Wawel dragon medieval

Medieval Folklore – The Wawel Dragon


What’s a Wawel Dragon?

 

Last summer we participated in the Battle of Grunwald, and on our way there stopped by Krakow where we heard an amazing story – The Legend of the Wawel Dragon.

Long story short – under Wawel hill lived an evil dragon who tormented the people, until one day he was slain by a poor but cunning tailor who fed the dragon with a poisoned sheep carcass. The tailor’s name was Krakus, so after he married the king’s daughter, the town was named Krakow after him.

Inside the castle on top of Wawel hill – the Royal palace and the Cathedral of St Wenceslaus


A Story With Many Faces…

As a Balkan child, I’ve heard this story in thousands of variations and it contains pretty much the same elements regardless of where you heard it. Furthermore, I did some research on mythology on the Balkans from the 16th to the 18th centuries and there are many songs and tales that tell the same story – the greedy evil dragon, the deep dark cave of treasures, the countless failed attempts to slay it, the clever but poor hero, and the grateful king who gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Until that moment I had never wondered about the origins of that story because it’s so popular, but once you connect the dots, an interesting image emerges.


Dragonbones!

The one thing that makes this story fascinating are the remains of the dragon. On top of Wawel hill, where the medieval part of Krakow was built, stands the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus where you can see the bones of the dragon. High above the entrance of the cathedral hang several monstrous massive bones on display. So every time you go there you are reminded of that heroic and legendary deed. They were put there in the 14th century – which is also one of the most prosperous periods in the city’s history. Now the bones themselves are probably from a whale or a mammoth, but they are still very impressive. And on top of that, there is actually a real cave under the hill – from the top of the hill (within the citadel) there is a tower with a staircase that goes down about 100 meters into the depths of the earth and into a magnificent underground cave that leads to the river just outside the castle.

The “dragon bones” hanging at the entrance of the Cathedral

How the Wawel Smok Legend Influenced Europe

 Now, I don’t want to go very deep into the subject because it’s really vast, but thanks to my research in post-middle-ages folklore on the Balkans, and my research on trade routes in the 14th century, I have reached a hypothesis which can be quite interesting and entertaining.

For starters, I want to explain why the legend is so powerful and influential. The first appearance of this legend comes from the Chronicle of Master Vincent from the end of the 13th century. The cathedral was built and destroyed in the 11th century, it was rebuilt in the 12th and destroyed again in the 14th century (1305). By the end of the 14th century it was rebuilt and it’s still standing. Now we don’t know where the bones came from or if they were hung in front of the earlier cathedrals, but according to research the cave under the hill has been inhabited in prehistoric times (50 000 BC.), so it’s very likely that they found the fossilized bones there or somewhere in the area.

So, when you have a strong story and evidence to support it – (like the bones, the tunnels, and the cave), this makes a pretty strong prerequisite for a medieval blockbuster legend. There are at least two written sources of the legend remaining to this day, so it has obviously been popular in the middle ages.

The 14th century is known as one of the most successful periods of the history of Krakow – trade relations improved, culture soared, and not surprisingly the legend spread through Europe. Now, the 14th century was a good time for many kingdoms including those on the Balkans where local rulers invested a great deal in education and learning, and since the oldest legends on the Balkans date from roughly that time period – it is not very surprising to see some of them resembling the Wawel dragon story.

The Dragon’s Den or “Smocza Jama” (Смоча яма)


What I’m trying to say is
, that with the growth in culture and trade in eastern and central Europe, this fascinating and compelling story, might have been the source of inspiration for hundreds of similar stories on the Balkans. This assumption is also supported by the fact that most kingdoms south of Krakow speak very similar languages on the foundation of the Cyrilic alphabet.

The Wawel dragon depiction from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographie Universalis from 1544


So, what does it matter if the story has had such a great influence? What difference does it make?

Well, as a medievalist I feel a little joy knowing that the European kingdoms in the middle ages have had more in common then we might have expected. It’s the common ideas and stories that help bring people from different nations together and that’s very important for me. We know a great deal about western Europe and its history in details, whereas the Balkans and the eastern parts of Europe are still a bit obscured, un-researched and veiled in myths. So, every light we shed on our common history, is a step toward understanding our ancestors, and that’s worth the effort.

I hope you like this article, and if you ever have a chance – you should definitely visit Krakow! It’s magical!

