Journeymen in Ireland, and much more


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.


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

craftmen crafts

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


Woodworkers can craft everything from jewelry to weapons.

crafts craftmen craftmen

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


crafts crafts

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


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.


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 😉


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.


sheep_shearing sheep_shearing sheep shearing

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


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!


  1. This is such a fascinating and lovely post, Inese. I never heard of journeymen before. Your discussion and photos were a powerful tribute, as was your acknowledgment of gifted artisans who craft useful and beautiful creations.

    1. Linda, that cat broke my heart, because it was too big and fragile to buy and carry through all the flights. I just asked for a picture 😦
      Yes, the dedication is amazing. Being a part of a Guild, a brotherhood is very inspiring. Their mindset is their most valuable asset helping them through this journey.

  2. Such an interesting post. I had no idea that this kind of practise still happened. I wish them well.
    I love the picture of the jewellery making monk and customers!

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I never expected to see them in Ireland, anyway. The monk was delighted – it was a second purchase just in a matter of minutes. Right before the earrings he sold a coral necklace 🙂

  3. In some older books, I have seen journeyman references, Inese. I had no idea the arduous and lengthy journey, with requirements included in their path, they choose to fulfill.
    These young journeymen are to be admired!
    I like artists, craftsmen and women, artisans and believe trades which demonstrate skill display a type of “art.”
    Inese, I am now not sure how much work and practice an “apprentice” is expected to carry out. My grandfather’s male Swedish ancestors were stone masons, which really may be appreciated both in European countries, along with walls built the East coast of the U.S., mainly in New England states. 🙂
    As an immigrant family member, I was proud of our heritage; but also happy my Grandpa decided to go to technical college, studying engineering. Thanks for such an informative article with beautiful photographs!

    1. Glad you liked the post, Robin. Your ancestors belonged to a honorable guild. Thank you again for your comment! Have a wonderful week!

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! Inner peace reflects on our face, doesn’t it. I wish I saw such peace more often, including in the mirror 😉

      1. That darned mirror D: Mind you, I used to wrinkle my brow a lot without knowing it. Then I started rehearsing my singing in front of the mirror, so I didn’t pull stupid faces when doing recitals. You’d be amazed that once I’d learn to relax my forehead, I became calmer about singing to an audience. This goes to prove that you can change your facial expression and help promote inner peace, just as much as it works the other way around.

  4. Amazing post Inese. I enjoyed reading all about the Journeymen and all the incredible skilled people who work with their hands. Such a heart-warming post. Loved it. 🙂

  5. Greetings from North Carolina. Thanks for liking one of my posts. I enjoyed this enchanting story and pictures. I love the “journeyman of the waltz.”

    We had a joyous vacation back in 2009 to Ireland which took us all over your beautiful country and exposed us to your gracious hospitality. I recall fondly visits to Bunratty Castle and the village behind it and Cliffs of Moher. We look forward to a return trip.

    Best wishes and thanks. Keith

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Keith! I have a blog about the Cliff of Moher boat trip, you can look it up in my tags. I have been to Bunratty village, but years ago. It is a very delightful place. Glad you enjoyed your stay in Ireland.
      Have a wonderful week!

      1. Thanks Inese. May I call you that? I will need to check out that post on the boat trip. We also enjoyed the colorful facades of the shops and many taverns.

  6. This was a pleasure to read. Enjoyed learning about the life of a journeyman. Great post. Thanks for sharing this. If I didn’t learn this from you, I would have never known. Thanks

  7. A beautiful post, Inese. I didn’t know that there are still true “journeymen” who roam the world. What a wonderful experience and load of wisdom they must gain. I love the fact that there are journeymen, craftsmen and artisans creating things with their hands, not for money, but for the intangible gifts – travel, friendship, beauty, wisdom. Your photos are great!

    1. Thank you so much, Diana! I hope they found a blacksmith and place to stay for a while before they resume their travels. It is a true school of life that would benefit any young man.

  8. Very informative post. Basket weaving or in Finland different wicker works are popular yet today. My wife used to some before she started quilting. She created a willow fence, which we had about 20 years when we lived on countryside.

    Coffee corner.

    Thank You for this very interesting post.

  9. Do the artisans travel like a band of carnival performers? What a magnificent post you share so kindly with us, Inese! I do like their costumes and would fancy an outfit like the journeymen’s.

    1. No, they don’t perform at the fairs or carnivals. They travel to find a job with the local masters, for a week or a month, to get paid so that they can proceed with their travels, and learn from the different cultures. The journey lasts three years and a day. It is a very honorable quest, they are doing their best so that the next journeyman who comes after them would be welcome in the area too. Their costumes are made to last long, and are resistant to the elements. To get one, you have to complete your professional training first, be unmarried, and discuss this with your Professional Guild. I guess you can find a twisted tree branch and make a staff like theirs. It is the closest you can get to look like a journeyman 🙂 By the way, there are journeywomen too.

