Gesellen Spotting

It was the usual Sunday Frühstück, sitting among friends at Ubu Roi. The sky was muggy, but spirits were high and the Milchkaffee was as ever excellent. I was hoping to convince the waiter to sing for us again, while recounting stories of the singing servers at the Max Opera Cafe – who will burst into spontaneous opera as they bring you food – for inspiration. Just as I was explaining the audition process for prospective servers, my last words froze in mid-air as a pair of the oddest-looking men entered the cafe. 

Wearing top hats and worn, muddy white suits with a Twainian flair, they carried with them cloth knapsacks and polished, elaborately carved walking sticks as in they walked. Saarbrücken, of course, has her share of nuts and crackers (and at first I thought this was no exception), but not one looked askance at these two, not even a second glance at their costume.

The others, noting my surprise, explained that they were journeymen, a breed of artisan carpenters on their way from apprenticeship to master of their trade. 

For a period of three short years and one long day, these men travel all over the world, going from one to another carpentry house, in which the master is obliged to provide food, perhaps lodging, and a small wage for their work during their stay. Today, these wandering craftsmen continue a tradition dating from the Middle Ages, and in my view, ensure that skill and artistry survive amidst mass production and profit.

I so wish I had known who and what they were before they disappeared; at the least, I would have tried to buy them a coffee and solicit them for tales of their travels. Alas, they said just a few short words to the barman of the cafe before walking out and heading off. And in my stunned and bedazzled state, another really cool opportunity slipped me by.