Krakow in the 16th century

a simple but sturdy bench

My First Medieval Furniture Pieces

As a tailor and shoemaker, I can’t deal with wood. So, I asked a friend for a barter – a small table with a bench, for a favor of his choosing. In the end, I had a brand new medieval table and a cute little bench. In return, I promised to make him a sturdy arming doublet for his 15th century hussite costume. You will see it soon enough! 😉

Meanwhile, I sealed the wooden medieval furniture against water damage, and even got to use them at a couple of camps. Here are some pictures:


These pieces of medieval furniture are made by Yasen Nenkov, from “Chigot”, so, if you need a reliable carpenter or tent-maker that won’t rip you off with the money, then I recommend you contact him. You can reach the craftsmen of “Chigot” here.

Enjoy 😉

Grunwald medieval festival

Bitwa pod Grunwaldem

Hello again,
we just got back from Grunwald, Poland, a couple of days ago, and it was amazing! The festival lasted for several days and was perfectly

The medieval dudes from the Balkans

The medieval dudes from the Balkans

organized. The participants were divided into camps based on their origins and reconstructions. So, there were several camps all of which had their own guards and fences. The camp site was full of entertainment too. There were tournaments and games all the time. The medieval market was supreme and full of interesting things to see and buy. Also, the people were amazing.

We sent only two people from Varna, Bulgaria, but picked up our Serbian friends on the way -“The Golden Keg” company. So, we had a small company of medieval Balkan people.

I can’t really begin to explain and describe what the experience was because it was overwhelming, but lets say it like this – you get a nice camp and enough straw to live comfortably for days; you get to cook your own medieval food or get it from the camp’s tavern; you can participate in every event if you have the necessary inventory; also you can go out shopping. Lastly, you can get drunk and party with so many people that you can’t even remember where you have been and where you haven’t.Grunwald medieval festival

“Grunwald is more of a family event. People come here to meet their friends. I can just go around and talk to my friends and never have enough time for all of them.” 

This is what one of the participants told me about the festival. I did not believe it at first, but after several days I met some great people and had a lot of fun. Visiting Grunwald was amazing for me. I made a lot of friends and had a great time. I also managed to make some nice photos and videos of some of the fights. So, enjoy!


Best regards!
Vasil Vasilev – “fireshow guy” 😛

The Bourtzi, Nafplio

Nafplio, Greece – on the Trails of the Fourth Crusade

Last summer, I visited the town of Nafplio in southern Greece. During the early middle ages, the town was a small port. However, the town was captured during the fourth crusade by the naval forces of Naples and Venice. The crusade itself ended with the capture of Constantinople, so the Italians remained there a while longer. It was owned by the Aragonese, then by the republic of Venice, and lastly, by the Ottomans.

The city has three fortresses nowadays. One castle in the gulf of the sea. One on top of the hill overlooking the town, and one in town. Most of these keeps are built after the middle ages.

The Bourtzi:

The Burg or the Bourtzi(it means”tower”) is the name of a small fortified castle in the middle of the gulf. It’s situated on a small island, and was built by the Venetians in 1473. After that, it was held by the Ottomans. The Greeks regained it in the 19th century. The fortress is fully preserved and very romantic.

The Castle of Palamidi

Overlooking the gulf is a high hill with a masterful castle on top of it. It was built by the Venetians somewhere between 1711 and 1714. That was during the time of their second occupation of the town. It was a large project that was finished very quickly. The fortress is incredibly well-protected on all sides. It’s surrounded by steep hills on all sides. Getting there requires climbing over a thousand steps which can be hard to do when you’re being shot at from the top. Probably that’s the reason why it’s still standing. The fortress was built to house cannons and artillery, so it’s a bit different from most medieval structures. There is also a smaller fortress in the foot of the hill under Palamidi. It was made to defend the entrance to Palamidi.

Map of Nafplio from 1597.

In conclusion

Well, the place is great for reenactments. The only problem is the castles were built a bit later than the medieval period. Otherwise, there are nice beaches surrounding the castles, great views, and friendly taverns. Also, the songs and sounds of the cicada insects can be pretty romantic. Nafplio is a great place, visit it if you can.

Vasil the Wanderer

medieval cape

The Medieval Cape of Awesomeness

Have you ever wondered what a nobleman’s cape would look like outside the murals and manuscripts?

If so, then this is your chance to check it out, although I must admit that it’s not really authentic. This is an order I made for a dear friend and LARP-er from Bulgaria. She asked me to make it with a hood, otherwise it would surely be without it.

