzerland for two months before visiting, so we were still fresh enough off the boat that we walked around gaping at the lovely details.  The children were so tiny then!

One of the things I love about old cities is the architecture.  I've always been fascinated by buildings and the shape and feel of a place.  Whenever I see old churches and tiny alleyways, I have to walk through them.  I just can't help myself.  This day was no exception because there was a lot to explore.

The main street of the city looks very much like other Swiss towns-- colorful, clean, historic, and lovely.  It has definitely kept its medieval feel.  You can see my crew strolling along ahead of me, taking it all in.


Besides being known for its beer, Rheinfelden has an amazing church-- St. Martin's.  You really wouldn't guess from the outside, but as you walk inside, you can't help but gasp.  It is an absolute masterpiece.

We also found an amusing and charming clock tower:

This one has tailor sitting above and a goat that passes along the wall at certain times of the day.   According to a lovely woman we befriended on the train, the story goes that a very long time ago the city was besieged, perhaps by the Spanish.  The walls were so heavily fortified that they couldn't get through, so they decided to wait and starve the inhabitants out.

Quite a few months passed this way, until not only were the inhabitants in the city starving, but so were the troops laying siege.  Rather than surrender, the inhabitants of Rheinfelden came up with a plan.  A tailor sewed up the skins and head of a goat into a costume of sorts, and then this "goat" walked at leisurely pace along the city wall, as if it didn't have a care in the world.

The troops laying siege assumed that if a goat was walking leisurely along, then the city must still be flourishing.  The starving troops abandoned their plan, and the inhabitants of the city were safe.

If you would like to see the goat, I found a video online. The picture quality isn't very good, but you you can get the general idea.

We also spent quite a bit of time in the Fricktaler Museum.  There were some lovely items from many different time periods.  Since I know others are studying the medieval era right now, here are a few from that time period.

A stunning example of an illuminated manuscript:

Sharp things:

And here are the pictures from the Black Death exhibit.  I've had to brighten them a little because the room was quite dark and very ominous.  As you can see, the costume is a bit foreboding, especially that eye peeking out from behind the glass goggles.  It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

The following pictures are two of my favorites from that day.  One is a mermaid fountain I walked into by accident.  It was hiding behind a building across the bridge that crosses the Rhine.  So it's actually in Germany.

The craftsmanship is exquisite.  I'm not quite sure what's going on here, but I love that it makes me wonder.

This one just touches me.  I love the historic feel to it... even the old man.  It's like stepping back in time.  The motorcycles and the signage give it an absurd quality.  That's Switzerland in a nutshell.  Time changes and stands still all in the same moment.

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