Mittwoch, 13. Mai 2015

Escape from Mordor at #Bacharach Vierthälermarkt 2015 reenactment fair

 The magic troll had raved about the re-enactment fair at Bacharach for years now. Now my woman is not one to rhapsodize so easily;-), so I was quite enthused myself and looking forward to a weekend "out of time".
So we packed our tent and camp gear and the angry load (re-enactment attire works surprisingly well outdoors but tends to be a bit ... well ... fluffy;-)) and prepared for the long and arduous travel via train. Of course, the train driver labour society had scheduled a general strike, so we were not exactly looking forward to a journey across half the country with little chance of everything running straight and clean. So we were taken by a very agreeable surprise when the Böööön ;-) family, Jacob and Nadja notified us they´d fetch us to take us to Bacharach by car. It was making friends on the drive, and while we also talked a huge pile of rubbish, it was a great balance between mad jokes and serious talk. When we arrived, we set up camp on a campsite besides the great Rhine  river, situated in the ancient town of Bacharach, which dates back to Roman, even Celtic times. I was informed that the name goes back to a Celtic *Baccaracos, apparently a Celtic chief in ancient times, but also heard the theory that there had been an altar of Bacchus, the Roman God of wine and feasting. A lot of legends circle around the Rhine, not the least being that of the Loreley, a beautiful sorceress.

We set up tent and went for a stroll around the city to smell the roses. What became apparent at once was that Bacharach is a most spellbinding city, beautiful with its ancient cobwork houses and old wineries and a castle overlooking the town. What became apparent at the second glance, however, is that the city is ill. Many showcases in the streets were dusty and empty, many houses withered, many shops yawned empty. Working in a city marketing, I have learned to notice decay when I see it. And I noticed something else. There is a railroad track cutting through the town like a hatchet, with noise emission at a level that would normally not be permitted elsewhere. On the other bank of the river was another railroad track screaming at the sky. Now Bacharach is a city making a living from wine and tourism. I have seen no industrial sites in the vicinity. That amount of noise emission destroys tourism in the long run. Now the ever - present issue pops up, being that "we have to do trades and economy, in order to have a prospering business output, don´t we? And so we need logistics.". But tourism is business, too. Noise kills a town that is more than a thousand years old, not business. It´s plain old greed. One could easily dispatch goods on another way-if the railroad companies had cared for the tracks in the ´80s and ´90s elsewhere. But due to lack of interest they did not invest. No way to change it, and why does this guy here rant about it in the first place?

A good friend of the magic troll´s, nicknamed Romulus, organized the fair. Originally from Bacharach and now living near Wurzburg, he called up traders and musicians and walking acts to make up a great event, taking place on a lawn near the Rhine river. I do not know how much he charged for it, but I daresay it will not be more than peanuts compared to the effort. He is an avid reenactor and musician, someone who dresses up funny on weekends, believes in strange things such as fairy tales and tries to save his hometown with what he can do. His friends were an integral part of the fair, and while some of them actually got some money for it, many of them just joined in.

There is a lot of solidarity in the re-enactment scene. No, don´t get me wrong, it´s not a pink fluffy unicorn palace all the time. There are people there, actual people with actual problems, but it´s freaking me out a bit, that nearly all of the people I have met in the last months are great individuals, and in stark contrast to common practice in this our oft-quoted society, they tend to care a bit more for each other than is customary. They like to laugh and sing, good food and drink, care for their families and friends and for the most part, form a community, even without a standard or an organization. Special people are integrated without so much of a second thought.

Back to our little stroll, we were desperately looking for some food, but fact was, there was a lot of great advertisements;-). So we roamed and discussed, and we met with Hajo the beggar and his woman. Now Hajo is a great person wh, until we finally went into one pub in hope of a meal. It turned out it was 4 minutes after 9 pm, and the kitchen closed at 9 pm, so no food really. But we were more than satisfied to meet up with Dirsidh and Dodo, whom we meet frequently on re-enactment fairs all over Germany. We had a Weissbier (enough carbohydrates for an evening, you know;-)) and a nice chat.

