Marion - Chroniques d'une ardennaise
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100% Ardennes, between Belgium and France
I stepped back in time in the mont cornu open air museum
1 journey through time
The Ardennes travel back in time …This is the promise held by Mont Cornu a historical site located in the Ardennes village of Montcornet, at the foot of the medieval castle.
A time travelling machine
Who has never dreamed of travelling through the ages and discovering different historical periods? This is what we are about to do today, and we are champing at the bit as we travel towards Montcornet, a small village in the French Ardennes. In addition to its castle, Montcornet houses an open air museum called Mont Cornu which we are about to visit and enjoy a truly out of the ordinary experience.
When we arrive in the village, it seems like we have already jumped back in time, but strangely enough, the different eras seem jumbled together…We meet a steady stream of knights, Roman warriors and even bards peacefully strolling the streets…I think it’s safe to say we are nearing the giant time travelling machine that is Mont Cornu! Eureka, there we are! We catch sight of the open air museum; it looks quite busy, with scores of historical characters mingling with interested visitors. Timidly at first – after all it is our first time travelling back in time - we enter Mont Cornu. The place instantly works its magic on us , as soon as we walk through the gates we seem to have stepped back in time and find ourselves in the heart of five distinct historical periods. We have a whole day to wander as our fancy takes us, and get to know the people who, hundreds or thousands of years before us, walked the lands of the Ardennes.
I saw a druid !
A look at a different era
Before us looms a fascinating sight, a living museum with five reconstructed villages from the Gallic, Roman, Carolingian and Merovingian eras and a village typical of the High Middle Ages. They have been meticulously reconstructed using the construction techniques and tools specific to each period. Nowadays, the village is occupied by history buffs, re-enactement troops and artisans keeping skills that are sometimes millennia old alive. Preparing meals, making clothes, forging, stone cutting or carving…Everything is done according to the traditional habits and customs particular to each time period.
We decide to start off our journey through in the Gaul village and then work our way up through the ages as the day goes by. As we enter the village, we look up and see several skulls dangling from the entrance portal…Instantly we agree to tread carefully and avoid making enemies of the Gaul! This gory detail is quickly forgotten as we enter a cob house and admire a typical Gaul home. As we leave the house we meet the village druid and he shows us the different plants he uses every day to concoct his magic potions and cure ills. Many of them still thrive in the Ardennes, and a stroll through the woods is perfect for harvesting them. Plants are essential to the village seamstress who uses them to dye the clothes yellow, blue, and green….the whole spectrum of colours. We move on, the sound of sword blades clashing now audible, we decide to follow the sound and find Roman soldiers practising combat in their village! We take care not to get too close; we’d rather not get struck by a sword ^^
As we get closer to Modern Times, stone makes its appearance and the buildings also get bigger. We enjoy several demonstrations of activities that were then part of daily life: pottery, weaving, striking coins, whittling and woodwork, leather working but also military demonstrations! Each weapon is explained in great detail and then used in action; we even get to try our hand at the crossbow! The experience is short but sweet as it turns out we have quite knacks for it, two of our arrows manage to hit bull’s eye. Well there’s a thought: we might have made excellent recruits at the time! Upon reflection, we decide to leave it to the professionals…
Shows and demonstrations
Each of the village troops take turns in giving demonstrations or shows on the huge earth platform at the centre of the museum. From our front row seats, our eyes sparkle as we admire the different shows. Fights with warriors from all the different periods, medieval dances and music, a raptor show and the most impressive show of all: a horse riding show with jousting! Armed with their long spears, the intrepid cavaliers gallop towards each other and attempt to throw their adversary off their mount. The crowd is delighted and the public loudly cheers the winner, and we join in, applauding as loudly as we can.
We cap off the day with some relaxing fun and games and try a variety of activities: wickerwork, archery and even stone cutting…which turns out to be quite difficult! We decide to keep it simple and challenge each other to a duel...with old wooden games, a mercifully safe activity, which reminds us that having fun can be easy as pie!
After a wonderful day packed with fun and discoveries, it is now time for us to leave this wonderful time-travelling machine and head back to the 21st century. It was a wonderful journey, which has left us plenty of fabulous memories and truly enchanting encounters with the living history actors that managed to transport us back to little known yet fascinating eras…