So, what you see is a brown velvet medieval cape with a layer on linen on the inside and a layer of wool between the two. It’s rimmed with wolf pelts and it looks and feels amazing. I tried it myself more than a couple of times and can’t hide that I enjoyed it. I wish its new owner a lot of larping adventures! I hope you like our model and the medieval cape of awesomeness, of course. :)

Cheers Vasil Cloakmaster

gourd canteen

THE MOTHERLOAD of medieval canteens!

Welcome back, today’s article is going to be short one, because the pictures speak for themselves!

This summer at the medieval festival Times and Epochs Moscow, we made an arrangement for a large order of medieval canteens made of gourd pumpkins. This is the result of many hours of work and a lot of stress, we hope you like them. We were very sad to send them to their future owner from Arma Bohemia, but we hope he likes them as much as we did.

We named all canteens based on their looks and uses, and came up with some really weird names, such as: -The Inquisitor, the Villager, the Fat one, The Big Dick, The Small dick, The Water bringer, The Secret Vodka, and so on. We had a lot of fun, and this time they are even better because we used a special wax, which is harder to break, melt and damage. We still haven’t heard from our customers, but we hope they are satisfied with the medieval canteens as much as we are. :)

Best of wishes, Vasil the hermit canteen maker!

PS: ALL OF THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THE PARTNERSHIP OF MY DEAR FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE MIHAIL AND HIS GIRL ISKRA. BIG UP FOR THE HOME CREW! 😉

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The Melnik landscape

Melnik – a Marble in the Sand

Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria. It has been the smallest for many years and our recent trip to that place made it clear why it can’t grow any further.

Melnik is situated in the farthest south-western part of Bulgaria, just a couple of kilometers north from the greek border. It’s one of the warmest and sunniest places in the country, which makes it perfect for growing vines and that’s what the city’s famous for – it’s lovely wine.

The whole area there is covered with high and steep sand hills. They can’t be climbed, or surrounded easily, which is why the city was built between two ridges on the banks of the only river near by. So, the whole town is in a small canyon. It looks simply fascinating! The whole city is composed of small two-storey traditional bulgarian houses, which are surrounded by ridiculously tiny mountains, which makes everything change in perspective. After a couple of days you start feeling like Gulliver in the land of the tiny people. 😀

On a hill overlooking the town stand the ruins of the supposed “Nobleman’s house”. It’s supposed to be the ruins of a 12th. century nobleman’s home, which has been rebuilt and expanded over the ages. After a quick inspection however, I am willing to bet my reputation that this was a lightly fortified citadel. It has a couple of layers of thin outer walls, two separate inpenetrable towers with an entrance between them. That entrance leads into a small closed off yard, surrounded by the walls of the citadel, leaving anyone who enters completely exposed to arrows and various projectiles. It’s simply the nobleman’s stronghold.

We plan on making a medieval festival there this spring. We hope to organize something similar to “Cherven medieval festival”, so check out our photos and if you like the idea of a medieval festival there, give us a quick “Like”.

Enjoy!

Vasil

 

Medieval Sighisoara, Romania

Sighisoara – A Romanian Fairy Tale

A modern fairy tale based on a true story

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, over rivers and marshes, through fields and high mountains stood  the city of Sighisoara. Once a year the proud and prosperous city would hold a great festival for the amusement of the people. People from all over the realm would fill the roads to Sighisoara to take part in the festival, or to simply enjoy it.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The heroes of this tale came to the medieval  festival from far south, from the Bulgarian port city of Varna. They were the Griffin family. They were welcomed warmly and allowed to set camp inside the city walls. The next day, the griffins fought well in the tournaments and made many friends.

On the second day of the medieval  festival,  a big storm came from the west and hit the city. Tents, shades and pavilions were swept away and dragged in the streets by the strong wind. Everyone ran for cover. Those who did not, were trying to secure their tents. Two of the eldest  Griffins – Theodor and Stefan, were out in the streets helping people, when they saw an old man with long gray hair and beard trying to keep his pavilion from flying away. The man appeared to be struggling. He seemed like a seasoned warrior, yet his clothes were black and simple like a holy man’s clothes. The brothers helped him and went on to help others.

Later that night, the man in black came to their camp and gifted the brave lads with two bone talismans, one for each of them.

–          You are my friends now. You helped me. This is for you. – The old man appeared to be a merchant and a craftsman of bone and horn. He had the brightest blue eyes one can imagine and the look of a wizard, that you can’t say “No” to.

