Turns Out I Wanted to be Lady Lancelot
Our trip to Croatia this past September was quite unique. Normally we research the country we are going to visit well in advance so that we can see and do the things we find most interesting. This time however, our time and our schedule were being dictated by the team from Touristar TV, who asked us to participate in a web series called Discover Croatia, and we had no idea what they wanted to highlight.
One of the most talked about excursions came at the Castle of Zelingrad where we were able to joust, shoot arrows and sword fight with the local experts. They are known as the Knights of Zelingrad. They have forty members interested in medieval history, numismatics, swordsmanship, siege engines, archery, medieval horsemanship, medieval cuisine and medieval dress. And they let us play knight for the day!
The members of this group get together three times per week to keep honing their knightly skills. They practice among themselves, then joust with members of other groups from around Croatia and around the world in medieval tournaments. I can tell you from our time inside their authentic armor that the longer you wear it, the heavier it feels. Wanting to protect us, they started us out with full helmets. However, it quickly became claustrophobic inside. And those swords are also a lot heavier than they first appeared. Our instructor told us that hitting him with the sword would not hurt him a bit, and he was right. We took many hits ourselves from ‘enemy’ swords, and we did not feel anything more than the clink of metal on metal.
This troop takes things so seriously that they have homemade catapults, a trebuchet, two battering rams, armored war chariots and a couple of cannons, which they transport from one tournament to the next.
The International Knights Tournament, the largest event of its kind in Croatia, happens every May and is organized to remember the victory over the Turks, which happened in 1557 on a field in Sveta Helena. ZelingradCastle was built in the 12th century and it is the only medieval fortified town whose ruins are still visible.
For our training we were lucky enough to join them on the grounds of Zelingrad Castle located near Zagreb, Croatia. This was quite a treat for us since guests normally do not get to see them in their true life encampment. Because so few people even come here it is the perfect place to joust and sword fight and to practice archery.
After all the jousting they showed us the art of medieval cuisine and how they cooked over an open fire. They demonstrated how they fed all the troops who might be living inside a castle by treating us to a fine feast. It was not an easy chore feeding all those people in those days, and we appreciated their making us feel welcome and treating us to a feast truly fit for a king.
(First published on BoomerCafe.com by The 6 Monthers)