6 – Woodwork in Šumava and the Bavarian Forest

The village of Dlouhá Ves, founded in the 13th century, experienced an unusual level of development after the local estate was purchased by the Schwarzenberg House. According to a contract dated July 12, 1800, prince Josef Schwarzenberg bought the Dlouhá Ves estate for 95 thousand golden pieces and immediately joined it with the recently purchased Prášily estate, making Dlouhá Ves his seat and keeping Prášily as an administrative centre for forestry. The chief reason for the purchase of the Dlouhá Ves estate was to gain a large storage area for wood extracted from the border forests as well as land desperately needed by the loggers, rafters, and other workers required for timber floating. According to the estimates of Ing. Rosenauer, all that work would require the labour of 312 workers, and Josef Schwarzenberg thus began the construction of 22 semidetached houses for 44 families in 1803. This new part was referred to as New Dlouhá Ves, so as to differentiate it from the original buildings in Old Dlouhá Ves. Qualified workers were sourced primarily from Bavaria, as well as Tyrol and Styria. Each new inhabitant was given a home, a barn for two cows, young cattle and poultry, as well as a shed in front of the house. They were also given half a hectare of garden land to own plus a hectare and a half of land to rent. In return, the settlers had to work as timbermen and accept no other employment. Based on the origins of the settlers, the new builds were referred to as Bavarian houses, or ‘Bojerhäusla’. Even a century later, local inhabitants spoke in a different dialect to the people of Old Dlouhá Ves. Their customs were different as well. Even by the era’s standards, they led hard lives. After finishing their spring work in the fields, men with their wives, children, cows, goats, chickens, dogs and cats set off towards the 35 kilometre distant mountain forest. The men would then leave their quickly built forest cottages every day to do hard labour, while their wives and children prepared food and took care of livestock. In the summer, the women would retorn to Dlouhá Ves to harvest hay from meadows and grain from fields. After this work was done, they had to return, carrying heavy loads, back to the forest. One woman, Theresia Anger, would carry half a hundredweight of flour and a six-month-old child all the way from Dlouhá Ves to Březník (Pürstling), a nine-hour journey. Over the years, woodworker’s settlements sprung up in the woods and were named them, for example Hetzendorf, Josefsstadt, Golihütten, Schoußlhütte or Bartlseppnhütte. After the wood was extracted, the settlements were abandoned and soon engulfed by the forest. Women would return home at the end of autumn, while men would get ready for the ‘winter train’. The wood extracted during the summer would get carefully towed on a sleigh towards floating streams.
When the snow began to melt, the wood was floated down towards the big storage station in Dlouhá Ves, where it would be pulled out, sorted and gathered together. In this intermediate storage facility, the logs were left to dry out, thus preventing great losses caused by sinking of the soaked wood. As the Prague railway started facilitating coal transportation in the mid 19th century, timber floating slowed down and was eventually stopped completely. However, given the lack of other transport routes from the forest regions of Poledník, Ždánidla, Roklany and Luzný, timber floating remained untouched there until the Second World War. The annual extraction in those years numbered around 80 000 m3, approximately 30 000 of which was transported via the water. In years of calamity, such as in 1931 when gales and hails caused a lot of damage to the forest, the numbers climbed up to 131 000 m3, the biggest amount of wood ever extracted, floated and pulled out at the storage station in Dlouhá Ves. For the villagers, this extraordinary annual load was welcome seasonal work. The transportation of sold wood from the storage station to the train station in Sušice was facilitated by the local farmers’ waggons, as well as the prince’s waggons.
After the abolition of serfdom in 1848, the people of New Dlouhá Ves wanted to register their leased and promised 1,5 hectares of land in their own name. This resulted in a years-long dispute with the prince’s administration. The people of Dlouhá Ves eventually ran out of money, and a majority thus had to reach an agreement with the administration. Only twelve of them continued with the dispute and eventually lost. The losers had to give up 250 square meters of the land surrounding their homes in favour of their neighbours who were willing to reach an agreement with the prince. They were also no longer allowed to work in the prince’s forests and thus became unemployed and impoverished.
The golden days of timber floating were over, the workers were no longer needed and had to find new means of employment. Given the growing industrialisation, Sušice saw the rise of two match businesses (Fürst and Scheinost), three leather businesses, and a shoe factory (Schwarzkopf). Every day, people walked the four kilometeres to Sušice in their ‘Neischln’ (wooden slippers). As their wages were low, they spent their time at home making match boxes, being paid 6 crowns per 1000 pieces. Adult workers would work 12 hours a day, excluding 2 hours of journeying there and back and their work at home. Older children at home often had to pull the plough, or even the waggon during harvest season, either because the cows were being saved for milking, or because they could simply not be led out of the forest. The four to six meters long rope was split at two meters so each end could be pulled by two people.

The abovementioned Neischln were made in Old Dlouhá Ves by Willibald Müller from house no. 103, among others. His nephew, a local native Willi Jung, describes their production in the Šumava yearbook ‘Böhmerwäldler Jahrbuch 2006’: “As almost everyone knows, we truly used to have an abundance of wood here in Šumava. At the same time, we also had a lot of people who simply could not afford a pair of leather boots. Here the wood came in quite handy, as it was possible to create shoes, so called ‘Neischl’, out of it. These shoes had the added benefit of being much more practical to work in than leather ones. That being said, they had to be made out of carefully selected fir wood, well grown and without any branches.
House no. 103 in Old Dlouhá Ves (Alt-Langendorf) – the house has the same number to this day – was home to one such ‘Neischl-Werkstatt’, or clog workshop. My uncle Williband Müller, known as ‘Binder Willibald’, knew his craft well. During the weekends, he would make such clogs for his own use, as well as for his friends and family. My father Rudolf Jung, known as ‘Jokuberl Rudolf’, took up the hobby as well, making ‘Neishln’ for himself and his family. The bottom was made out of wood, the top out of cowhide. However, the craft also required various tools. A small axe, a small saw known locally as ‘Sagl’, a chisel, a drawknife, a hollow knife and of course a workbench were all necessary. Cowhide for the top as well as special nails were also part of the process. All tools had to be well sharpened, requiring a large hand grindstone with a handle that we, the children, would be allowed to turn. This brought us a lot of joy and allowed us to pick up a couple tricks of the woodworking trade, in which we could take a small part.
To begin with, 35 to 40-centimetre-long pieces of wood were cut with the small saw and then chiselled down to boards that measured 10 centimetres in thickness and 20 centimetres in width, forming a crude shape of the Neischln. The size was determined by the size of a pre-drawn foot. The heel was cut down with a saw, the drawknife was used to roughly work the bottom and the round chisel to carve out the space a foot. The hollow knife was used for fine work and details. Finally, special small nails were used to nail down the leather. The edges and tarsal area were further reinforced with leather strips, so as to prevent tears in the leather and achieve higher longevity of the product.”