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Inside a Castle

Castles looked cool on the outside, but really they were cold, damp, and poorly lit. The only heating was provided by fireplaces in each room and castles had to be lit by torches because they were very dark inside.

 People tended to spend much time outdoors to get away from the dampness of the castle. Tapestries were hung on the wall to help brighten up the halls and keep in heat. 

 

The main furniture in the great hall were wooden benches and large tables made by laying wood planks across other benches. At night, the table was taken down to make room for the servants who slept on the floor. The floors were covered year-round with reeds, bones, and scraps of food. When the room began to smell, the servants added more reeds and sprinkled spices to help get rid of the odor. Once a year, the servants replaced the soiled reeds with new ones, and the whole process started again. The king and his family often shared a single room where their sleeping quarters were separated only by curtains.

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The king's kitchen staff decorated most of the food before they served it. Sometimes when meat was served, the servants put the fur or feathers back on the meat to make it look alive! On the other hand, because there was no refrigeration, the food spoiled quickly. Sometimes when food was spoiled, they just dumped extra gravy on it and served it anyway. One of the only ways to preserve and season food was to salt all the meat. 

In fact, since salt was so important at the medieval table, it began to be a sort of status symbol. Most great halls only had one large salt container, and where you sat in relation to it told people how important you were. The more important people sat "above the salt," and those who were less important sat "below the salt." During the evening meals, the lord and his family sat upon a raised platform and watched court jesters who sang, juggled, and told stories.

Castles had no modern plumbing, but the garbage disposal presented no problem. The servants dumped it in the moat. Bathrooms in castles often emptied right into the moat as well. Since people in the Middle Ages believed that washing too much could make you sick, bathing became a once-a-month affair. Most didn't even bother with soap because the soaps were so strong that they could eat holes through cloth. The royal family preferred dirt to holes, so wash days were few and far between.