From hand to mouth: dining like the knights of yore

“Set up the table and lay out a feast, bring in the jesters with mirth and mischief.” Count Baldwin knows what he owes his subjects and invites them to a Gasterey every Friday and Saturday at the Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, which towers on a mountain peak over the town and the Moselle. In the Middle Ages, a Gasterey was a lavish, entertaining feast given by the lord of the castle and high-ranking knights for special occasions.

Today, these feasts are a real treat for everyone and lots of fun for all the family. The trip back in time begins at the castle gate, where two guards in medieval costume welcome guests. Before the feast, the governor of the castle gives a short tour of his rooms. The tour leads through the loveliest rooms of the castle, with wooden panelling, tapestries and beautiful furniture.

The hungry guests climb down into the vaulted cellar, where candlelight and animal hides create a warm, cosy atmosphere. There are stone jugs full of Moselle wine ready for those who have worked up a thirst. For children, there is apple juice or even ‘brown lemonade’.

There is a bib for everyone, which adds to the initial amusement. As was normal back then, everything at the medieval feast at Cochem Castle is eaten by hand, and it is really not the done thing to wipe your greasy fingers on the person sitting next to you.

First, servants and maids bring water for washing hands. Count Baldwin, dressed in a fur robe, presides, picks two guests of honour to sit at his table suitably enrobed, and explains the table manners. Medieval feasts were definitely a rustic affair, but as women were allowed to take part, the rules of conduct were a little more refined.

"Gasterey" at Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

"Gasterey" at Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

For example, it was bad form to stuff big pieces into your mouth, nick food from your neighbour’s plate, blow your nose on your clothes or put your elbows on the table. And anyone who looked miserable could be dragged from the room. Women who talked too much were also punished: they had to taste the food first, as poisoning was rife in the Middle Ages.

Knightly feast at Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

Knightly feast at Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

Courtyard of Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

View of the courtyard of Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

Fresh vegetables and bread and dripping do the rounds. In the Middle Ages, the meals largely consisted of what was produced in the gardens and the estate. There was a lot of grain, in the form of porridge or bread. Only the rich people could afford meat, but there is no expense spared for Count Baldwin.

The feast-goers enjoy hot beef soup. After a pinch of snuff and a sneeze all round, turkey drumsticks and pork knuckles are served up, followed by cheese, grapes and cake. Medieval jesters dance through the room and sing funny songs to provide entertainment between the courses. True men can compete in heroic deeds and courtly love songs, and the winner is dubbed a knight. Four hours of cheerful company quickly fly by, and you suddenly have to make your way back to the 21st century.

Dining room at Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

The historic dining room at Reichsburg Castle in Cochem, Moselle valley

More leisure tips in the Moselle valley:

More information about holidays in the Moselle valley

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the Moselle valley at Mosellandtouristik GmbH.

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