C’mon Baby Light My Fire


I’ve blogged before about how Namur has one of the most magnificent citadels left in the world. From the top of the hill you can see the entire city below, laid out along the Meuse River.

Walking around the grounds amidst the medieval ruins is a walk back in time. In the summer the medieval festival is recreated here, but the torch walk in the winter is truly an experience not to be missed. You can sign up for just the walk for 10 Euros or the entire soiree which combines the promenade with a medieval banquet for 50 Euros. Participants meet up at the Chateau des Comtes…


and are handed a waxy torch:


Around 6.30pm some bonfires are lit for us to light our individual torches–here’s a video of me struggling to light mine…c’mon baby, light my fire!



Then we begin our walk around then down the hill:



In case you’re thinking it might be dangerous to be in close proximity with so many torches on a windy night, you are correct. One woman actually sets my sleeve on fire by bumping into me with her torch and for a few seconds I think I might go up in flames. Luckily I put out the fire and there’s only slight damage to my jacket. I’m disturbed but it could have been worse; plus it’s the kind of travel mishap that I always seem to encounter then laugh about later. 


At each stop there is a character in costume, speaking in Old French, telling stories about life in general back at that time. In this segment, the guy is a laborer who talks about the difficulties of making ends meet and explains how the expression travailler en noir  came to exist.




The next stop is the highlight of the night–sword and flame fighting between knights and mercenaries. Before and during certain fights they explain that the armors worn are replicated in the same material and thus are as heavy to wear today as originally. Some armors weigh more than 30 kg. In pitch darkness, way above the city on this hill, the fights look like a ballet of torches, performed to the music of metal striking metal.






My favorite battle is with a young woman!



Following some 30 minutes at this spectacle, we meet up with a Count who gives an account of what it is to live obliviously, prosperously at the castle, far from the maddening crowd in the village below (note the racoon fur collar of his costume):


He even reads us a poem written about his love for the Meuse. We are then asked to extinguish our flames…



then he leads us back inside the castle, and down in the cellar is a museum displaying relics from centuries ago:


As we walk through the rooms I can’t stop thinking what a fabulous apartment this would make!


Here’s an actual chain mesh top as seen earlier on one of the knights:


Back on the main floor of the chateau there are displays documenting the chronology of the citadel. This stump shows some tools used to make coins:


By now we are starving. In cold weather I think it really is possible to eat hourly. When we get inside the banquet hall, our hands are washed as we’ll be eating with our hands as in the medieval times–I find out we’ll also be sharing food with each other, strangers or not!


I’m lucky that when we went to get our tickets to this event on Friday morning, the coordinator arranged to have the caterer provide me with a special (no meat) meal.  The room is lit by candlelight and music played with traditional instruments completes the ambiance:




Before each course is served, the hostess explains the ingredients and cooking method used. The next photos are of dishes made with items found in the area from the 13th-14th century, which means heavy on cannelle  and light on salt:


There were red wine (hypocras) and honey-flavored white wine and home brewed beer (which is particularly bitter):


This was the meat plate–full of fragrant mushrooms, almonds and cranberries:


Here’s mine with salmon, which was indeed found in the Meuse back in the day:

My vegetables include spinach sauteed with onions and a raw sauce consisting of crushed almonds, garlic, basil, and parsley. Typically, fish dishes were always accompanied by an uncooked sauce.  For dessert there is black nougat sweetened not by sugar but honey. There is also gauffre with a creme frite that does not taste anything like today’s Belgian waffle. Sugar does not make its appearance till the 19th century, and supposedly we used to consume 1kg of sugar annually whereas it’s closer to 40kg now!


This has been a really cool experience shared with dear friends. I’m actually behind in blogging about the one great snowy day I had in Belgium this past week, but that will have to wait because I’m packing my bags. Wait till you see where I pop up next!


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