CDH and I spent a typically rainy NZ summer’s weekend hanging out in Taupo – the giant crater lake in the centre of the north island, for those of you not in NZ – at the 10th Annual Taupo Joust. This is NZ’s biggest medieval festival, where jousters come from all over the world to compete and the reinactment community rocks up to hang out in tents, cook animals over an open fire, and generally get up to medieval mayhem.
Being part of a HEMA group (that’s Historical European Martial Arts), CDH and I don’t do any reinacting, but a few of our friends are in some local groups (rival groups, as it were) and this is the last year the festival will be held in Taupo, so we were keen to go down and have a look. After visiting the Mittelaltermarkt in Hamburg and some incredible living history villages in Scandinavia, we weren’t expecting much, but were so plesently surprised.
Three of the coolest chicks we know are with a Viking-era re-enactment group. They made a replica viking tent, spending months carving each wooden pole with ship and knotwork designs. Then they hand-stitched the whole thing, and made a table and stools. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We spent most of our weekend hanging out here.
These guys were hanging out right next to ANOTHER Viking-era re-enactment group, where another couple of friends were hanging out. One of their guys spent the week building a longhouse. It wasn’t as good as some of the longhouse replicas I’ve seen in Europe, but, to be fair, the dude built it in a WEEK. And, when the campsite flooded, it provided much-needed shelter and warmth for some rather bedraggled vikings.
One the first night we rocked up, we hung out, drank mead, met some old friends and made some new ones, and then, when we left to go to our motel, it started pissing down. And it didn’t stop till the next morning, which was great for all the people coming to the festival for the day, but for the poor folks camping, it was a bit miserable. All our friends were sorta warm and sorta dry in the longhouse, but the tents were rather flooded.
Despite this, we had a fun day. I spent a long time talking to people about making mead (going to a mead-making workshop soon, yes!) and tasting mead. I am now fully stocked up on mead. We saw my beautiful friend Lucy dancing, a lady with bright-colored flags, and ate some samosas. It was brill.
The swordfighting is very different from what we do, but it’s all about scoring points (a bit like modern-day fencing) and putting on a show for the crowd. It’s always great to see kids excited about historical stuff.
The one disappointment was the lack of seriously awesome medieval festival food. There was no meat-on-a-stick or giant garlic breads or pork-stuffed bread-pockets or strange fruit-towers like there was in Germany (I think we spent about 60 Euro on food ALONE in one day at that festival). There were hot chips and samosas and sweetcorn fritters. It was a bit of a letdown :( We went out for dinner at a lovely local pub and I had a rather amazing venison pie with juniper berries, which totally made up for the meh food at the festival.
We met up with a dude from one of our clubs who runs a sword shop and CDH brought a new sword – it has the clover-leaf handles, so people keep calling it a claymore, but it’s not, as it’s a two-handed sword, and not a polearm. We’ll be sharpening it and having a “test-cutting” party at some point in the near future. I haven’t got a photo of it but it’s very pretty.
It’s great to know that even all the way down here, in the corner of the world perhaps furtherst from the European tradition, there’s a community of people who think this stuff is just as cool as we do. We both got quite inspired by the living history aspects – we’re taking a metalworking class together this semester and are hoping to make our viking friends a tripod fire stand.
Have you ever been to a medieval festival in your country? What did you think? Do you do any kind of re-enacting / historical european martial arts / living history / LARPing?