History, as they say, is written by the victor. In the case of the Narva History Festival, it is apparently reenacted by the victor as well. A group of Russian history enthusiasts assembled in Narva this weekend, built a period authentic military camp to stay in for the weekend on the grounds of Hermann Castle, and was so kind as to dress up in ridiculously colorful outfits and blow stuff up for our viewing pleasure. Despite the looming threat of exams, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the weekend. This spectacle of Technicolor warfare kicked off Friday night in the castle’s northern yard where a brief introduction to the history of the war and the regiments that participated in the battle, followed by an extremely enthusiastic round of randomly firing muskets and cannons into the air in a semi-organized fashion, not too unlike our own independence day or a Tuesday in the South. Strangely enough, the most interesting thing about this particular event wasn’t the men in tights playing with explosives, but the parents attending. Turns out that babies absolutely do not like gunfire. As in, at all. Who knew, right? Afterwards, Eric and I went on a quest to find Gloria Bastion, where the next day’s simulated battle would be located. It was quite the journey, but we eventually managed to figure out the incredibly simple map plaques located at each of the bastions in the city. I’m fairly certain we managed to visit every single one of the bastions before we finally found the Gloria Bastion. I’d say it was worth it though, as we were actually able to find our way inside the bastion and make our way through the outer corridor where defenders could fire from. It was pretty neat, but unfortunately it didn’t lead anywhere else and the other sections had caved in.
I awoke early Saturday morning to go get some delicious breakfast at the college and then move on the next battle. Battle reenactments here have an almost… Improvisational feel to them. It began when the Swedish forces (Russians pretending to be Swedes, to be precise) moved in to occupy their bastion. Shortly afterwards, the Russian troops lined up in front of the bastion, and wandered around in lines firing at the bastions while the Swedes returned fire from inside the walls. Later in the day, they repeated the process with over at Hermann Castle, to simulate the final storming of the castle and the seizure of the town. Overall, it seemed as if everyone had a general idea of what should happen, but hadn’t really gone over the details too much. For example, there were several times when explosives rigged up over the field in front of the bastion caught the grass on fire and the MC and the group of artillery crews had to rush over to put them out.That being said, it was incredibly entertaining to watch and the reenactors seemed like they were having a blast (no pun intended). If I knew anything about sewing or anything of that sort I might try my hand at it, because who doesn’t want to throw on a recreation of an ancient uniform and pretend to shoot your friends?
Before each segment of the battle, there was a short introduction to what was happening in English, Estonian, and Russian and I’m pretty proud of what I managed to understand when it wasn’t being drowned out by someone randomly firing a cannon. I’d say the leader of the artillery regiment had the clearest Russian I’ve ever heard from someone who wasn’t a teacher. I didn’t understand all of what he said, but I could at least make out the individual words and that he was reppin’ the Karelians in a totally sick fur hat while he dropped some knowledge about cannons and muskets. In other news, I totally have this grocery shopping thing down. I no longer panic when they ask if I have a card or exact change, and can make it through transactions like a functional member of society. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.