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Black costumes, leg pants, large hat and bag: with their old -fashioned look, the companions are recognizable from afar.As they have been doing for 800 years, these young apprentices travel for three years before setting up.

Ce contenu a été publié le 09 janvier 2012 - 10:50
Claire O'Dea, Morat, swissinfo.ch

Two German companions have just spent almost two months restoring the town hall of Morat, which dates from the 15th century.It's time for them to hit the road, they explain to Swissinfo.ch.

"The bakery saleswoman began to book hotcakes for me.This is a sign that we are known here, "notes the carpenter Johannes Kranenko."It is said that if a neighbor kisses us and that if the dogs no longer take it, it is time to leave," adds his colleague Patrick Kunkel.

In the cobbled streets of Morat, the two young men did not pass, on the contrary.They walk in the footsteps of tens and dozens of past generations, those who were part of the association of carpenters and roofers of Germany, whose headquarters are 1000 kilometers away, in Kiel.

It is even possible that their ancestors participated in the construction of the town hall of Morat in 1416.And that others, in the 18th or 19th century, worked on its renovation or the erection of adjoining buildings.

Dust of centuries

This heavy past does not clutter the companions of 2011.Work in such a building is not special, says Johannes Kranenko."This means that we receive dust from the last centuries," he said, quite simply.

Originally from a region 100 kilometers north of Hamburg, Johannes Kranenko has been on his partner for a year.At one point, he met Patrick Kunkel, a training roofer, who comes from East Germany.They continued their journey together.

Companions must fulfill conditions strict enough to be able to carry out their "pilgrimage".They must be between 20 and 30 years old, be without attachments, without children and not have debts.Most of the time, these are young men - very rarely women - who have completed their learning in a construction profession.


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The objective of the trip is to discover the world and to perfect its know-how.For three years and one day, the companion is not allowed to approach less than 50 kilometers from his place of residence.The mobile phone is prohibited.The companion must move without public transport, but on foot or by making hitchhiking.

"It is not a question of getting rich financially, but personally, thanks to new experiences," explains Johannes Kranenko, who, like Patrick Kunkel, left his home with 5 euros in pocket.Companions must return with the same amount.They are not allowed to stay more than a week without work or stay more than six months in the same place.


In Morat, the duo was hired for work at the Town Hall by Heiner Bosch, who has a carpentry in Morat.As the tradition provides, no arrangement had been taken in advance.The two companions arrived near the Bern door and had found the small bar which serves as a point of contact for young apprentices making, like them, their wander.

Former companion too, Heiner Bosch offered little time after work to the two Germans.He even found them a house.Johannes Kranenko and Patrick Kunkel have also not forgotten to buff their companionship by the authorities, a stamp which once had almost authorization to work.

As for their such visible costume, the two young men explain that it is also very practical: it makes it possible to identify the companions and their profession, as well as the association to which they belong.In addition, "the eight buttons of the vest represent the eight hours of daily work and the six buttons of the jacket symbolize our six days of work per week," says Patrick Kunkel.


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Revitalized tradition

In about a generation, the tradition of companionship has experienced a new youth.There are again more young people who set off, especially in German -speaking countries, but in French -speaking Switzerland, in France, Belgium and in Scandinavian countries also.Our two companions staying in Morat are thus equipped with a long list of addresses and places of contact in several countries.

In Switzerland, ten young people are currently on the way.According to Hansueli Diem, former companion regularly present at the St-Gall meeting point, these Swiss are members of the German association.

Johannes Kranenko and Patrick Kunkel say they are happy to live outside of all permanent and instant communication."The others follow their shows, we have time," said the first.The stay in Morat has therefore come to an end.Next step: Düsseldorf.But the two young people are going much further.Their next goal, by the end of the year, is nothing less than Namibia.


Years of companionship were once a condition to be able to become a member of a corporation as master of his profession.Tradition dates back to the Middle Ages.

Companionship was intended to gain experience after years of training.

The Nazis prohibited it in Germany.During the Cold War, communist Germany did not allow it either.

Tradition is experiencing a new golden age.But it is only practiced by a handful of carpenters, roofers and stone tailors.

Swiss companions are most often members of the German association or the French association of companions.

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