This shoot was billed as an unmissable, and so it was. Eicks is a postcard photo of a village, located in gorgeous countryside just 20 minutes east of the German-Belgium border. It is driveable in just over four hours from Calais, provided you go via Brussels and Liège; it’s all motorway except for the final 30 minutes. We took a detour via Trier, Germany’s oldest town with its superb Cathedral, adjacent early Gothic church and the ‘Black Gate’ – a virtually intact Roman gateway to the east of the city. Next year, if you’re up for this shoot, it’s worth going and doing Trier, and while you’re at it, Aachen with its beautiful Chapel too.
Thus distracted, we arrived in Eicks in the early evening, wondering where and how we were going to find the keys to our ‘Ferien Wohnung’ (self catering). The café was locked up, the village seemingly empty, and a night of camping in the wild beckoned.
On the off chance we would be able to find a way in, we went up to the most likely wohnung and sure enough, the keys were in the lock. Crime in this small village is clearly not high on the agenda. A quick supper and we soon found ourselves going round to the accommodation of the Captain of the shoot, the inimitable Frank Reinshagen – a big guy, ‘goode of voice’, capable of carrying (and shooting) a big stick. The evening was hugely enjoyable in itself with much news and archery banter to catch up on.
With our accommodation less than a bowshot away from the Castle, we could just saunter down the hill and meet the masses of archers gathering in the splendid courtyard. We were more foreigners this time and all of us were made to feel especially welcome – and what a difference that makes. It was all impeccably set out, signs, banners, and of course the marks, registration was soon completed and we could get our kit ready.
The afternoon shoot was taken out of the walled garden into the meadow overlooked by the Castle. A gorgeous shot to start the event with. Several more marks, all with regional connections and history, were taken before we moved off through the village to another set of meadows. This afforded us a further variety of shooting, all of it in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s – which was pretty amazing for the 3rd weekend in October.
Then there was the evening meal – you would be tempted to drive over just for that (and ok, perhaps the odd arrow). Copious quantities of meat, fried potatoes drizzled with shallot sauce, plus a whole variety of side dishes and salads to choose from. Once is definitely not enough, you have to go
for seconds. The big boys, and in Germany there are a few, have been known to go back for thirds. For a mere 15 Euros it is unbeatable value and the café itself is that typical mix of cosiness, efficiency and welcome.
The next day came with another dose of those clear blue skies and the mildest of temperatures. It rained in Paris and it rained in the UK, but Eicks was basking in an Indian summer. Registration was quick and easy thanks to the efficiency of those I.L.A.A. membership cards, and soon we were going uphill through the village to the meadows behind. Wicked shots were taken across tree-lined brooks into grassland beyond.
Pascal Dreßen introduced the speed-shoot with his and Dieter Hintze’s translation of Shakespeare’s lines, which were beautifully read. The oranisers made good use of hedges
and dips in the terrain, and yours
truly, who had won the previous
afternoon, now did some really lousy
shooting. However, with shooting at
the Marks it really isn’t over until it’s
over, so morale had to be maintained.
Hot soup and sausages delivered in t
he courtyard helped greatly. While the
afternoon was still not a personal best,
the spouse was on a roll. The marks were
now all in the meadow next the Schloss, and
Catherine was all twelves and sevens. The more competitive German girls sidled up to the scorers to check out the odds, but to no avail. She who hardly ever gets a chance to shoot at our own events trounced the opposition by winning both the Marks and the distance shot in the Cloth of Gold, and made a husband very proud.
Well organised, with proper insurance, beautifully located, great food, nice people – it’s no wonder it is difficult to tear oneself away. Indeed, so everyone went across the bridge to the café for the mandatory après-shoot bonding session from which it is difficult to leave. But then there is supper with Frank, and this time the alcoholic refreshment was mandatory. Suffice it to say that, geo-location just about intact, we found our accommodation a little later than planned.
If you can take just one extra day on the trip, as we did, there is so much to visit – most of it within a 30 minute drive from Eicks itself. We ended up in the old fortified town of Monschau, which is just 10K from Belgium. We left it sooner than we wished to, but missing the Brussels rush-hour we got ourselves on the ferry a mere four hours later.
The Schloss Eicks shoot can truly be summed up as a benchmark – don’t miss it, there is only one.