With a combination of young people and the young at heart, representatives from Ashford travelled to Bad Münstereifel to participate in the 2016 Town Twinning Civic Visit.
The early start was soon forgotten as we enjoyed the relative tranquillity of sailing towards Calais, bolstered by a full English breakfast. The excitement of those travelling for the first time was enhanced by amusing tales of experiences from stalwarts of this event, which continued as our coach, excellently driven by Angus, made good progress though the European countryside.
As ever, a warm welcome awaited us in Germany, and we were soon enjoying evening meals in the homes of our host families, experiencing the varied cuisine of the Eifel region.
The following morning, we were treated to presentations by students from the three towns on the subject of ‘Schools and Civic Twinning Partnerships’. Ashford was ably represented by six students from Highworth Grammar School with their teachers Duncan Beer and Susi Gerstlauer, and the young people showed great professionalism and command of the various languages. The event was augmented by some unique dance routines and musical acts by children of the German school and built on the good relationships that have been established between the schools of the twinned towns.
Having caught our breath, and with a quick change of clothing for some, we were whisked away to the unusual home and garden of artist and sculptor Peter Greven. We enjoyed the local delicacy of reibekuchen (potato fritters which have to be eaten in threes), and recognised that healthy eating resolutions would have to wait until we returned home. Peter’s exhibits peppered the garden, with such works as a tunnel to New Zealand, a spaceship, and the latest creation of a Trojan Horse. Indoors there were life-sized tableaux of rural life in the artist’s inimitable style.
Saturday morning saw us gather in the Rathaus to hear addresses by the mayors of the three towns. All of the speeches highlighted the close bonds that have been formed over the years, and in particular George Koowaree, Mayor of Ashford emphasised that in spite of political and economic issues that we are facing, the cooperation between us all, based on the friendships established over many years, will ensure that those bonds will remain strong.
The memorable and successful visit ended with the familiar tearful ‘farewells’ at the railway station, and the comfortable journey home enabled many to catch up on some overdue sleep.
Special thanks are due to our German hosts, to Gillian for the considerable organisation of the event, to the girls and teachers of Highworth for their hard work and commitment, and to all other participants who contributed so much of their time.