Monday, October 11, 2010

Gesellen - Journeymen

Today, on the Rhine in Basel
Today, staring down at the Rhine from our hotel balcony I saw two men sitting next to the river, one wearing a top hat, the other wearing an old time floppy hat. My first thought - lunch break from some museum or show where the employees dress in traditional old-time costume? I looked closer and was excited to see that they were real live journeymen! Gesellen. Traveling carpenters. This is an old German tradition. Young men could decide to choose this "apprenticeship." They must travel for a period of time, something like three years. They cannot travel anywhere close to their home town. They must wear a uniform like in the photos. They must hitchhike - no trains, buses, etc. They must seek work from people - odd jobs including carpentry - and ask for food and lodging in return. They carry with them nothing but their sleep roll and their tools and a big stick they use to carry their bundle (although the one guy today had a shovel). You will find them all over the world, including in the US, although I've never seen any anywhere except Switzerland.

I met one of these guys around this time last year in Zurich. Paul and I were attending a Swiss television talk show (think Oprah, but hosted by a flamboyant older man) as a guest of a dear Swiss friend whose book was being released in Switzerland. She was one of the guests of the show as was this Gesellen guy. I was fascinated by him and his look. I had never seen or heard of this before then. I love this! And I love that I saw them for real on the street. Great scene on the byway....

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