Arts, Culture & Media

A Bavarian prince opens up his castle for a jousting tournament

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Every year, a massive jousting tournament is held at Kaltenberg Castle.

Credit:

Schloss Kaltenberger

It's like stepping back into the Middle Ages.

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Knights joust, minstrels serenade the crowd with lutes, and jugglers entertain the children. But this isn't ancient times. It's a festival held every July at Kaltenberg Castle in southern Germany.

Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, the owner of Kaltenberg Castle, has been opening up the door to his castle grounds for the summer event for more than 35 years.

One of the highlights of the event is the jousting tournament. Equestrian acrobats and stuntmen stage a two-hour jousting show for more than 10,000 spectators.

"The swords are real swords," Luitpold says. They're quite heavy. [Stuntmen] train for months to make sure that every fight is extremely well-rehearsed and that nothing happens. On the lances, you have solid wood, but they are constructed like in the movies. If you hit [them], they explode [into splinters]."

But there are other highlights to the event as well. The prince's 13th century castle is also home to the royal family's brewery.

"Obviously it fits quite well to have beer at a medieval festival, as well," Luitpold says.

But Prince Luitpold insists that there is no drinking while jousting.

"If you make a mistake with a lance, you make a mistake with a sword, you could chop someone's head off very easily, so we have to have extremely well-trained and extremely organized people," he adds.

Prince Luitpold is a member of the Bavarian Royal House of Wittelsbach, the only surviving child of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.

He is also the great-grandnephew of King Ludwig II, the man who commissioned Neuschwanstein Castle. The grand 19th century structure was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

But Prince Luitpold says that Kaltenberg Castle isn't nearly as large or as fancy as Neuschwanstein — but it is just as chilly.

"It's certainly cold in winter. If you're used to having more room and more space, it's something that is quite nice and convenient. But it also has its slight difficulties, because you have a lot of wind going through. It's less easy to heat. But living in it is quite good fun. And you always find the odd ghost [in the castle]."

And he says that it's convenient to have an in-house brewery, if you are living in a drafty castle. Prince Luitpold says he can just pour himself a beer in the morning to warm up.

"In Bavaria, this is not totally uncommon. White sausage and a beer for breakfast; this is something that is still practiced in this country quite a lot," he explains.