The basket-weavers of the Donaumoos fen were both famous and infamous. If you’re wondering why – carry on listening!
In the first half of the 19th century, the Grillheim neighbourhood in Karlskron attracted the first basket-weavers’ settlement – later joined by another in the “am Bichl” quarter in Karlshuld. The families lived in small houses built on cheap plots of land.
They made big baskets for the hop harvest, panniers and market baskets. One speciality was a bowl-shaped basket of any size, known locally as a “Wanne”, a tub. These were so closely woven that the farmers could even use them to transport coarsely ground grain. We have various examples on display here. The basket-weavers specialised in producing splint baskets, since the farmers themselves made wicker baskets – the ones with the round withies, or willow rods.
But there wasn’t enough work for the basket-weavers locally, so every spring, they went on the road in groups of up to 40 men, women and children, and travelled through Old Bavaria offering their hand-made wares. Covered two-wheel carts carried any essential personal belongings.
The police took a dim view of these travelling folk. The basket-weavers always carried the tools of their trade – large bodkins – so they were regarded as knifemen. They were regularly jailed – for scrumping apples, or grubbing up potatoes from the fields, or stealing wood from the forest.
But the stories that have come down to us from the police records focus on the negative. On the plus side, the basket-weavers were industrious, did good work and were welcome visitors. The farmers would offer them food, drink and a bed for the night. Without that support, the basket-weavers’ families couldn’t have survived.
Now, it’s time for you to go on the road as well – and head for the open-air museum.