Then it was off to our smug little home for a good night´s rest, to greet the new day. At first we went for the grocery store, primarily to get some coffee and other less important victualies;-), back to the campsite to lower the blood level in our caffeine, and then, eager to get to the fair, we dived into our gear and off we were. We crossed the finish line of some forgotten run or race and passed by the most beautiful of all dog poo heaps and then...


Beautiful colours, beautiful smells, woodsmoke, food, incense. The sound of real folk music:

 and okay, the sound of other someoneses hooting and pooting into a camping toilet with a bag on one end at a sound level like a starting jetplane with another one doing insult to a drum the size of a cartwheel with as much rhythm as a Dada poet on steroids;-). But since we took it as a bowel massage, that was fine with us;-), too. But blimey, I simply can´t remember their name...;-), must´ve been blown out of my ears;-).

I had forgotten the memory card of my camera, so you have to live with what someone made who actually knows her trade on the photo gallery of for more impressions.

We met with a lot of very, very nice people. Hajo, Dan, Romulus, Tini, Maria, Jacob and Nadja of course, Renate, Sigi, Ben and Tina, and a lot of strangers sitting under a plane tree. We relished in great food and Morroccan tea and mocca, and in no time we felt earthed again. We met with those people, and we showed to each other what we had made since last we met, told a tale of where we´d been and shared our joy and grief. And it´s funny; you meet as strangers and part as friends, and with many of them it´s absolutely okay that you only meet maybe one time a year, for you always continue where you´ve stopped last time. It started to rain hard. But when it stopped, there unfolded the bridge of the Gods:

Bifröst, Bönfröst;-), or as Jakob put it, Bofrost;-). No deepfrozen junk food here, though:-).

And another strange thing happened. Some had complained about the rain, some (ähem;-)) had talked rubbish (BÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖN!!!!!), but as the rainbow appeared, there were a lot of silent smiles on the faces of everyone around and a frenzy to get a photo, and a lot of talk of awe and inspiration.

It got dark, and there was a fire show going on. We watched in awe, once again, and sipped a mead beer and talked to some more lovely people. We moved from the booth of "Heiter bis Folkig" to the tavern, had some more beer. It was amazing with a capital "A" (pun intended;-)) that Romulus, even though he had the whole organization on his shoulders, found time and energy to have a beer and play and make some music with us. We had a chat and some songs together, and we just let time flow beneath us while the Rhine joined in with its own song, oh-so-ancient, and oh-so-wise. Stars came out bright and piercingly light and frosty starlight sang above us and above those ancient hills and the stream that has seen the aeons. They say it guards an ancient treasure. They say the treasure is cursed.

But the gold in our mugs and glasses and the silver of the moon and the stars and the velvet in the voices of those musicians were treasures we took home to keep.

Back to the tent we realized it had somewhat lost its structure;-) and it had been somewhat soaked inside, but no harm done really. It was a cold night in a wet sleeping bag, but I had made some pushups and situps beforehand and snuggled deep into it with extra clothes on, so I became warm no less with the hours;-). The magic troll was a bit scared of me in the morning, for my face looked like a wet loaf of bread afterwards:-), but that passed quickly with some fresh air and a hot coffee;-D. Funny, as I write it I can still smell that lovely smell of the ancient alcohol stove I brought with me, and the boiling water and the instant coffee in my Kuksa... and I love the memory. In fact I will thrive on it for years to come.

Sunday saw us visiting the booths and talking for a good while to Siggi and Renate, two most excellent characters. Siggi is an experienced blacksmith, and Renate makes wonderful hand-dyed wool and spins her own yarn. It would go way to far to delve deeper into everything we talked about, but it was simply great to be with them.

