Tocnik Castle plays host to re-enactment of medieval battle

At Tocnik's medieval battle re-enactment

Now last weekend the medieval castle of Tocnik played host to 'the largest gathering of medieval fencing and theatre groups in the Czech Republic', with knights and fair maidens arriving from a far afield as Slovenia, Germany and the United Kingdom. The highlight of the weekend was a re-enactment of a 15th century battle for the castle, complete with cannons, crossbows and burning bales of hay. Well Radio Prague's Rob Cameron went along, and before the battle he asked one of the participants - Ondrej Slacalek - to show him a few medieval sword-fighting techniques.

Ondrej Slacalek (illustrating sword moves with the help of a colleague): "The first hit, straight on the head from the top, is something called 'the roof'. It's a cut (sound of swords clashing) going down. The second type of cut is from the side, to cut the body in half. Basically coming from up here and going down (sound of swords clashing). Another one is called 'the dwarf' - basically going in at the height of the waist (sound of sword striking chain mail) going down this way: 'the dwarf' means cutting someone in half."

How dangerous is a performance like the one we've just seen just now?

"It's not safe, that's for sure, but what we're showing here is something that was pre-set, we trained it for the show."

So it's very well choreographed and rehearsed.

"Exactly. It's like a dance basically."

Well I left Ondrej to his fencing and went in search of the brave and hardy soldiers who would be storming the castle a bit later in the afternoon. In a wooded clearing at the foot of the castle I found two rather scary looking warriors, speaking in a tongue which was most familiar to my ears...

"My name's Scott Carson and I'm from Dalbeatie in Scotland."

"And my name's John Devenne and I'm from Herefordshire, in the U.K."

And what's your weapon of choice?

Scott Carson: "I use a dagger and an English Bill."

You use an English Bell?

Scott Carson: "Bill."

An English Bill?

Scott Carson: "It's a pole arm. It was used for hitting people over the head with." (illustrates by waving weapon downwards)"

Very nice.

Scott Carson: "Lovely. And stabbing with (jabs weapon forward). It's a heavy piece of equipment."

Let's just pick it up, see how heavy it is....My God!

Scott Carson: "And this would give you a very sore head, if you were ever hit with it. Wouldn't it Keith?" (bangs helmeted colleague on head to illustrate heaviness of English Bill)

OK, well best of luck in the battle. You're not telling me who's going to win, but I think you have quite a good chance!

(Sounds of cannons firing on castle)

That cannon was fairly loud!

Ondrej Slacalek: "Yeah, it was."

It surprised a few people in the crowd I think.

Ondrej Slacalek: "I know. That's what it's supposed to do!"

Is it safe?

Ondrej Slacalek: "Sure. Yes. We hope!"

You're both still alive. How was it?

Scott Carson: "I've just been resurrected actually. I was shot."


SC: "It was a pepper shot." (laughs)

How about you John?

John Devenne: "It's a little bit passé once you've been beheaded for the eighth time in one weekend. But you know, you get used to it."

Did you win the battle?

Scott Carson: "Nobody wins the battle, it's a tragedy! It's worse than Shakespeare - everybody dies!"

And for more from the battle of Tocnik tune into Spotlight on September 10th.