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This post was originally published on May 28, 2012, and updated on May 19, 2020.
It’s a holiday weekend here in this area of Germany. It’s called Pfingsten, or Pentecost. It’s a religious holiday, and it isn’t celebrated in all areas of the country. However, here in Catholic Bavaria, it’s also a state holiday.
I had a completely different travel journal planned for this week, but a last-minute invitation from my friends in Kronach changed my plans. I posted a journal about my first visit with Anette and Michael back in October. I had met them at my German teacher Frank’s birthday party last year. I hit it off immediately with the whole group, and subsequently spent a wonderful night in Kronach a few weeks after that. You might remember that Annette and Michael own a bookshop there.
They invited me to the huge historical fest called Crana Historica (Kronach History) this weekend at the big castle in Kronach.
You may remember that Kronach is famous for its Rosenburg Fortress, which is the setting for Crana Historica. Those of you who participate in SCA and other “period” events anywhere will have an inkling about the whole scene.
From the train station you can see the castle on the far hill overlooking the town. The identity of Kronachians (ok, in German it’s actually Kronacher) is tied closely to the conflicts the castle has been involved in. And they are very proud that it has never fallen to an enemy, despite numerous attempts. A fountain in the town demonstrates this community identity:
On my arrival by train, I could hear intermittent explosions emanating from the direction of the castle. I knew it was from the re-enactment of the Kronacher victory over the Swedish attack during the 30 Year’s War in the early 1600’s. As I drew closer and the castle walls came into view, I could see spears and smoke from the activity. You’ll see this from inside later. But the cannon was LOUD!
I made my way to my friends’ house, which is just at the bottom of the castle hill. There, Anette made a fantastic risotto with white asparagus, a German springtime delicacy. We had the Italian wine that a student of mine gave me from his trip to Tuscany. We had dinner on the balcony then retired inside and proceeded to sit up til 1am and consume more wine and discuss art, literature, history, education, culture, language and anything else that came up. Ah, my favorite thing!
The next morning Michael and I had coffee on the balcony while Anette slept in. He filled me in on some local history and legends.
One interesting story he told me was that people from Kronach are known as Hasenkuh, meaning female rabbit. This name comes from the legend that, during the siege of the castle by the Swedes, those inside the castle wanted to show the Swedes they had plenty of food and were wasting their time trying to starve them out. They were actually being starved out, but they came up with a plan to parade housecats dressed as rabbits along the top of the castle walls to make the Swedes think they had plenty of fresh meat available. The plan worked, hence the nickname! I don’t know if I believe it, but there are plenty of rabbits depicted at the castle and all over town as a result of this myth.
When Annette appeared, we enjoyed a leisurely brunch on the balcony before making our way up to the castle to the festival. Here are but a few of the many, many photos I took during our short visit to the past.
These signposts were stationed all around the castle grounds. The image depicted is a map of the castle. The festival was much more extensive than I had imagined. Many parts of the castle that are usually closed had been opened up for the occasion.
On the way up to the castle’s arched entrance, I began to see many people from the past. And, I must say, they were all so accommodating and posed and smiled for my camera:
We entered along a roadway where the festival participants camped. There were tents and tents and tents, all white and all inhabited by costumed people. Most of the groups had a central artisan theme, such as armor-making.
Then there were the cooking stations:
One of the most intriguing was the bath house. If you’ll notice, there are two people in that giant barrel in the back of the tent. I could hear them laughing and giggling. At least one of them was a woman. This scene filled my mind with many questions, such as: Were you expected to bathe with someone else? Do you get to choose who? How do you get in and out without being naked in front of strangers walking by? Do they change the water between customers? How much does it cost?
Here’s one of my favorite scenes. Do you recognize the image he’s drawing?
These are my friends shopping for a new sheepskin for their cat’s bed:
Of course there were lots of food and drink stalls, as well as those selling gift items. This is the cook at the smoked fish hut. The smoker is a big, wooden barrel:
Here’s the beer stand:
And the laundromat:
The Medieval doctor/dentist show drew a large crowd. Here’s the dentist office:
And the waiting room:
And the OR – they “removed” this man’s leg and tossed it on the ground along with other discarded limbs and even an eyeball:
Awesome decoration at the doctor’s office, which is a plague mask, thought to protect the wearer from the plague:
I think this guy was the one on the website for the festival:
There were roving drummers and fifers:
This woodworker was explaining the history of his craft to a visitor:
At first I thought this woman was dressing the man’s injury, but it turns out she was creating it with makeup, probably for some re-enactment later.
This dude was polishing his helmet in broad daylight!
On the highest piece of ground we found the royalty. They, of course, had a sentry posted:
And the royal guards were having a beer break:
In contrast to most of the peasants below, the royal court was dining in high style with cooks and waiters:
This man has a pottery shop in town, not far from my friends’ bookstore. He is a friend of my friends and is really nice . I bought this mug with an awesome stylized moose design on it. I had a hard time choosing between the rabbit (!) design and the moose, but the moose was much cooler. He made it himself and it has a stamp with his shop name and date on it:
This is for my friend Bram who loves the German word for jewelry. And it’s also for my college friends who know that you can’t say “schmuck” without lips!
Some playful maidens were twirling a yarn jumprope at one of the moat bridges. You had to run through without getting hit by the yarn. But sometimes they just wiggled it near the ground and you could step over.
These armored guards were roving everywhere. You can see how willing the characters were to stop and pose for me. You’ll see these guys again:
There were lots of things for kids to do. There was a huge metal tub with soapy water and someone giving out wire loops so the kids could make bubbles. There was face painting, too. I took many photos of this particular operation. The artist was fantastic! And at one point the little girl turned to me and gave me the most beautiful smile!
Michael tried his hand at the hatchet-throwing booth:
Remember the armored guards? They stopped here to have a drill and terrorized the visitors into giving them some of their food:
At 3pm we made our way to the re-enactment of the battle with the Swedes – remember the smoke and spears I’d seen on my way from the station? Well, the view wasn’t much better because of the crowds, but I managed to get a few usable shots for you. I tell you it was LOUD and quite smoky from the muskets and cannon!
It was obvious how much fun the “enemies” were having. And when someone was “killed”, they would lie on the cobbles for a few minutes until a friar monk guy came to administer last rites, after which they would get up and re-join the fight. Kind of like recycling soldiers. Very green.
The armored guards were crowd control as the battle raged! But, as I passed by one of them, he said loudly, “Wer kusst mich?” which means “Who’s going to kiss me?”
If I had time and bandwidth, I could post so many more great pictures of this festival. It was really amazing, and, for all the activity, quite relaxing to spend three-plus hours strolling through. Not to mention spending time with my great friends who live there.
I’m invited back next month for Kronach Leuchtet (Kronach lights up), so look for a future journal about that.
After gathering my belongings back at the house, I made my way to the station and hopped another regional train back to Bamberg. I collected BlackFlash at the bike garage and managed to bicycle home where I promptly crashed into bed.
I hope you enjoyed my outing. It was truly amazing, and the weather and especially the company was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hope your weekend was just as good! Stay tuned for more next week!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: