Twinning visit to Trebbin July 2009
On 30th June, 23 members of the Bognor Regis Twinning Association set off for Trebbin, our twin town just south of Berlin, in the former German Democratic Republic. We flew with Easyjet from Luton to Berlin-Schoenefeld, and were enthusiastically welcomed at the airport by some of our friends from Trebbin. We were soon joined by the delegation from Weil am Rhein, our other German twin town, who had flown in from Basel, and hearty greetings with old friends were exchanged before we were all transferred by coach to Trebbin, where our hosts were waiting to meet us.
The following morning we were up bright and early, and assembled at Trebbin railway station to catch the new, fast service into Berlin. A guided tour through the ‘Unterwelten’ in the Gesundbrunnen area had been organised. These are old air-raid shelters dating from the Second World War, which stretch for quite a distance under the streets below the then undivided city. It was chilling to learn that you had to prove you were an Aryan before you were allowed in. The dark, dank corridors, with signs in old Gothic print and instructions for combating different sorts of gas attack eerily evoked a time long past, when the twinning friendships we now take for granted would have been unthinkable. Nevertheless, as our guide kept emphasising, there is a need to remember.
The Berlin area was sweltering under a heatwave, which the Trebbin Town Council turned to their advantage by holding their evening reception at Blankensee in the open air. Speeches were made, gifts exchanged and friendships renewed in a lovely summer atmosphere. The mosquitoes had a feeding frenzy too!
On the Thursday we set off by coach to Potsdam, where we were taken on a guided walk through the old city centre, and after lunch to Schloss Cecilienhof, a beautiful old mansion, built in English country-house style, where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in July 1945 to determine the future of Europe. Later on, back in Trebbin, there was a German-English Literary Evening. Poems by Wilfried Flach, a pastor from Trebbin, were read in German, together with English translations done by his friend, Derek Donaldson, from Bognor.
The following day, still enjoying the hot weather, we were taken to an exhibition of ‘Gardens of the World’, a green space which had been created in the rather densely built up Berlin suburb of Marzahn. Here we appreciated, among others, the peaceful symmetry of the Moorish garden, the oriental blossoms and buildings of the Chinese garden, and the symbolism of the Japanese garden.
In the evening it was the turn of the Trebbin Twinning Association to host a reception for us at the Parkhotel. As usual, the buffet meal was ample and excellent, and we were entertained by a local choir, as well as by the rendering of a new ‘Trebbin anthem’. Alas, it was already time to say goodbye to many of our friends from both Trebbin and Weil am Rhein, until our meeting next year in Bognor Regis. We would be spending the remainder of the time with our host families, who would be driving us individually to the airport on Sunday. Once again it had been a fantastic visit, with old friendships renewed and new ones made, excellent hospitality, and a varied and diverting programme.
The next day, Saturday, was free with our hosts, although several families had clubbed together to arrange an excursion to the Spreewald. Here we were punted in a ‘Kahn’ (a long shallow-bottomed boat), under darkening skies and overhanging branches, along the many little waterways through the forest. In spite of having to sit immobile under tarpaulins during a drenching cloudburst at one point, those of us lucky enough to take part found the trip into this unique terrain both picturesque and interesting, giving us an insight into the isolated and self-sustaining lives the remarkable people of this area had lived until relatively recently.