The Griffins accepted the gifts, but Stefan was uneasy with his. He was honored, but wanted to give something in return. So, the next day he visited the wizard and gave him one of his personal weapons as a gift – a beautiful battle axe.Sighisoara-–-a-trip-back-to-medieval-times-img12

Later that day, the rumor of the curious bone carver reached the rest of the Griffins, and before the day was over another three brothers visited the old man’s shop. His jewels, trinkets, talismans and medallions were a thing of wonder. The men were quickly enchanted by the beauty and craftsmanship  and wanted to buy a talisman for themselves as well.

The old man collected the medallions they wanted and looked at the men with warning in his eyes.

–          You will pay me for this medallion, but I will give your money to your brother on your right. – then the wizard turned to the brother on the right and spoke:

–          You will go to the brewery and buy that medallion’s worth in beer. If you spend my money on anything else, I will know! DO YOU SWEAR THAT! – Aye! – said second brother.

The old man took out the second medallion and said to him:

–          You will pay me for this medallion, but I will give your money to your brother on your left . – then the man in black turned to him and spoke:5702851262_53369abbb0_z

–           You will visit the food market and get this medallion’s worth in food, to go along with the beer. If you spend my money on anything else, I will know! DO YOU SWEAR THAT! – Aye! – said first brother.

The gray-haired man took out the third medallion and said to the third Griffin:

–          You will pay me for this medallion, but I will give your money to your last brother. – He turned to him and spoke:

–          What, else can we get that goes nicely with beer and snacks?

–          More beer? – said the last brother – More beer it is, but in one condition! When you buy all that, you will set a long table and give away everything, to anyone who comes along! You will treat everyone with this beer and food!

And so, they did. They kept their promise and organized a big feast, where everyone was  treated generously to food and drinks. They partied until dawn and  good times were had by all.

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Some say the wizard still wanders from town to town selling his magic talismans. It is said they bring happiness, but are especially strong, when you share your happiness with others.

Vasily of Sighisoara

Medieval duel

Times and Epochs, we are back!

Vasil V.

Greetings to all our new friends from Russia, France, Ukraine and Israel. If i am missing a country please excuse me. We just got back from a 2000 kilometers journey back from Moscow and it was amazing. This has been the biggest medieval event we have participated in, and when I say “we”, I mean a mixed group of reenactors from Bulgaria.
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There were 4 people from Chigot- medieval reenacment group and 3 people from  
Medieval society – Modvs Vivendi.  We reenact mostly Balkan folks from the 12th to the 14th century. Check out our Facebook page too.

The Medievalisticals blog is a place for medieval costumes, clothes and shoes reconstruction. So, here is where we post all of our research and recent projects. We work with reenactors, larp-ers and bulgarian museums. The Medievalisticals crew includes Viktor Ch. medieval tailor and swordfighter, and me, Vasil V. tailor, shoemaker and an all time crash test dummy 😛

We loved the festival and we enjoyed our stay in Russia very much! Thanks for the good times and hope to see you again soon 😉 Love you all :*

 

All in all a pretty good event

Medieval camp Cherven – Review

It was a great camp and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  The only thing that was kind of annoying was the weather. It’s an ancient reenactor tradition that the weather is bad when we are at a medieval camp

 We set out from sunny Varna and in the middle of the way to Cherven we got into a huge lightning storm. We couldn’t see where we were going, it was foggy, dark and pretty grim, when suddenly my phone rings and a friend calls to tell me his PC was hit by lightning right in front of him. The scary part was, we were just talking about lightnings and the chances of  hitting you inside your home.

Anyway, we reached the soaking medieval camp still alive. The next day the heat and humidity in the air was terrible. We were lucky to be higher than the poor people on the bottom of the canyon. We endured the heats just enough to be hit by another summer lightning storm. This one nearly blew the massive Chigot company tent.

I was holding the main pole and hoping. The options were -1. the pole would snap in my hands and crush me 2. the tent would be blown off the cliff and into the canyon, me included 3. since we are the tallest object on the highest place in a 30 mile radius, I figured we’ll probably get owned by a lightning.

I considered my options wisely and yelled out – the goddess of thunder is a whore. Those were some worthy last words.

Fortunately we survived, but the tent suffered a lot, and that may be it’s last medieval camp. Good bye Big Red, we’re gonna miss you :/

Anyway, here are some pics with funny comments :)
PS: Rights on the photos belong to Chigot medieval reenactments, Modvs Vivendi and various reenactors including the Medievalisticals team. Enjoy!

PPS: Here are some samples of the music our bards compose and play