This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia.
A Serbian medieval knight picks up a long axe and strikes his opponent multiple times across his thick steel helmet. The crowd roars in excitement as kids push their way forward to fill the front few rows. Behind them, their parents scream, "Crush him!"
Welcome to Just Out – an annual weekend-long medieval festival held in Despotovac, a small town in central Serbia. The area is named for Stefan Lazarević – a famous figure in Serbian medieval history. Lazarević held the ancient byzantine title of despot – equivalent to a prince – and was a major figure in the Order of the Dragon, established in the 15th century to protect Europe from the Ottomans.
This year's festival has been organised as a special celebration to honour 600 years of the nearby Manasija monastery – one of the most iconic medieval structures in Serbia.
Hundreds of knights from countries across Europe – including Croatia, Germany, Russia, Sweden –and even Iran have come to compete in front of tens of thousands of excited spectators, some dressed in their finest medieval gear.
At times throughout the weekend, it's hard to ignore how many participants seem to revel a bit too much in re-enacting an era where everyone knew their place: men fight while women carry drinks and tend to the wounded. But generally, it's a good-spirited event, intended as a celebration of the three pillars of Serbian tradition: family, nation and church.
On the last day of the festival, the final procession of knights takes place against the backdrop of the Manasijia castle walls. There's even some applause for the knights from Croatia – a nice touch, considering Serbia and Croatia's troubled history. The closing ceremony features plenty of music and a strange speech about how Kosovo – the independent state that seceded from Serbia a decade ago – will never be relinquished.
Scroll down to see more photos from the 2018 Just Out festival.