Journeymen in Ireland, and much more

journeymen

These young men are Benjamin and Simon, two German blacksmiths whom I met at the supermarket on my way home. They are journeymen, and their plan is to travel around the Atlantic coast and find work. They might stay in Ireland for a couple of months. If you meet them, please assist them with a lift or a place to stay over night. They have already slept outdoors, and they have no tent. I still feel bad because I did very little for them, but I met them right after I spent my only ten euros on groceries, and I had very little petrol left in the tank too. Otherwise I would drive them all the way to Youghal where they were heading to.

During our drive we had the chance for a chat, and later I read more about the Journeyman quest in the internet.

A journeyman is a skilled worker who has successfully completed an apprenticeship qualification in a trade or craft, and is considered competent and authorized to work in that field as a fully qualified employee. The word journeyman comes from the French word journée, which means a day, because traditionally the journeymen were paid daily.  A 900 year old tradition is still alive – about 600 journeymen are on the road in Germany and abroad. They commit to travel for three years and one day and not to come within a radius of 50 km of their hometown during this time. The first year of the travels, the journeymen are usually working in a German speaking country. After that many of them travel around the world for the next two years.

This odyssey is called Walzmust, or the waltz, so they are known as journeymen on the waltz. During this time a journeyman perfects his craft, learns to organize his life and live in poverty. Three years on the road provide a wealth of experience and improve physical fitness. Journeyman is not allowed to carry much cash, use public transport and have a cell phone. Hitchhiking and walking is how he travels from place to place. All his personal belongings and working tools fit in Charlottenburger, a 80×80 cm wrapping cloth.

Every journeyman wears the Kluft that consists of a brimmed hat, collarless shirt, vest, jacket, bell-bottomed trousers and durable shoes. The color of the Kluft depends on the journeyman’s occupation – blacksmiths and goldsmiths wear blue. The buttons stand for the amount of working days and hours.

When they start out, the journeymen don’t wear ties. They earn the honor to wear the tie with their behavior. Also, they get an earring before the journey – back in old days it would pay for the funeral in case the journeyman dies. A wooden walking stick completes the outfit. It is made of a naturally twisted branch that the journeyman himself has to find and carve.

Each journeyman has a Travel Book where they collect stamps from the cities they visit, and their work evaluations. The guys asked me not to publish a photo of the book online. There is a page that says that the possessor of this traveling book is a trained artisan, that he took this road to get acquainted with the practices of work and the ways of living in other places, improve his knowledge of his trade and extend his experience of life. Also there is a request to assist him in his intention.

I find it amazing that these two men look like brothers even though they are not related, and came from different cities – Frankfurt and Munich. When people are doing something out of ordinary, when they belong to the brotherhood, the spiritual aspect of their quest shows on their face.

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There are many amazing people with amazing skills who beautify our life with the work of their hands.

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Ancient craft of basket weaving is one of the most widespread crafts in the world.

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Woodworkers can craft everything from jewelry to weapons.

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Hand-shaped pottery was in use 20 000- 30 000 years ago, and it is still popular these days.

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This artisan uses both the wood and the clay for her creations.

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There are thousands of things that could be crafted by a skilled artisan. A sauna hat, for example. It could be very useful. These are for wearing in saunas, not the steam rooms.

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This monk is also a jewelry maker. He looks delighted that a pair of earrings is almost sold. A little girl is not impressed though 😉

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Some people are a different type of artist. Because this man is an artist! And a sheep whisperer. You would say that if you saw his sheep shearing performance.

He starts with removing the belly wool.

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The entire fleece is removed, and thrown clean side down in a matter of a few minutes. No sheep were harmed in the process.

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It is honorable to work with your hands.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope this post encourages you to help a stranger, and to read more about traveling artisans.

inese_mj_photography Have a wonderful weekend!

204 comments

  1. What a fabulous, fascinating post Inese! It is very exciting for me as I have and old photobooth photo of a journeyman who is wearing an almost identical shirt as one of the young men you met. I’m sure you know more about it than I do but here is a link that details some of the fascinating history of these artisans. http://www.fremderfreiheitsschacht.de/en/ueberuns/geschichte.php/. Let me know if you would like to see “my” journey man and I will send you a link.

