College of Wizardry: First LARP

Larping is something I have wanted to do for several years now, but of course it was my long time love of things related to Harry Potter and magic that finally allowed me to buy my ticket and take the plunge.

For those who don’t know, LARP stands for: Live Action Roleplaying. A lot of people think this means things like Dungeons and Dragons, but it is very different. That’s where the “live” part comes in. It’s not played out with dice and a board, but rather your own body, mind, voice, etc.

There are loads of LARPs, in the US and around the world. The most common kind in the US is goal oriented, weapon fighting LARPs. They’re very action heavy, competetitive, one day sort of things. Or they happen once a month, on a weekend, again with a heavy focus on meeting a goal.

Nordic LARPs however are a bit different from this. The most unique aspect of Nordic LARP is immersion. Castles, ships, submarines. Not only do you have a costume and a character, you’re also really living for a few days on a real location.

College of Wizardry official page is a Nordic style LARP in Poland, at the castle Czocha. It’s a three day event where you live in a Harry Potter esque school, as a character.

I had heard about the event a year or so ago, but at that time had no proper job, and no money I felt I could part with. This October I actually had a job, even if it wasn’t a great one, so I bought my ticket, and then had to wait until March to be able to go.

Having been unable to convince my fiancee to join me on this adventure, I flew over to Berlin on my own, Monday night. I landed at Tegel airport the next morning. Back in 2013 I spent 2 1/2 months as an au pair in Germany, so I luckily had a decent grasp of basic language and how things worked. Feeling gross and dead, I bought a bus ticket to the main station, and boarded the bus.

Berlin, like most of Germany, has an amazing public transportation system. I would, quite honestly, give several years of my life to have the system they have. It includes: the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn, the tram, and the buses. And the tickets are transferable!!

It’s done mostly on the honor system, but people do check time to time, so you’re best to keep a honest heart.

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I was staying at The Circus Hostel which is in the city center. The hostel is very nice, but that night I ended up switching out my 8-10 person dorm. I’d been trying to go cheap, thinking I could just crash. But when you’re the only woman in an all male dorm, and four of them won’t go to sleep at eleven at night, sleep’s not so easy. So I became that annoying guest who wanted a different room and had to pay the difference. I decided right then to also make sure I switched my room to a single for Sunday night. That being said, I do still recommend the hostel! The staff was great, everything is clean and tidy, and their breakfast buffet is worth the money. Find them here 

Before I made my rooming changes though, I took off during the day to the Berlin Zoo. I was already in contact via Facebook with several people from CoW, and so met with one of them at the zoo. Despite the zoo being under heavy construction, it was still quite nice. According to some, it’s considered the best zoo in Germany. Among many other wonderful things, I got to see hippos for the first time, a ton of nocturnal animals, a panther, and a roaring lion.

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After wandering around hopelessly trying to charge my poor, dead phone, I made my way to the East Side Gallery. I got lost and turned around, and seriously considered just going to the shopping center earlier than planned. But I didn’t want to just sit in a mall for two hours, so I persevered, and managed to find the gallery. This so called gallery is actually the longest still standing section of the Berlin Wall, which people can walk along. It was very impressive, yet I still found it hard to actually grasp that this wall went through the whole city. Let alone wrap my head around the dangers surrounding said wall.

And of course I have no photos, as my phone was dead a door nail. Feeling cold and a little frustrated, I charged my phone for a few minutes before making plans to meet up with another fellow CoW attendee (whose wonderful blog you can find at Completing My Bucket List)

The two of us had dinner at a place very creatively called ‘The Pub’ whose thing was pugs. A random mascot, but the food was good and the beer was cold and cheap. After getting thoroughly full, we returned to the mall to meet another girl from CoW, who was joining us for an escape room.

I had never done an escape room before, but just like with larping, I’d always wanted to. We were given the chance to do it for free, as one of my companions does reviews of them and so gets a free go in exchange!

Ours was pirate themed, and for three people who barely knew each other, I think we did an awesome job. I loved the atmosphere, the challenges, and just like with LARP, I think I’m hooked. Can’t wait to try one in the DC area. And we managed to escape, with just a bit of help!!

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The next day, I set out to meet two more participants from CoW at museum island, which is basically exactly what it sounds like. My phone vastly underestimated how long it would take, but at least I got to see the few nice architectural sights Berlin actually has.

When I finally met the others, we decided to go into the first museum on hand, to avoid getting any more lost. It happened to be the German History museum, which is very well done, enormous, and we only barely got through the first floor in three hours, without having read everything.

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Napoleon’s HAT!

I highly recommend visiting this museum, learned a lot of new things about German history.

The rest of my day was spent hanging out with attendees of CoW. I had an early night, but still had a terrible time sleeping, too anxious for the next day.

I woke up the next morning, excited, nervous, and super tired. Along with three others, I made my way back to Tegel airport, where we just barely were in time for the bus to Czocha. The trip started well enough, continuing on our way after we picked up the others from Schoenfeld.

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However, about halfway through our trip: disaster!

A tire popped!

We were stuck for nearly two hours, which definitely cut into our time upon arriving at the castle. But when we did…it was even more amazing in person. Seriously, this castle is so legit. It overlooks a forest, a river, it has dungeons, secret passages with staircases in them, so amazing.

 

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I’ve written an in character post about everything I did at the castle so here’s a brief out of character section about my experience.

The food left something to be desired. Don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of Polish food. The rooms are nice, and clean. The shower liked to alternate between scalding and freezing with no rhyme or reason. The people behind the scenes are amazing, I cannot begin to stress this enough, I do believe I got my money’s worth. I thought maybe I would hate LARP. Unfortunately for my wallet, I want to go back now. Leaving Czocha wasn’t just leaving a LARP, it was leaving Molin, a place I finally felt I fit it, cheering for my team with honest sincerity that wasn’t just my character, someone actually willingly going to a dance with me, adventures.

My last day was simply traveling back, dinner with more new friends, and  a hellish trip home. I cannot recommend College of Wizardry highly enough. I’m still experiencing bleed and post LARP blues, and it’s all worth it.

Czocha will stay with me forever more. 

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