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. This is such an interesting post! I had no idea about journeymen – well I thought they were old fashioned craftsmen in days gone by, but didn’t realise they still existed. I study German too so must ask my German friends about the journeymen. It’s great that they are keeping old traditions of craft alive and the travelling part is fascinating. I have just been reading through your old posts on the foxes and wanted to say how much I enjoyed them – I found the story very moving. Thanks for visiting my blog too and am so glad you liked the post on Lenno and the Villa Balbianello. I will enjoy reading more of your blog, best wishes Rosemary, Le Chic En Rose 🙂

        1. I was in the area last week, but he was not home. I would love to meet up again and see how he is getting on. Pat is the kindest man alive.

      1. Have just read your last wonderful post on the Fox Man – it’s so uplifting to read about his work with the foxes and his love of all animals! The photos that you have taken are simply amazing – the comments section was closed so I’m replying here! A lovely heartwarming post! Thank you! 🙂

  2. I suppose because they have little cash that explains why we don’t see Journeymen in North America; how would they get across the pond? What a wonderful traditional way of learning a trade. Your other artisan photos are great.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! They are allowed to pay for their flight, but that is it. I have read they occasionally come to Americas.

  3. It is a beautiful post and I love the fact that the tradition is kept. I was also thinking there’s a great book there! I love craft fairs and I’ve seen shearers work at the local agricultural fair. (I much prefer to buy presents at artisans fairs than mass made things but it’s not always possible). I hope to meet journeymen (or women?) soon

    1. Thank you so much, Olga! Now you won’t miss them 🙂 You won’t see them at the fairs though, but rather on the side of the road. You can interview them for a future book 🙂 xx

  4. What a wonderful post….one that has confirmed to me that in another life, I would like to be a Journeyman/woman:)…. It is indeed honourable to work with one’s hands. I say thank you every day that throughout my life I have worked with hands and of course, brush and paint. Wishing you a beautiful weekend, and I am quite sure that these two young men will find much interest and joy in their travels. janet.xx

    1. Thank you so much, Janet! As an artist, you know well that vision and hard work are walking hand in hand. I too hope that these young men complete their quest, safely return home and open a new page in their life as Masters in their trade.
      Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and a great week ahead!
      Inese xx

  5. Fab. how interesting. I have never heard of the journeymen before. Thank you for sharing this, I love learning about new things 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Irene! Most of them are working in Germany and France. I have seen photographs in the internet, but those were always stone masons.This is the first time I see blacksmiths.

  6. What an interesting post, Inese, on a great topic. Beautiful photos and thanks for telling us more about the journeymen. I didn’t know the origin of the word, and now i do.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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.

        1. It is a very interesting observation, and I might use the exercise. We know so little about our own abilities and inner resources.

  10. 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. 🙂

  11. 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.

  12. 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

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