Report from the Battle of the Nations 2013
Last year we were rock stars. We were superheroes. We were Rocky, the Bad News Bears, the Karate Kid, the Muppets all rolled into one glorious, made-in-America, only-in-America story.
This year we were warriors.
America loves an underdog but at the end of the day, it wants a winner, and we wanted to win. For nineteen of us, this was a return. We had been here before. By “here,” I mean international full-contact medieval armored combat with rebated steel weapons at the Battle of the Nations, although this was a new location, the tiny walled village of Aigues-Mortes on the southern coast of France. For the other twenty-nine it was the first time, but they had the benefit of our experience, our game films, and a training program and battle plan devised by veterans.
We had popped the cherry of Americans being in the sport and had surprised everyone with out toughness, passion, and, to some degree, our good sportsmanship and pleasant natures (not that anyone thought anything bad of us, but everyone remarked how much fun we were). So now here we were, better prepared, with a bigger team, and ready to literally take on the world.
The atmosphere for the event was very different from last year. The city of Aigues-Mortes, and much of France itself, is defined by the words “quaint,” “charming,” and “beautiful.” Just walking down the street put you in the mindset of a medieval town. As a good start to the week we took a tour of Carcassonne, the famous medieval castle. Though it was much more “touristy” than Malbork last year, there is just no avoiding the majesty of looking up at medieval walls and towers, looking out over the landscape from medieval walls and towers, and of course, the stained glass windows and flying buttresses of Gothic cathedrals.
But even before we got there, my lady and I spent a couple of days in Paris. There I met with a cousisn I did not know I had. He invited us over to dinner, at which we had a wonderful home-cooked French meal and met his wife and children. He showed us old family photos and some family documents going back hundreds of years. Some of the most fascinating were a Legion d'Honneur certificate from 1857 that also had a letter from the Sultan, and a scroll from the King of France from 1732!
After Paris we drove down to Carcassonne with Rich Elswick, one of my fellow Team USA knights, stopping off for lunch in Tours, where we checked out another cathedral and an art museum.
It was fascinating to see an At Museum in a small town in France. This was apparently a private collection being shown in a large mansion. Most of the fine art I have ever seen has been in museums in America or art history books. There you get the feeling that what you are seeing are the most important works of at in the world, that the artists did this one or these two or three paintings and that's it, there is no need to see any more. And since these museums cover such a broad spectrum of history and geography, you get the sense that there was only a few pieces of work in any place or period that are worth looking at.
But in the Beaux-Arts Museum in Tours I saw lots and lots of paintings from the same period, all from western Europe, including a Rembrandt. This made me realize that these famous artists did not do just those one or two or three paintings w all know, but lots and lots of paintings over the course of their life. And there were lots of lesser-known artists working also. And people commissioned this art and hung it in their hoses. This was the “pop art” of its period. These were the magazine subscriptions and the TV shows of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. It gave me a new perspective on the history of art and made me wish I had done more art in my lfe. It kind of makes me want tp pick up a pencil right now...
To be continued.