    1. This post has made me realise that I never updated my post with all new information I was given in a comment. I had no idea what to make of the image initially. I will make the update at some point. I will link back to here, but could I also use one of your photos? (With due credit and copyright notice of course.)

    2. Thank you for stopping by! Great story, thank you for the link! This tradition is 900 years old, and in most of European countries the journeymen are a familiar sight, but not in Ireland. So far I have found only one story from Achil islands, where a couple of mason journeymen landed a few years ago. I do want to see your photobooth photograph 🙂

  2. I’d never heard of that fascinating tradition before. Has Benjamin been a journeyman longer than Simon? The latter’s clothes look a lot less worn.

    1. Yes, and he has a tie that has to be earned. I am still upset that I helped them not enough. With all these robberies going around I only take a 10 Euro bill with me when I drive around the country roads, and a drivers license. If I had more gas I would drive them to the town they were heading to. I don’t know if it would help much though, because they had no contact person there, and they would most likely sleep outdoors anyway. I just hope they have found a blacksmith by now because the weather is horrible.

      1. Oh, I think I remember you saying something in an earlier post a month or two ago about carjackings. I don’t blame you for being careful. I hope the two young men can stay out of harm’s way too.

  3. You have taught me something totally new with this post Inese. I am so impressed by this tradition and can see how it would leave the journeymen with invaluable life skills. Something all our young people could benefit from.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Su! Yes, all young people would benefit indeed. We shouldn’t forget that before they hit the road, these young men were in training for years, and obtained a profession. They also have very high moral standarts. It is not only a fun trip, it is more like a spiritual journey, with purpose.

        1. Sometimes Journeymen go to Australia, New Zealand, Americas. You have the same chance to meet them as I have, because they normally stay in the continental Europe. So, who knows, may be some day … 🙂

    1. My heart goes out to them as we have a horrible weather and I am not sure where they sleep, and do they have food and work they were looking for.

  4. Educational, and nice pics, as usual. I once had the chance to try sheep shearing in Australia, but chickened out. I kind of regret that, although I suspect the sheep doesn’t.

    1. Haha, that sheep still counts her blessings I guess 🙂 But I was very surprised to see the sheep lay so calm. I expected a struggle with kicking from both parties 🙂

    1. They could be found somewhere along the Atlantic Way I guess 🙂 Hope they find a blacksmith who employs them for a couple of months.

  5. Very interesting, I had no idea the concept of “Journeyman” still existed. I’ve only ever heard of it in fantasy books and role playing games!

    1. Thank you for stopping by! Yes, it is a great tradition for the young people to learn about living in poverty, self-reliance and brotherhood. Simply amazing.

  6. Fascinating as usual. I didn’t realize that journeyman actually journeyed. The term in the U.S. is used more or less in the same breath as apprentice.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Some of them travel the US too. They are not apprentices anymore. They are fully trained professionals. Can do any work in their profession, but this journey is necessary to become a Master and open their own business if they wish so.

  7. Hi Inese. This was such a fascinating and educational post. And I admit — I enjoyed the photos of your two journeymen! What a couple of cuties…
    I love handcrafted things and watching them be made. This is a very enjoyable post. Mega hugs my friend.

    1. Thank you so much, Teagan! They are such lovely young men indeed.The one who has been longer on his journey, has a tie that means his behavior is exemplary 🙂

        1. I met them in the late afternoon, on my way home, with no money and just a bit of gas in the tank. If I had any resources, I would drive them to where they wanted to go. I drove them a couple of miles out of town as they requested, and left them at a busy little shop where the travelers stop to buy an ice cream. Hope they got a lift from there soon enough. Who wouldn’t love to give them a hand?

  8. Amazing story about Journeyman, it raises many questions on my mind such as how far can he goes as there are rules about money and transportation. They traveling years must be full of hardship but full of life lessons which will not be found otherwise. They seem worth it.

    I am always amazed by people who has skills in certain craft. Those art works or even skill in calming the sheep for shaving are amazing.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! There are some articles about the journeymen in the internet. They get a work, earn something, and travel again. And so on. They travel three years and one day 🙂

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