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California
overcast clouds
13.1 ° C
14.8 °
12 °
80 %
2.6kmh
100 %
Sat
17 °
Sun
16 °
Mon
16 °
Tue
18 °
Wed
12 °
Friday, April 19, 2024

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HomeLifestyleJourneymen from Europe...

Journeymen from Europe visit Coimbatore during their travels in India


Diana frd fr Malerin from Germany and Wesley (Sch) Einh fn Steinmetz from France
| Photo Credit: Siva Saravanan S

In December 2022, they left Germany when snow blanketed most parts of the country, from Berlin and Bavaria to Baden-Württemberg. As the entire country woke up to heavy snow every morning, Diana frd fr Malerin, 29, and Wesley (Sch) Einh fn Steinmetz, 39, took a flight to India. “We landed in Mumbai and all we could remember was that we were sweating profusely for over a week because of the change in weather,” says Wesley, adding that they are the journeymen, known as Wandergesellen in German, a vestige of the Middle Ages in modern Europe, where young men and women spend years travelling and working in exchange for room and board. They bundle up their belongings in a coarse cloth and travel away from home for a period of not less than three years and a day. “There are as many as 600 people, mostly from Germany, following this centuries-old practice even now. More women are taking to it, especially in the last three decades. We leave with five Euros and return with the same amount. All we take back is a rich experience gained from meeting people across various cultures,” says Diana.

It was Swati Jagdish (on Instagram @mayas_amma), sexuality health educator in Coimbatore who spotted the duo in Munnar and invited them to the city to share their stories. The journeymen travel mainly by foot, as rail travel is frowned upon, but planes and ships are allowed for long distances (overseas). Once they finish formal training in a trade such as carpentry, roofing, plumbing, or painting, they can set off travelling the world as a craftsperson to gather experience. They must also be single, not older than 30 years, and debt-free. While the journeymen do not carry devices like mobile phones, they are allowed to carry cameras, write postcards, and send emails from public computers. “We are not supposed to pay for food or accommodation, and instead live by exchanging work for room and board,” says Wesley, explaining that he has completed 10 years as a journeyman, and Diana, seven. When they both met in Romania in 2018, they decided to travel together and have hitchhiked across Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Morocco, and Spain, earning on the move. “While in Switzerland, we could drink water from any stream or river as it was pristine. Here, most water bodies are polluted. The amount of plastics and trash is worrying,” says Wesley.

Art for conservation

While in India, they spent over a month in Allepey, Kumily and Munnar in Kerala taking up work assignments with NGOs that focus on sustainability, and conservation. Diana, who took up painting work at cathedrals in France, talks with pride about her art work for Biodiversity Research and Conservation Society in Munnar. “My painting showcases a clean and green landscape inhabited by happy people which turns into a picture of gloom because pollution, but once they wake up and start cleaning their water bodies, the landscape returns to its original glory.”

Dressed in distinct wide-bottomed, corduroy trousers, white shirts and coloured jackets, and brimmed hats, the duo intend to explore parts of Tamil Nadu before proceeding to Hampi, Kolkata, Varanasi, Khajuraho, and Rishikesh, and concluding the tour in October. They say vanakkam with folded hands when they greet people and eat from roadside eateries, especially parottas and dosas, rather than fancy restaurants. While in Europe, they sleep in parks and other public places, in India they knock doors of strangers for help to spend the night. The tradition stopped during the World Wars. But, was fully revived in the 1980s. For many, the hardest part of their journey is deciding when to end it. “Wandering from place to place is fun. You don’t have a family or a house to take care of,” says Wesley, adding, “You have your freedom and that makes you responsible.”

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