Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pfalz on Tour: Visiting the Meisterschule für Handwerker

Kaiserslautern is located in the German state of Rhineland-Pfalz and today, as part of the district association for the area, some local institutions opened their doors for a behind-the-scenes look into what they do.

My friend and I checked out the Meisterschule für Handwerker, (Master School for Handworkers) which sits behind the Museum Pfalzgalerie. The Meisterschule is a technical school where students can learn many different arts and skills from auto repair to masonry to welding and it opened its doors to the public for an open house.

We were allowed to tour the grounds and watch students work. We saw some blacksmiths working metal over a fire; some future mechanics working on cars; and even saw some guys sitting on top of a wooden structure, doing an adult version of pattycake and singing their traditional song! It was really interesting, and very, very local.

We also talked to some people. Stopping by the welding room, we were greeted by one of the teachers. He asked my friend in German if he could answer any questions. She told him that we don't speak a lot of German but could understand. He promised to use his very best Hochdeutsch ("high German," or the official language; around here, many people speak Pfälzisch, which is a dialect, and can be somewhat difficult to understand for newbies).

We didn't get super far in German so the friendly teacher offered to speak English instead and gave us some interesting information. He said that the school teaches many different things and that anyone in Germany can attend, for free. There is no age limit; a 15 or a 65 year old can attend.

We thanked him for the interesting information and continued touring the grounds. I found a station where one can purchase a medallion with Kaiserslautern's crest on it. I handed over a euro and the teenagers heated up a metal disc and then stamped it with the logo. They stuck it in some water to cool it down, polished it with a brush, and handed it to me with a smile.

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Farther ahead, there was some singing. We came upon this wooden frame with men singing and doing an adult version of patty cake on top of it as it rotated. This was a traditional activity where the journeymen have their own traditions, such as songs and claps, depending on their trade. They also have particular colors and styles of dress, or Tracht. There's a lot more to the history of all of this; here's an article to read more.

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It's funny to see guys in traditional uniforms with tennis shoes!
After this, we took a tour through the masonry school. I especially liked the owl sculpture. Some of the stone plaques were for sale (though the owl wasn't).


Statue in process, with markings.
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It was a really interesting visit. Germany is renowned for its apprenticeship program that creates some highly skilled craftsmen. This was a wonderful experience to see where future journeymen are trained.

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