As was meeting with Steffen and Dipali from Lanarius Handspinnerei, two more lovely people. Steffen is re-enacting a medieval scholar and makes his own Hippocras, a spiced wine after the recipe of Hildegard von Bingen out of twelve herbs and was like "HHIIIIPPPOOOOOCRAS TASTING!!!!!FREE!!!!HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPOOOOOOOOOOOOCRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSS TASTING!!!!1!11!" most of the time;-D. I had made him an actual, left-handed "penknife" (no photo yet, but I hope to provide one soon!), a knife used in the medieval ages for preparing the goose pens used for writing, and "the father";-) had made a woodturned hornbeam handle for it. Actually we got the impression he liked it a bit, and he gave us some bottles of this, his wonderful concoction. We talked a bit about how not all was grand in wonderland, too. You might get the impression that the re-enactment scene is a fairy´s wet dream come true, but it is not. When the magic troll met with Stefan and Dipali at Freienfels medieval fair, there was a couple coming to the booth stating they were

"Germanen". GAH!

Now this is always making us a bit suspicious, and it turned out they were from a fascist esoteric order named the "Armanenorden" (insert sound file of someone throwing up), and yap, those things exist in the re-enactment scene and, yap, it´s getting me a temper, so to say. Having talked to some of those individuals, and being constantly faced with the need to explain myself why I try to scientifically treat the topic of runeology, I must say it makes me furious. It is the one thing you can do to make me want to whack the shit out of you if you join this order and try to convince me to do the same. Sadly, I don´t, but sometimes I think hard about that Ganghofer quote "Sometimes it can be satisfying to give a stinker a thorough spanking". It makes Steffen all the greater a person that he did not but simply threw them off his booth. The culprit is, yes, there are people like that in the re-enactment scene also. As I said, it´s no wonderland where pink fluffy unicorns graze the rainbow. But people don´t get overly excited. They throw them out and that´s it. They deserve no place and they are a side phenomenon at best, and many folks join forces to fight rascist scum like that in a non-violent way.

We talked about how we had a task to fulfil, namely to inform people how it really might have been. It can be a theory at best, but the only thing one can do is trying to keep the complete idiots and ideologists out. Reenactment is science. Of course, no one will yell at you when you are just doing LARP or costumed BBQ camping. But most of the people I have met on the fair and in the last months doing re-enactment are well aware of their responsibility. One example that is often quoted is that the swastika, the use of which is not allowed in Germany, is far older than the Nazi symbol, and dates back to the bronze age. In my opinion, it would be far better to inform kids and adults about the true provenience of that symbol, which, when seen purely from a semantic and morphological point of view has no rascist implications at all, but was presumeably a symbol of luck, than banning it. The forbidden fruit always taste best, so to say. I am well aware of the fact that this symbol now has a history that does not enable taking the ban from it, and I am certainly no Nazi, but I guess the point is made. Noone could, for instance, call the early Scandinavian culture rascist. Evidence speaks against it, be it reports by ancient Arabian and Jewish traders or the finds of Oriental goods as far up as Birka and Oseberg, ranging from water boilers, rings with "Allah" inscriptions, to silk and embroidery and even Buddha statues. And still, there were tablet-woven bands found which showed a swastika. Of course, what I want to make clear, is not that I have an answer, but, as usual, I have a question.

But I personally believe that by feeling how a tunic fits, how a seax chops and hippocras tastes, you can come closer to the truth. It´s a lot about sensations you feel, that re-enactment thing. It is a lot about responsibility, and the taking of it, about, well, love, and social contexts that work in a world far removed from the actual, but no more in a society powered by a greed that shatters 2000 years of history to smouldering ruins.

All too soon all was over, and again we prepared to gather up our provisions for the long and arduous train ride back, when Jakob came around and went like "I hope you join us on our drive back?".

Guy, if you read this, this is primarily for Nadja and you, and the others of course. You are escapists and dreamers and you talk as much rubbish you need a helmet to listen;-D. Cling to being like you are. And never cease dreaming, and living your dream!


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