July is here and, with that, the annual tilting at the rings festival in Sonderborg. The first day I ever visited Sonderborg, long before I had any plans to move here, we had stumbled across this festival. It was a great event and one which I was looking forward to repeat once we moved here.
Tilting at the Rings, or Ringridning, is an extended-weekend celebration of tilting at the rings and all that goes with it. There is loads going on, and you probably can’t be everywhere all the time. So what should you make sure you don’s miss? These are my personal highlights:
Tilting competition at the ringridning grounds: Every day. Finals and crowning on Sunday (start around 16:45)
Concert at the town hall square. Highly entertaining! Be there early for a good spot. Saturday at 11:00.
As we have writtenpreviously, tilting-at-the-ring (better known in Danish as Ringridning) is a popular sport in the south of Denmark. Nowadays, riders gallop towards a ring suspended on a rope and try to catch the ring on a lance they carry. However, this sport has a long tradition, and is to be expected, changes have occurred over the years.
During the summer, there are displays of historic tilting events at a track right by Sonderborg castle. During the weekly occurrence, one of the tilting families of the region (participation in this sport seems to be a family tradition) takes part in a re-enactment of such tournaments from days gone by on a small scale.
When I went to check it out I had expected to see a similar display to that seen at the modern tournaments, just in costume. However, I was surprised to finally make sense of statues of cocks standing in the middle of the course! In fact, rather than only grabbing rings from suspended ropes, the riders also attempt to grab rings that are suspended from the cocks’ mouths. Seeing the riders in action it was quite clear that this is no longer a practised tradition…the riders had infinitely more problems grabbing these rings than the more ‘normal’ ones!
Unfortunately these displays only occur in Danish school holidays (which end in the beginning of August in Denmark), so apologies for writing about it this late in the season. However, if you are visiting the area, now you have an excuse to come again next year!
The museum is set up in the old gable house on Church street. This is the second oldest house in Sonderborg, dating to 1643. After falling into disrepair, it was passed on to the local historical archive in 1987, and to the tilting festival of Sonderborg in 2006, when they turned it into Denmark’s first and only Tilting at the Ring Museum.
On entering the museum you find yourself in a charming little house. I was immediately greeted by the person manning the museum on the day, who charmingly answered all my questions in ‘langsamt og tydlig’ Danish (slow and clear): The bow and the flags are simply decorations; the rings are coloured depending on their size, making it easier for the scorers to know the ring size that has been completed. There was also a wall of all the festival posters used since the tournament started in 1888, which I thought was very interesting.
If you are around during the museum’s opening times (Tuesday and Friday 10:00-16:00 during June, July and August, and every day during the festival weekend; free entry) I would strongly urge you to drop in. The attendant was extremely charming and happy to answer any questions I threw at him in broken Danish, making the visit that much more than a simple museum visit. Worth a visit!
Tilting-at-the-Rings, or Ringridning as it is known in Danish, is a Danish tradition that is most alive in Southern Jutland. Sonderborg organises one of the best known and biggest tilting-at-the-rings event, making it a good place to experience it.
So what is it?
In ringridning horse riders gallop towards a suspended ring with an outstretched lance, on which they try to catch the ring. The winner of the event is the person who manages to catch the smallest ring: the rings typically go down to around 4-5mm in diameter, so it is not an easy task!
The event in Sonderborg is typically held on the second weekend of July, with the first tournament held on Friday and the second on Sunday (so you are still in time!), with music on the Saturday. We made it down to the prize-giving on Friday and I was impressed by the pomp and formality with which the event is carried out. Following the prize-giving the riders leave the ringridning grounds to the castle area, where the stables are located, in an organised form, with the riders interspersed with musician to help in the joyous feeling.
I had already seen this event 2 years ago when I visited Sonderborg for the first time (and had no idea that is would ever come to live here). I think it is a quintessential Sonderjysk tradition that is not to be missed, particularly the parade to/from the ringridning grounds, and the tournament itself. And while you are at it, don’t forget to grab a ringridning polse (sausage) for a snack!