Anyone who is familiar with the village of Obertilliach knows that the traditional small houses in the village centre are listed buildings and are predominantly clad in wood. The close proximity of the houses is what makes the hamlet unique and gives it a special charm.
Back in the old days, however, this traditional construction method harboured a great danger: fire!
In times when a fire in the oven, candles and lanterns were the only ways to produce light and heat, the fear of fires was great.
The night watchman made it his business to allow the villagers to sleep peacefully at night and kept watch over “fire and light”. He made his rounds of the village at night, loudly singing his night watchman song, which went something like this:
“Peasants and gentlemen listen to what I have to say: the hammer of the clock has struck eight o’clock. Take good care of fire and light so that God and our Lady may protect us for it has struck eight o’clock: Praised be Jesus Christ.”
The people of Obertilliach are keen to preserve their customs. Thus, the night watchman still makes his rounds today. However, he is rarely alone: curious tourists from all over the world like to accompany him on his rounds. As they do so, a pleasant chat and a Schnapps in one of the village taverns is a must.
Once a week the children do the nightly rounds in Obertilliach: dressed in small coats, and carrying halberds and lanterns, the youngsters set off together with the night watchman.
After over 20 years in office, the long-serving night watchman Helmut Egartner retired in 2021. He was a welcome guest at many international conferences for night watchman and tower watchmen and was himself the host of such an event in Obertilliach in 2017. Following in his footsteps is Josef Lugger, who continues the tradition with passion.