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German journeymen pass through Hill on three-year rite-of-passage

Monday, 15th April, 2019

German journeymen Max Masella and Arne Meiners holding a fabric with symbols of their guild atop the Line of Lode. PICTURE: Callum Marshall German journeymen Max Masella and Arne Meiners holding a fabric with symbols of their guild atop the Line of Lode. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

A three-year rite-of-passage for two German journeymen saw them pass through town last week, where they discussed their travels, experiences and underlying journey with Callum Marshall.

Arne Meiners and Max Masella, from Flensburg and Brunswick, respectively, stopped in the Silver CIty last week on their way to Adelaide.

They had already travelled to New Zealand, Tonga and Sydney by the time they’d reached Cobar earlier in the week.

“We started our trip in New Zealand and that (was our) first time overseas,” said Max.

“We spent four months there, working for eight weeks.

“Then, after that, we headed off to Tonga and spent one and a half weeks in Vava’u, a small island there.

“And a week or so later we headed off to Australia.”

On their way to Adelaide, to meet up with a fellow journeyman who settled in Australia years ago, Arne and Max said they decided to travel to the city via the Barrier Highway and Broken Hill to see some of the Australian outback. 

“We thought, ‘this road looks nice, let’s go this way’,” said Arne.

“We looked on the map of Australia and saw the road was mostly through the outback, and that’s what we wanted to see.

“So that’s why we’ve taken this road to Adelaide.

“(We got in contact with a fellow journeyman) who had gone through Adelaide and settled down there during his journey to Australia.

“We don’t know him, but he assured us when we got there we could sleep for a night or two at his place.

Arne and Max said the three-year journey they were undertaking was part of a rite-of-passage they had to do within a travelling guild they were part of back home.

“We’re members from a travelling guild,” said Max. 

“There’s seven guilds in Germany and we are members of the oldest one. But nobody knows how old it is.

“When you choose to do this you have to travel for a minimum of three years and one day around the world or wherever you want to go.

“To understand and learn from other countries and get better at your craft.

“Before you go though you have to learn your craft, with the apprenticeship requiring three years to finish

“So the journey’s three years and one day because it’s meant to go longer than the apprenticeship.” 

The two journeyman explained you didn’t have to go overseas to learn more about your craft, but that during the three years and one day of your journey, you had to remain outside a 50 kilometre radius around your home.

They said the widespread connections of the guild helped out as well.

“The guild have houses (in lots of places around the world), the most in Germany and Switzerland though,” said Max.

“But you always settle down at some journeyman’s. 

“It’s a network around the world of places where we can go,” added Arne.

“In an earlier time, the guild organised the journey for the young journeymen for their skilled trade.

“In every town there were other older journeymen who had finished their journey and were living with their family.

“But he would know what was going on in the town and if you arrived at his place he could help you to find work or say, ‘keep going, it’s not good here.’

“It’s German and Swiss culture that’s become tradition in the last 700 years.

“Nobody knows when it began but in the very early times some gentlemen said, ‘we want to organise for each other, make it safer for us, and have houses where we can go all over the world.’ That was the bond of the guilds.”

Carpentry and roofing are Max and Arne’s trades, respectively, with their travels providing them valuable working experience in both.

They said their black outfits and ties signified their particular craft and guild, and were worn at all times during the three year journey.

“Across the seven guilds in Germany there are a lot of differences and for some of the guilds they include every trade,” said Arne.

“But our guild is just for woodcrafts, so carpentry, roofing and joiners,” said Arne.

He said the black ties signified their guild, rechtschaffene fremde, which roughly translated to ‘honest stranger’, and their black trousers and jackets represented their craft which was woodwork.

They said it was possible to be part of the same guild and wear the same tie but have different coloured clothes representing your particular craft, such as blue for metal trades.

While the guilds sometimes differed in their rules, they said that the overarching goal to travel the world and gain valuable experience was one they all shared.

Arne and Max have a year and half a year left on their three-year journey. 

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