  10. When I was young and didn’t know what life was all about I had worked for a blacksmith in the states
    Learned a lot ,but it was lessons that took the rest of my life to understand
    Thank god for Mr Cooper
    As always Sheldon

  11. Oh my word… I knew all about journeymen, of course. I studied history and learnt all about the guilds, the apprenticeships and the journeymen, who went on the road exactly as you describe in your article, before returning back to their home town, imbued with new ideas and skills to take to their local guilds, enriching their local culture and becoming master craftsmen. What I DIDN’T know is that the practice is still alive and well! Thank you so much for this lovely article:)

  12. I’ve reblogged your very interesting post, Inese. I didn’t know that journeymen still existed, this is the first I’ve seen or heard of them. Fabulous photos of various crafts, too.

    1. Thank you so much, Jean! So, you didn’t see them in Youghal that day? I so hope they have found a blacksmith and work, and have a roof over their head.

  13. Your posts are always so informative. This one is no exception. It is wonderful when traditions are still followed. We don’t see as much of this over here in the US.

    1. Thank you so much, Patricia! I have read that some journeymen travel to Americas. Hope you will meet them in the streets one day 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! Yes, I have read about France when putting up this blog. Isn’t it great! Glad for your country that you keep the tradition going.

  14. I have great respect for those who make an honest living working with their hands. You post the most fascinating gems! You should have your own series on PBS 🙂 I’d definitely watch it!

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 I am afraid I don’t have enough material for posting gems on a regular basis 🙂 I still cannot believe I met the journeymen all the circumstances considered.

  15. Fascinating read. I’m afraid the United States does not have journeymen (as far as I know!), but I’ve loved visiting craft fairs and flea markets where artisans sell their work. It’s not quite the same as a journeyman, but the trades millennia old prove that the human hands are capable of timeless wonders.

    1. Thank you so much! You can google, and you might be surprised, because they do go to both Americas, sometimes. I love the fairs, especially the ones with the workshops. It is amazing what the human hands can do.

      1. Yes! It’s been years since I’ve attended a Renaissance Faire (will you attend one this year?), but I was fascinated by the glassblowers and metalworkers there. Unique trades that people don’t “need” in their daily lives per say, but come ON–their work is the preservation of history! THEY are living carriers of history! We owe them a great debt. 🙂
        And not just because they’re wearing massive costumes in 90some degree weather. 🙂
        (That’s Fahrenheit, for the record. Let’s not boil anyone alive here.)

        1. Absolutely! Living carriers of history, the best part of the history, I would add. Carriers of ethic and wisdom that today’s world is sadly in need.

  16. What a wonderful post – absolutely fascinating. Loved reading about the journeymen and the photos of the craft workers and their crafts are superb.

  17. A fascinating and delightful post. The Journeymen remind me a bit of some of the more interesting Couch Surfers I’ve hosted over the years. Thank you! Léa

      1. Without a doubt. I shall watch for them on the road to and from town. I really enjoyed your post and thank you for sharing it.

  18. Glad I came by Inese, the wordpress link was not working. HUH! Nearly depriving me of these stunning pictures and another fascinating post. Loved the journeymen and how you then went onto to show these pictures of people who crate so much beauty with their hands. Wouldn’t have missed this for the world

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! What was wrong with the link? Is it something particularly about my page? They are changing things faster than I am able to update everything.
      Glad you like the post! xxxx

      1. It came up saying couldn’t be found, so I thought I will go over, cos I never miss your lovely posts. They’re such a treat. It makes you wonder how often that could happen…like the post IS there. They certainly do keep changing things but hey ho….. x

      2. I love all your posts. Would never miss them and this was such a nice shout out to people who work away like this often without the kind of reward they deserve x

        1. They have astonishing work ethic, and sense of brotherhood. I feel absolutely blessed to have met them. Lately I have been losing faith in humanity…

  19. What super-fantastic post, Inese!!!!!! Absolutely love it 😀 Your pictures are as always pure magic! I sometimes see Journeymen here in Berlin, but definitely not as often as 10 or 20 years ago. But what I didn´t know was that they also travel outside Germany – that´s so great! I was always fascinated by their style of clothing 😉 And again: I didn´t knew how much meaning stood behind it – THANK YOU so much for sharing this all with us!!! 🙂 And those artisans are wonderful! I also tried myself in basket weaving, it´s such fun 🙂 Well, as for for pottery you already know that I love that as well, don´t you? 😉 Love how you point out that the sheep weren´t hurt 🙂 That´s a wonderful skill indeed! And I couldn´t agree more with you: to work with your hands is very honourable indeed – and also very satisfying 🙂 Have a lovely sunday!!! 🙂 XoXo ❤

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Sarah! I know about your pottery making talents. I did a little bit of ceramic when I was younger, and I have weaved a dish once, but it came out not too round 😉 I admire people who work with their hands, including artists like you. Thank you again for your visit, have a great Sunday!

      1. You´re always very welcome, Inese!! Reading your blog has become such a pleasant habit, I wouldn´t know what to do without it 😉 And thank you so much for appreciating my art – you´ve supported me here from the start and I´m very grateful for it and so glad to have met you here on wordpress!!! 😀
        Well, my first basket wasn´t that good either, but I like it nevertheless 😉 Do you still have your ceramics somewhere?? I would love to see them! Have a very lovely week, my dear friend! xoxo ❤

          1. Great! 🙂 Normally it seems to be the other way round though 😉 Have met many proud parents showing off their kids art works! It´s always wonderful to see the smile reaching their eyes and let them twinkle with happy memories 🙂

  20. 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. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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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