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Holiday in Fairyland

August 14, 2010

I first went to the Netherlands three years ago – the first time I travelled anywhere without either my parents or school – lured by a meeting with some of the wonderful people I had gotten to know online. I couldn’t really believe I was going, not before I left, not while on the train, not even while I was there. When I was saying good bye to my host after three days of wonderfully ridiculous conversations, laughing, games, stuffing ourselves with wonderful food, listening to music, biking, looking at windmills and wooden shoes, I said, ‘I still can’t believe I’ve been here!’

To which she replied, ‘Yes – it’s like having been in fairyland, isn’t it?’

Truer words were rarely spoken – the weekends I spend with those people never feel quite real. So much laughter, so much craziness, so many in-jokes, such lovely people surely can’t exist in the same world as going to work, delayed buses or mouldy bread!

And it became even more appropriate when they lured me to the Netherlands again last year for Castlefest, a Fantasy/middle ages festival.

Which I’ve visited again this year, lured by those wonderful people and prodded by my brother and best friend, who both wanted to go too.

Just in case you haven’t guessed by now, this post won’t have anything to do with plants – but Castlefest is just too awesome not to write about it.

We saw this guy last year already, and he still makes me grin - there are lots of far more elaborate costumes, but to be walking around as a castle at Castlefest... Also, that drawbridge! When my brain finally switched back to German after coming home last year, I remembered that here in Austria, we call a fly 'Hosentürl' - 'trousers door' - and there's got to be a very litteral 'Hosentürl' behind that drawbridge!

The costumes are a huge part of what makes Castlefest awesome. I’ve been to a few medieval fairs here in Austria (I don’t think we’ve got anything Fantasy-related here at all), where only a small percentage of the visitors are wearing costumes. While at Castlefest – especially on the first day, a Friday –  it’s the exception not to be wearing one.

And what kind of costumes they are! Many of them are quite stunning on their own, and then there’s the sheer number, and the variety!

The king and queen - I don't know if they were the same ones that were there last year, but I remember a brief moment of confusion when one of my friends said, 'oh look, the king and queen have arrived' - for a second or so, I thought, 'what? For real?', since unlike my country, the Netherlands is a monarchy. I'm still giggling about that.

I don’t actually have a lot of (good) pictures of other people’s costumes – I’m just not the kind of person who walks up to someone and says, ‘Hey, can I take a picture?’ – though there are plenty of those people around with their monstrous cameras – one even stopped me and my best friend, as we walked around feeling rather invisible in our simple dresses, and asked us if he could take a picture of us and the druid (or whatever he was supposed to be) who just happened to walk behind us.

There are a lot of steampunk people around, and Johnny Depp's roles are also quite popular - in addition to this Mad Hatter, there was at least one Jack Sparrow around. Last year, there was who was so well dressed up that upon seeing the pictures, my mother commented, 'Maybe it was really Johnny Depp, and nobody realized it.'

I also just plain keep forgetting to take pictures, because I’m so busy staring and listening to music and talking to friends.

These two amused me - I think it was just that morning that, while getting ready for the day, I said to my best friend, 'Let's just go as "sleepy" today - in our pyjamas, toothbrush in the mouth, I'll leave my hairbrush tangled in my hair...'

I should really remember to start taking pictures sooner – not on the last day, in a sudden ‘oh my god, it’s ending in a few hours!’ panic.

One of the most lovely things is different costumes coming together like this - see the pointy ears on the girl with the pink kimono?

There’s so much – knights in full armour, scotsmen, princesses, fairies, Hogwarts students, pirates, celts, fauns (including an albino one), birds, warriors of all sorts, Red Riding Hood and Snow White, Na’vi, ninjas, winged people of all kinds, werewolves…

One of my mother's pictures

another one of my mother's

And yet another

There are stalls selling anything from lovely food to leather to weapons (LARP and real), clothes, candles, musical instruments, cups, books, jewellery, games, incense…

There is music…

I mostly took this picture because I liked the way the stage looked with the trees towering over it, but I rather liked Vedan Kolod too - sadly, their CDs were sold out far too quickly.

There was stagediving fruit:

There was rain…

Oh wait. That’s not an attraction.

Though it did prove the usefulness of a good woolen cloak. I’ve wanted to test its waterproofness for a while, and now I know it can take a couple of hours of rain without getting letting any water through- as long as I don’t make the mistake of sitting on it. So now I’d really like to know how they do it in the books, riding in the rain all day, and then sleeping in those cloaks at night?

There were re-enactment camps:

There were dance workshops, LARP battles, the pretty little ‘castle’ (I’ll be mean and put that in quotation marks, because compared to our mountain castles, that’s just a big house)

Random crazy things:

There was a wicker phoenix I neither took a picture of nor saw burning nor even know how they managed to make it burn, since it’d been raining all day (if I hadn’t seen the youtube videos, I’d think they drowned it instead), but which had returned from the ashes the following morning:

There were gorgeous big dogs:

Leonberger (I think) - I know, you're not supposed to cut people's heads off in pictures, but I'm just not showing faces of people I know here.

White Shepherd Dog and... well, I don't know what the other one is. It was funny to watch them play.

Irish Wolfhound - this isn't actually a pretty kind of dog, but a big one - I like big dogs.

Saarlooswolfhond - I saw these for the first time at last year's Castlefest, and I've been utterly in love with them ever since. Wolves have been my favourite animals since I was a child, and these totally look like wolves. I can't tell you how much I wish I had the space, time, and money to have one!

And ridiculous little doglets:

Chihuahua - I'll admit they're cute, but it's just so wrong for a dog to be smaller than a cat.

There were soap bubbles:

By the way, why can't guys dress so colourfully all the time? Why does it always have to be us girls providing the colour? So boring!

And funny signs at the ticket booth:

If I understood this correctly (Dutch is similar enough to German that I can read it most of the time), this says, 'It's forbidden to unsheathe weapons'

And the Garbage Goblins keeping the area clean:

Garbage Goblins (and a little pink princess) - they walk around talking in funny squeaky voices, collecting rubbish, and just looking awesome.

And as it always is with those weekends in fairyland, once it’s over it doesn’t feel quite real.  You walk away wondering if you’ve really dragged your little brother out onto the dance floor for a bit of random stumbling-around, or if you’ve really just seen a sailor trying to blow a horn, or – walking to the car in the dark – joined in some strangers’ wolvish howls, if you’ve really just given good-bye hugs to people you’ve known for years but never seen before… and most of all, you wonder how long you have to wait until you can go back to fairyland.

proof we've been there


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