Sgtravellers

Header

Main Content

Content Text

April 16, 2013, Germany

Knights of Konigstein

Jiahui Tan experiences medieval magic at a castle town just 25 minutes from the German City of Franksurt.

Jiahui Tan

TWO knights with tonnes of armour on their torsos perched precariously on horsebacks. Gripping their long lances and facing off menacingly across the open grounds, they were determined to dismount each other — in a battle for the champion title.

All around us, spectators dressed in endless permutations of tunics, cloaks and leather boots cheered their team on.

The tournament was part of the annual Ritterturnier, meaning “knights tournament”, a jousting tournament and medieval festival that takes place every year in the ruins of Königstein castle.

Königstein, located about 25 minutes from Frankfurt, is a charming castle town, where many of Frankfurt’s affluent reside.

Once an impenetrable stronghold, the 12th century castle fell into disrepair in the late 18th century after the French Revolution. Now it is a tourist’s favourite and home to the yearly Ritterturnier.

The crowds roused madly as one of the knights found an opening and with a sudden thrust of his lance, threw his opponent off his ride.

We would have stayed on to watch but sudden hunger pangs forced us to go in search of some food. The alluring smell of cooking meats led us to the marketplace.

Dark roasts from the tent

The marketplace was a row of tents to one end of the castle, each with their own snaking queue of patrons.

In front of a dark green tent, we could see a portly man deftly carving a roasting pig.

The tantalising aroma of cooking sausages drew us to the tent next door, where we bought bratwurst (sausage). We stopped by a makeshift tavern and bought some beer.

With food and drinks in hand, we searched for a spot to enjoy our meal. We passed a blacksmith busy at work, shaping his horseshoe with a hammer. He smiled and gestured to his handicrafts on display. “For luck,” he said with a wink.

Continuing on the footpath, we found a spot at a table by the castle wall and sat down with a group of mages who were huddled together, guffawing loudly while downing pints of ale.

Fairy tale scenery

Because the castle was built on top of a hill, it gave us a pretty good overview of Königstein. From afar, we could see the beautiful Villa Andrae, which has not lost its lustre since it came into being in 1891. Against the bright blue skies and pretty timber-framed houses, it looked nothing short of a fairy tale.

A hearty meal later, we downed the last drop of ale an set off to explore the castle grounds.

In a corner of the sprawling castle, several tents had been pitched, hawking everything from capes to leather boots — those who cite a limited wardrobe as reason for not dressing up will have no excuse next year.

Horns and trumpets sounded, heralding the start of the next battle. Around us, people in medieval garb were milling around, chatting and enjoying the festivities.

A couple of giggling nuns walked by. A warrior marched ahead, sword carefully sheathed and shield in his other hand. It suddenly struck me that I could very well be observing a similar scene five hundred years ago.

The impact of that realisation brought forth a profound sense of serendipity; we were walking amidst real people and participating in real activities. It was like history coming to life.

GETTING THERE

Singapore Airlines flies twice daily to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt, it is 25 minutes by car or train to Königstein.

TRAVELLER’S TIPS

■ This year’s Ritterturnier “Knights Tournament” takes place from May 10 to 12.

■ Combine your trip with visits to other small towns around the Taunus area such as Kronberg and Hofheim.

■ The best time to visit Königstein is between March and November when the dry weather prevails.

Side Bar

DEALS

New Shan Travel

New Shan Travel
New Shan Travel Promo

8D German Christmas Markets fr S$2,079
Austria, France, Germany, Ireland {Republic}, Switzerland, United Kingdom

EU Holidays

EU Holidays
EU Holidays Promo

Travel Revolution 2015 (Booth: A5)
Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, United States

Trafalgar

Trafalgar
Trafalgar Travel Promo

Europe on Sale
United Kingdom, Turkey, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany

Most Read This Month
Amazing Alamut

Ryandall Lim backpacks in Iran and discovers unadulterated beauty and warm hospitality in a remote valley

印度尼西亚海边城市望加锡 - 悠闲之地

望加锡名不见经传, 它却是印尼一个重要天然港口, 300多年前曾经辉煌过, 今天则是旅客消磨时间的悠闲地方。

The best Penang hawker food

Foodie Philip Lee takes a culinary trip down Penang’s roadside stalls and coffee shops to suss out the tastiest assam laksa and nasi kandar on the island

Latest travel story
Walk on the wild side in S. Korea’s mountain valleys

HIKING is a common pastime for many South Koreans, with about 70 per cent of the country’s land covered by mountainous regions.

During summer, they often visit the mountains and spend time in the valleys and riverside to escape the heat and daily grind.

