Filton twinning trip

Published on: 18 Sep 2013

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When members of Filton Twinning Association paid a visit to Witzenhausen in Germany last month, the Brothers Grimm, castles, parades and a very warm welcome all added up to a magical trip. Doug Daniels reports.

When Filton twinned with Witzenhausen little was known of this historical German town. Yet through an involvement with engineers working on Concorde at Filton it brought about a long-lasting friendship that has stood the test of time. Commencing 34 years ago it continues to flourish still.

Age held no barriers in making the first visit. It was arduous travelling the distance but the welcome received at the end of it exceeded all expectations. Even to this day it is looked upon with pride. We are lucky to have twinned with such a delightful town. It was an early morning start for 37 members, embarking on this twin town visit.

A Dover ferry crossing diverted via Dunkerque (France) it included an overnight stop-over at Aachen (Germany) both outward and on return. If memories were in any need of jolting then the unscheduled halt at Mohnesee to walk over the Mohner Dam – dramatically breached in the “Dambusters’” raid provided it. Powerfully impressive yet placid to the extreme, it has a delightful setting.

Predictably our arrival at Witzenhausen High School was a sea of hugs and kisses. Friends created now seem attached to our families, so endearing had they become. Comprised as we were of varying age groups it was a delight to have with us 11 young people with their leader, Debbie Teml, of St Andrew’s Youth Club. Preferring to camp rather than stay with families they are no doubt our future and I am sure family links will be formed.

A meeting with twinning officials emphasised the presence of these young people on our visit. While all travelling were individually self-funded it is hoped that whenever necessary acquired funding could be used to assist them. The whole essence of “twinning” is linking up with families. It is of value, educationally as well as enlightening, and a pleasure.

The pre-eminenent factor on this visit comes from displaying the virtues of this delightful German town and its surrounding district. It was emphasised by a visit to the Berlepsch Castle – a look back in time followed by a hog roast: food for body and mind. The visit coincided with Witzenhausen’s Erntefest – a parade through the town is a delight to watch. Filton joined in dressed as “Tennis Stars”, highlighting the UK’s eminence in that field.

The presence of Witzenhausen’s Mayor Angela Fischer at most events was especially welcome. She portrays considerable enthusiasm in all she undertakes. Accompanied by a varied presentation of bands and considerable crowds the festival had a delightful opening. It was delightful to greet the Mayor and accompanying officials in the Town Hall (the Rathaus) later.

The evening of entertainments in the Festival Tent, a huge marquee, is a feast to behold. Delightful entertainment. It was a “command performance” where the whole town virtually attends. A weather vane, superimposed with Concorde, was Filton‘s gift to Witzenhausen in their delightful park while St Vallier (France) rolled out a selection of “cobble stones”. It drew instant humour.

Yet it was symbolic derived from St Vallier’s river bed – the Rhone – it complimented a delightful garden. A little bit of France on German soil. For most who accompanied the visit to the twinned town, the excursion to the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, in nearby Kassel, was a wonderful experience in their famed museum Brothers Wilhelm and Jacobe owe their famous “fairy tales” to an aunt who inspired them in their earlier years. They later became masterpieces in their own right. The story of their influence on Germany’s literary eminence was expertly described by our knowledgeable guide. Believe it or not, he spent some of his university training ... in Bristol!!

A truly heartening ecumenical service at their open-air church on the hill characterised the togetherness of this excellent visit. Bands playing traditional music, in particular Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory, made me feel quite at home. German tunes also were delightful and I am aiming to acquire them. And at the end of it all was a lovely meal in a Bavarian restaurant on Kassel’s outskirts.

This twin town visit had the “hallmark of excellence” And as we said good bye in outstanding surroundings it had the semblance of “togetherness”. It has continued for a considerable time and will remain with us always. And finally, I need to say thank you on behalf of Filton for Witzenhausen’s hospitality.

To my own hosts, Maria and Renate Kulle and their family along with Goldie the goose. She quacked appreciatively at my presence (I interpreted it that way). Also to Mayor Angela Fischer and councillors for their special welcome, along with all the other kind hosts. You made it a really special occasion. Also to Carole and Bernard Duckett of Filton Twinning Association and Debbie Teml of St Andrew’s Youth Club for all their really hard work in getting our trip together. “Auf Wiedersehen” to everyone! A truly wonderful twin town visit. We will meet again I hope... soon.

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