Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gesellen - auf der walz

Every year I spot these young guys around town that are doing their traditional wander. They aren't exactly hard to spot due to their distinctive costumes, but I never had a camera with me to capture them - until now. (The man in the pink is wearing his own costume of sorts --only in Salzburg I tell ya.)

They are called Gesellen and said to be auf der walz - on the road.

After they finish their carpentry apprenticeship they head off to learn about life, working, and to get a bit of free time before starting their careers. Their journey lasts 2 or 3 years and 1 day. During their journey they are not allowed to go within 50km of their hometowns / villages, nor can they stay in any one place longer than 6 weeks. Hamburg is said to be filled with them, so I might get to see more next week.

What is incredible is that they rely entirely on the hospitality and kindness of strangers, as depicted here. Evidently this is a dying tradition, so I am amazed that I see them so frequently, but it is nice to see they have the support of the community.

I also get a good laugh when I think about gesellen, because I was trying to tell some of my language school classmates about them and was met with puzzled looks. We even taught one the word hobo after drawing a bag on a stick. That was about as close as it got. My other friend from Spain thought they were from some strange religious sect when I pointed a pair out to her here in Munich.

Der Spigel has an older article about them (in English) or there is another from the German Times that is worth a read.

I love the yesteryear traditions and the helpful nature of people helping people.

6 comments:

Cait said...

I remember you explaining the Gesellen.

What I think was great is that they understood what a hobo was after you drew the picture! Well some people did...

Emily said...

Cait...
The hobo story is still great. We definitely made sure people left with more than just a German lesson. Ah - those were the days.

Emily Marie said...

I love this! I guess living in a big city I don't often get to experience old cultural traditions but I think they're wonderful :)

Emily said...

Emily Marie...
I agree! I even saw another one in Munich since I posted this. I should have stopped him for a photo and to answer a few of my questions - maybe next time!

JoernandAllison said...

I am always amazed that this tradition is alive here. You're right that it is one of those examples of people helping people- we need more of that in our world. Of course, cynical me said to Joern when I first saw them, "isn't it unsafe for them?" I hope that it never becomes unsafe and that this tradition can last for a long time!

Emily said...

Allison...
I hope you're right! I don't think something like this could exist everywhere, but I definitely think things in Germany are pretty safe.