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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.

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