One of the German's favorite past times during the warm summer months has to be visiting fairs and markets. The medieval markets are particularly popular though.
Many of the old city centers are transformed into something from times far, far away. It's like stepping through a time portal, right into the busy hours of a crowded 12th century market complete with jesters, traders and the many treasures they brought along with them.
Immerse yourself in the sounds and smells of the old times, minus the inconvenience of the old world Donnerbalken - thunder planks, or what toilets used to be called back then. Just like the regular fairs, the markets offer modern conveniences like bathrooms, parking and the bigger ones often have websites set up to study the program and promote special events or guests.
Often the markets charge an admission fee, but most wave that or at least give a discount if you are dressed in appropriate attire, like medieval or fantasy garb.
Vendors set up booths all over the market praising their goods. Marvel blacksmiths working their metals on set up forges, tanners and carpenters, or just your local herbalist offering fresh herbs and cures for small ailments. You may encounter an ale brewer or beekeeper selling local honey or gem cutters and jewelers with precious stones for sale. Tailors often show up with fantasy robes and armor and even weapons and chain or plate armor are available.
May markets have shows for entertainment, like jugglers, or jousting. They also have special kids programs or booths to bring the old times to the children. Things like bow and arrow shooting, gem or treasure digging or wooden sword fighting are popular at the fairs.
Be sure to visit all the yummy food vendors that offer long forgotten recipes, bake fresh breads in stone ovens, grill oxen over a fire or smoke fish and meats. If you prefer the more traditional fest foods, you won't be disappointed either.
My favorite part has to be browsing all the amazing wares. I love watching the craftsmanship that goes into these treasures and haggling for that one find is always fun. Second is definitely the different foods. I am especially fond of the ancient recipes and baked goods with honey and dried fruits. If asked, my husband would probably prefer the ales, liqueurs and spirits that are home brewed and often much more potent then the stuff you can find in your local grocery store. He is also a big fan of the old style grilled or smoked meats and cheeses.
The big medieval fairs often include jousting tournaments, so be sure to check the websites or flyers for the schedules. The fights are usually set up in huge open lots or fields, so sunscreen and hats are needed during warm summer days.
Larger markets usually have a camp area that can be found outside the market area. It sure is something that should be checked out; many interesting things can be found there. The different camp groups are often separated by rope or fences, and people live in those camps during their market shifts.
Depending on the size of the group they may have set up several live areas, sleeping tents and cooking fires. The camp members usually prepare and cook their food using old world recipes and sit down at large tables to eat their meals together. The people there are dressed in medieval garb and armor, paying close attention to every little detail. You will find the robes and garments are in dim colors and kept in brown and grey shades. Knights will be showing of their Templar gear or family crests.
The bright, colorful and light silky dresses are reserved for royalty and rich folk. You also won't see any young girls or women with yellow sashes, those were a tell-tale that the woman was a prostitute.
If you stroll around the camps, don't be afraid to ask if you can take a peek into the living or sleeping areas; usually they won't object and are quite proud to show off their spots. Great effort is put in to keeping it authentic, so you won't find potatoes, coke cans or cellphones laying around.
The camp areas are most impressive when it begins to get dark. Bonfires, candles and torches are lit and the people meet up to sit together, play music on old instruments or listen to medieval music. If you get lucky, they may even invite you in for a glass of wine, ale or mead (and what is cooler than spending the night with a group of peasants, knights and bards telling old stories).
The medieval market in Horb (June 16-18) will feature a huge camp area. The guild „Bund oberschwäbischer Landsknechte“ will probably be one of the largest guilds there with over 300 members.
Keep in mind that these fests are well visited, so plan ahead, arrive early for parking and take advantage of public transport or shuttles, if they are offered. Many vendors won't have credit card readers, but don't be afraid to ask about websites to order from.
If you search the Internet, there are websites that list every market that is running during the year with some pages offering search functions for your area code.
http://www.marktkalendarium.de/maerkte2017.php is my favorite site. They do advise to double check the dates though since there may be changes.
Facebook events is also a great place to search, and stores or tourist centers usually have flyers for local markets.
Take the time to visit at least a couple of markets and spend some time back in time!