In my short time as a member of ATA I have hosted 3 couples from our twin towns, and I was very excited when the opportunity arose to visit Bad Münstereifel in return.

Our coach journey traversed 5 counties and for the first time in my European travel experiences, a check-point was in place when crossing between France and Belgium. The result of the events in Paris last year, and a reminder of how accustomed we have become to the usual ease of moment inside Schengen. The journey continued into dusk until the twinkling lights of Bad Münstereifel, nestled picturesquely in the Erft valley, came into view around 5pm.

My hosts Bernhard and Elizabeth were unable to accommodate me at their home on this visit and instead had kindly arranged an apartment for me to stay in. By chance this was located on Fougèresstraße and right opposite one of the signs celebrating the twinning triangle. After a meal and catch-up together I settled down to sleep and wondered what adventures lay ahead.

The first was in the form of a neighbour felling a tree in his garden and we were invited to help with the process. The tree surgeon himself was American, although wearing a Canadian t-shirt. There was also a Polish man, three Germans and of course myself representing the English. So it was that the Bad Münstereifel International Tree Surgery Confederation was formed. Following a great deal of debate to establish if the tree would be landing on our heads, we successfully guided the thing down, narrowly missing a house on the left and 3 children on the right – just as planned.

A day trip to Aachen took place which included a guided tour of the city. Naturally, we sampled the health-boosting hot sulphuric egg-smelling spring water, met the ‘Bahkauv’ (legend suggests this beast used to jump on the back of drunken men and make them carry it home), and of course sampled the famous ‘Printen’. Most of the group travelled back laden with edible comestibles from the Christmas Market, however I was gleefully clutching my haul of 7 perfectly fitting trousers. Germany is one of the few countries in the world which actually produces clothes akin to my awkward bodily dimensions, so I could not miss the opportunity to avail myself with some new dressy pants.

Bernhard and Elizabeth have an unrivalled knowledge of Bad Münstereifel and its surrounding, and so I was treated to a non-stop and fascinating tour of the area. These included the massive 100m Effelsberg Radio Telescope, the Freilichtmuseum Kommern open-air museum with its examples of historic buildings from the region, and even a peek inside one of the famous gates that surround the town.

One evening we decided to depart from physical artefacts and explore the digital and audio-visual delights of our respective countries. YouTube provided an insight of comic clips, famous sunglass-clad local celebrities, and Fawlty Towers - embarrassingly the first episode to pop-up on Google was “The Germans”, however laughter prevailed.

All too quickly the weekend came to a close, but not before we enjoyed a splendid meal at Oertels Restaurant known as the Kaur House (with said local celebrity dining adjacently). A visit from Saint Nikolaus and a gift of jam preserve for myself and the other newbies concluded the evening, and sadly the trip.

I very much look forward to our upcoming visit to Fougères, and of course, welcoming our twin town friends back to Ashford many more times in the future.

Written by Matthew Forest

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