The Journeyman Years

I experienced something yesterday while in a restaurant that in all my years living here has never happened – I spoke with a carpenter journeyman. There is a tradition in Germany, after an apprentice of a trade serves his time, he can choose to do the traditional journeyman years – one year and one day – traveling routes that have been around since medieval times to gain their experience before making their masterpiece to present to the guild. He (or she) carries a small cloth bag with his belongings and a stick and wears his (or her) costume and trades their services to gain experience and food and lodgings.


The restaurant owners didn’t wish to support him, so, as it was snowing outside, he allowed himself to call on the tradition to ask the people present to support him with some money for food and lodgings. It was very humbling to watch him recite the old rhyme and the people happily gave him some money and were interested to speak to him about his journey.

It made me wonder, how this would have affected the building trade and the problems and greed that had come out of this in recent years, if this tradition had survived in my homeland.



  1. What a great experience. I would love to meet a journeyman! When my son left the military in his early 20s one of the things he wanted to do for a career was to work in automotive repair. We searched for a school where he could get certified, but found none. I finally called my mechanic and asked him for help, he informed me that there were no schools because it’s something they teach to felons in prison so they have a trade when they get out. I was shocked to say the least. I asked him about taking on my son as an apprentice and the answer while nicely put was no. After searching for an apprenticeship for months my son gave up and now works as a correction officer.

  2. that’s very surprising! My boyfriend, with hindsight also wishes that he had trained as a mechanic. I thought it was a much simpler procedure: just find a mechanic who will take you on for a few years as an apprentice. Seems there’s more to it than that!

  3. It’s not easy to find someone to take you on. The big problem I have, after the fact that this prevents someone from doing what they love is that you are now telling me that when the older generation retires we will be left with only ex-cons to work on our vehicles? Glad I gave up my car.

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