Here are some popular valleys to check out if you are visiting South Korea:

‡‡ACHIMGARI

This valley at Mount Bangtaesan in Inje, Gangwon province, is famous for its trekking course.

It got its name because you can plough the fields only in the morning (“achim”). The sunshine lasts for a shorter duration, as the valley is located  deep in the mountains.

Achimgari is well known for its hiking course of about 12km. The course takes five hours to complete. Some of its main charms are the natural paths, rather than man-made roads.

There are also areas near the valley where people can go rafting.

EOREUMGOL

Those looking to escape the summer heat and humidity can find themselves a natural air-conditioner at Eoreumgol.

Located at Mount Cheonwangsan near Miryang, Gyeongsang province, Eoreumgol means “ice valley”, a reference to its freezing temperatures even during summer.

Visitors can feel a cool breeze and even see ice between the rocks.

There is a cable car that visitors can take to see the valley from above.
‡‡
MOUNT GWANAKSAN NADEUL ROAD

There are also mountains and valleys that people can visit in Seoul.

Mount Gwanaksan, which stretches across Seoul and parts of Gyeonggi province, has numerous hiking trails.

One of its courses is the Mount Gwanaksan Nadeul road, which begins at the mountain entrance and follows various streams in the mountain valleys, passing by a lake garden and mountain spring in the process.

The trail is 5.58km long and easy for people of all ages to walk on as it has very little in the way of slopes, unlike other hiking courses in Gwanaksan.

THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Go with the (air) flow in Malaysia

FORGET the ornithopter, and don’t even bother following Icarus’ failed flight plan.

The real way to fly, really fly, is to strap on a paraglider and shoot straight for the skies. Granted, it’s not for the faint-hearted, but sitting in a plane or even a helicopter doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

There are no engines and pollution. Paragliding is a non-motorised form of flight that uses a parachute and air flow to get around, so all that’s involved are man (or woman), fabric, the elements and sheer grit.

It’s a high-stakes form of fun, but so is any adventure sport. By taking the right precautions, flying through the air can be as safe as watering plants.

Husband-and-wife team Ikhwan Azillah and Orkid Jamilah know a thing or two about the thrills and spills of the sport, having indulged in it for the last 15 years.

The couple, who established the Malaysia Paragliding and Hang Gliding Association, got into the adventure sport when Ms Orkid got interested in it while she was in Britain, and introduced her husband to the sport later. When they realised the money-making potential of their hobby, the pair went to New Zealand to earn their international paragliding certification.

So, what stirs someone enough to make them want to take to the skies?

“A lot of people have bucket lists and paragliding tends to be one of the things on the list. Other adventure sports are common, too, like whitewater rafting and bungee jumping,” explained Ms Orkid during a recent interview.

And where this sense of adventure is concerned, women rule. According to Ms Orkid, women make up most of their local clientele. “I don’t know where the men have gone,” admitted Mr Ikhwan sheepishly.

Thrill seekers also include expatriates and tourists from countries near and far, including France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ms Orkid and Mr Ikhwan have based their service in the historic town of Jugra, off Banting in Selangor. The location, aptly named Paragliding Flightpark, is where paragliding enthusiasts take flight.

The most popular form of paragliding is tandem flight, where thrill seekers merely enjoy the ride while a “pilot” steers the glider. For this kind of ride, no prior knowledge of the sport is required, though a basic understanding of physics is beneficial for working with the pilot to steer the glider comfortably.

Weight is also a consideration – for safety reasons, a tandem flier cannot weigh more than 135kg.

The average flight lasts 10 minutes, costing RM200 (S$72). Students pay RM150.

Those with a greater sense of adventure may opt to fly solo. The fundamental introductory course is a two-day affair. Depending on the level of interest, the training spans four tiers, the lowest for those hoping to fly on their own while the highest for those intending to become licensed instructors.

The introductory course teaches would-be fliers the basics of flying, including packing the chute. It may sound like mundane work, but a wrongly packed chute might not deploy, and that can only spell disaster.

Packing the chute, made of tightly woven nylon fabric, also gives fliers a chance to inspect its condition – safety is imperative.

“The gear we use comes with a five-year guarantee. Small repairs are outsourced to former commandos who were (parachute) riggers,” Mr Ikhwan said.

No purchase of equipment is required for novice fliers, but serious paragliders can look into getting their own gear.

Sure, paragliding isn’t for everyone. And collecting stamps is way safer.

But think of all the times we’ve envied birds and longed to fly freely like them. Well, paragliding takes a similar trajectory – and wax-coated feathers no longer have to be an option.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Fun goes well with food

Jac Woo plays hard and eats even harder on a road trip in New South Wales, Australia