This year’s annual visit to our twin town of Waldbröl was held from 27th – 31st May 2017.  27 members of the Association left Witham early on the Sunday morning to travel by coach to Germany.  As always we were warmly welcomed by our hosts when we arrived in Waldbröl that afternoon and treated to a refreshing glass of beer while new members of the group were introduced to their host families and old friends caught up.

After spending the first evening with our host families, the group were invited to visit an outdoor museum at Lindlar the following day.  With traditional buildings which have been collected from across the local area and moved to the 25 hectare site, the visit gave every one a real taste of local history in a very picturesque and pleasant setting.  All the buildings had their own story to tell whether they were the homes of local people or the local industry and craftspeople, from the rope works to the saddlery to beekeeping!  On the day of our visit, we found that there were also dozens of stalls selling plants, crafts, food and leather goods which meant there was lots to see and do for every one!

That evening we were invited to join our hosts at the social evening at the community centre at Wilkenroth which has now become a traditional part of such visits.  The evening provided a friendly and informal environment for the residents from the two towns to catch up over good food and of course another beer!

Monday’s visit took us further afield to the town of Bonn.  After a pleasant but hot walk from the River Rhine to the city centre in the morning, we took a little persuading to join in a pub crawl in the afternoon.  However we were pleased we did!  Our guide was brilliant and spoke perfect English.  As well as some very funny jokes, we were treated to lots of tales about famous old pubs in Bonn, many of which were former meeting places for Karnival or even for German Chancellors.  As the former capital of West Germany, there was of course plenty of interesting facts about German history as well.

On the final day of this year’s visit, we went to Duisburg.  Located in Germany’s industrial heartland, it seemed appropriate that our hosts had chosen a disused ironworks for the visit.  The former industrial site has been converted into a museum and recreational area which is popular for conferences and festivals.  For the second time in as many years, we witnessed how creative Germany can be with its industrial heritage – last year we went to a Gasometer which had been converted into an exhibition space.  This year the old gasometer, which is at the centre of the recreation area, had an even bigger surprise in store – it is now being used as Europe’s largest man-made diving centre where divers can float 13m down to the bottom and explore a unique underwater landscape complete with a shipwreck, aircraft wreck and an artificial reef!  While we admired that from a safe (and dry!) distance, most of us did manage the walk to the top of the viewing tower which has been converted from an old blast furnace.  With 275 steps to reach the top, it offered a magnificent view of the surrounding area!

The following day it was time to say a big thank you and “Auf Wiedersehen” to our friends as the coach made its way back to Witham.  We look forward to welcoming them for the return visit to Witham towards the end of the Summer.