Visit from Notre Dame de Gravenchon - 12th April – 16th April 2017
We were pleased to welcome 56 friends from Gravenchon for this year’s visit, including a number of families with children. Since this was the 50th anniversary of twinning with Gravenchon we ensured that it was extra special.
The visitors arrived late on the Wednesday evening, after severe traffic holdups, but were soon welcomed into the houses of friends new and old.
On Thursday we all set off for a day in Longleat using two coaches. Everyone enjoyed the visit because there was so much to see and delight all ages. Highlights were the Safari, the train, le bateau, the house, the maze, the small animals and the lunch! Everyone seemed to enjoy the traditional sausage and mash, which was served promptly, during two sittings. Although it was a long day people had enjoyed themselves and went home with new memories.
Friday was a day with families and also a chance to relax. The evening saw the Dinner and Dance. A large party of volunteers helped to decorate the Meadway Hall at Compton Dundon, so that the gold 50th anniversary was to the fore. Previously a working party had prepared golden stones, decorations and super photo boards. With excellent catering from Kathleen Fewings, and dancing to TJ it was a wonderful evening.
We were delighted to present a Michael Cooper painting to Bernard and Grace to thank them for their leadership and to mark Bernard’s retirement from the position of Chair at the end of this 50th year. Speeches and gifts were exchanged. With our French partners, we gave a clock with views of Street celebrating the anniversary and each family had a small clock engraved on the front.
On Saturday everyone met in Merriman Park to plant a tree in commemoration of the 50th anniversary. Committee members have woked very hard through the summer to keep it watered and it is looking healthy.
The Parish Council provided a Games Afternoon and Barbecue at the Victoria Club. In mixed teams there was healthy competition in skittles, football, rounders and team games. The evening ended with a barbecue and desserts all provided by members of the Parish Council. More speeches of thanks were made before a final disco.
Sunday morning was the time to say goodbye – until next year when we travel to France for the completion of the 50th celebrations. I hope you have all booked your place!
Visit to Isny August 25th to 30th 2017
The German twinning group has just returned from another successful visit to Isny. This time we have managed to increase the number and age range of those travelling and 25 of us were met by representatives of our hosts at Basel airport ( after a short period of confusion as we discovered there were exits into both France and Switzerland at the airport). Travelling Bristol to Basel proved a very good option for us as the flights were very good value and efficient and on time both ways. Basel is further from Isny than Munich airport, the more usual destination, but the generosity of our hosts turned this into an opportunity for us to see more of Germany and they made our long travelling days into part of our holiday.
After meeting us at the airport they had planned a route stopping at the magnificent Rhinefalls and then driving along the northern shoreline of Lake Constance. Of course as always they didn't want us to have rumbling stomachs and plied us with pretzel buns and drinks soon after meeting us, and with cakes and coffee later in the day served from the coach, ably assisted by the coach driver.
On arriving in Isny we were welcomed by the mayor at a short reception before dispersing with our host families. This year we took a wall hanging that had been made by members as our present to the town which was very well received.
Isny had chosen this weekend for our visit as it was the occasion when ' Isny Macht Blau', a traditional celebration of the former flax industry. A blue carpet strip runs through the town which was decorated and lit with blue inflatable designs and spotlights at night. There were numerous varied entertainments and stalls beginning with late night fireworks on the Friday. Some of us managed to stay up to see them despite our 4 am start that morning.
Saturday began with a guided visit of Isny and the day continued until midnight as we sampled a wide range of events and music.
Sunday was a welcome calmer day spent just with our host families who had organised a variety of trips for us e.g. boating on Lake Constance, hiking in the mountains to the sound of cowbells, tobogganing etc. Talking to our group later, everyone had spent a day that suited them and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our fourth day was another very early start as we drove north to the walled medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We were given a guided tour of this old and interesting town before having lunch. After which, we had time to stroll through the town on our own, walk along the wall, try 'snowballs' (a local pastry consisting of plaited sweetened dough), drink coffee and visit the places that most interested us, before returning to the coach.
We should mention another highlight of this trip which was stopping for a toilet break en route and finding wonderful space age toilets with toilet seats that revolved and cleaned themselves after use. (see Claire for an action shot of a revolving seat) Another reason we shouldn't be leaving Europe; we have so much to learn!
After this long day out we were able to have a slower start for our last day which was spent locally. We began by visiting the Prefigerbibliothek, a old library in a small tower of the church. If anyone thought this would not be especially interesting for them, they changed their minds as soon as they had climbed up the narrow twisting stairs to the small turret room where we were shown amazing old and precious books by an excellent guide, including a 16th century atlas containing a map of Somerset. We were then treated to an excellent lunch outside in the sun by a lake before most people joined a visit to a local factory making hunting guns. A few others visited a nearby hat museum which was very interesting and which had many parallels with the development of our shoe industry.
Our final day finished with a dinner altogether with our hosts and with the Mayor and representatives from the other Isny twinning partnerships. Our hosts dressed in their traditional costumes of dirndls and leather trousers. After a very tasty meal we listened to short presentations from the French, Swiss and Polish twinning representatives about their experiences of twinning. This proved to be a very moving and fitting end to the evening as it reminded us in a timely way of the benefits of twinning.
The modern concept of town twinning was conceived after the Second World War in 1947 and was intended to foster friendship and understanding between different cultures and between former foes as an act of peace and reconciliation and to encourage trade and tourism.
It was particularly moving to hear of the first tentative approaches from Isny to France and Poland at a time when the scars of the war were still evident and to hear that they were welcomed with open arms. Once again it reminds us how hard people have fought for peace and unity in Europe since the Second World War and why we need to continue to foster our connections with Europe.
We were up early the following day for the long drive back to Basel. Our hosts had allowed for 3 hours sightseeing in Basel and our party used the time to do a variety of different things. Some visited the Art gallery, others headed down into the old town and to the banks of the Rhine and others just enjoyed coffee and cake and relaxing, but we all agreed that it was an added bonus. Our flight back to Bristol was speedy and we probably arrived quicker than our hosts who had a slow drive back to Isny due to heavy traffic.
This was another excellent exchange visit. It was longer than usual (6 days compared to 4 last time) and we were a bigger group with a much broader age range, the youngest being 9 and the oldest over 80. It was noticeable how helpful the guides and coach drivers were and the effort our hosts made to make us feel comfortable, particularly for the new twinners. We would like to put on record our sincere thanks to our hosts and to the town of Isny for their warm welcome and the generosity they showed toward us and we look forward to their return visit next year.