Our train arrived in Kalmar yesterday at about 1p, giving us 5 hours to drop our bags at the hotel and see what Castle Kalmar was all about. We stopped off at a grocery store by our hotel and picked up snacks for a picnic lunch and then had an informal picnic both as we walked and on a park bench shortly before arriving at the castle. It was certainly our most economical meal in Sweden (I even bought the store brand prociutto!).
Jie had read that the castle had a neat children's program, so after we paid our entrance fee we ignored the just-starting english tour of the castle and went straight for the central courtyard. In summary, we were positively blown away by the scale and enthusiasm of the children's activity at the castle. Upon check-in Walter was tasked with 10 different activities he must complete in order to be eligible to become a knight, prince, princess, etc. It was his choice, and I'm proud to say he instantly chose knight. ;)
Some of the activities were extremely basic and, frankly, exactly what I expected. But others were elaborate and very cool. Two in particular: Walter had to sit on a fake horse that was mounted on rails. He was given a lance and as the horse went down the rails had to joust with a plywood dragon:
In the primary challenge they dressed Walter in semi-realistic armor (his leather vest was fitted with interlocking metal plates inside), and he fought the dastardly black knight. The level of engagement and enthusiasm from all of the staff, from the black knight to the armorer to the princesses and, especially, to the court jesters was incredibly fun for the kids. They get it and they do it right. Made the whole diversion to Kalmar 100% worthwhile.
After completing all the tasks Walter had to pull a sword from a stone, King Arthur style. Unfortunately I don't have any photos or video, but again they got this one right. The stone contains an electromagnet which they keep powered up. If someone randomly pulls on the sword it won't come out. Even when a grown-up does it (believe me, I tried!). But when a child has completed the challenges they let them try for a second and then lower the power to the magnet and the sword slides out. Very, very cool.
Finally, there is the knighting ceremony. When you complete your challenges they record your name and so during the ceremony they can call you up by name and in the right language (or at least in Swedish, German, and English) they pronounce you knight or prince or whatever.
I can't say enough positive things about the production at Kalmar. It was an incredible experience for Walter. And for me, honestly. I was such a castles and knights geek as a kid it was a ton of fun to live vicariously through him for a few hours.