IT was our turn this year to pay a visit to friends, members of the “Henley
IT was our turn this year to pay a visit to friends, members of the “Henley club” in Leichlingen.
We set off early on May 1 to catch the Eurostar from St Pancras station.
We met up with two other members in Brussels and in the afternoon caught the predictably punctual local rail service to Leichlingen where we were met by our hosts and Gabi Vesper, chairman of the Henley club.
On Saturday morning we were welcomed by Frank Steffes, the new Mayor of Leichlingen, at a gazebo that had been set up in the middle of the market square. The Saturday market is a new initiative of his and all the stalls had been decorated with German and British flags.
Mr Steffes made a speech of welcome in English. Patrick Fleming, our chairman, replied in German and presented the Mayor with a 1934 picture of the start of the Grand Challenge Cup, with Leander racing Princeton at the end of Temple Island.
Toasts were drunk to both the British visitors and the German hosts and the Mayor promised to visit Henley with the group next year.
There was nothing scheduled in the afternoon, so hosts and guests had time to explore the local countryside and to spend time together.
Sunday morning saw an early start and we travelled by coach to a small town on the Rhine just south of Bonn. There, we boarded a comfortable and spacious vessel and set off upstream. The river was very busy and we marvelled at the traffic.
We had never seen such huge barges, each with almost 200 containers aboard.
We also had beautiful views over the city of Bonn and its suburb Bad Godesburg, where we were surprised to see a game of cricket being played.
The turning point of our trip was the resort town of Koenigswinter, under the beautiful Drachenfels.
The speed at which we returned was astonishing thanks to the powerful flow of the Rhine.
The second part of our trip was to a museum in a converted chapel.
The theme was barrel organs, street organs and mechanical means of playing early recorded music.
The principal exhibit was a large, white decorated grandfather clock incorporating a music box. This had been given by Fredrick the Great to his principal maker of bells and cannon.
The owner and curator of the museum devoted an hour to explaining and demonstrating the various items in his collection. On our return trip to Leichlingen, we stopped for supper at a former water mill, now a restaurant specialising in pancakes.
The bank holiday Monday was a normal working day in Germany, so we left early by train. This gave us the opportunity to spend the morning shopping and sightseeing in Cologne before returning by train to London.
Our thanks are due to our generous hosts, particularly Gabi and Reiner Vesper, Wilfried Keil, who organised the trip in Germany, and our chairman for the travel arrangements and for selecting the picture that we took as a gift to Leichlingen.
In particular, I would like to thank Patrick and Jenny Fleming, Peter Stone and David Dickey for their help with my luggage and getting me on and off trains.
We look forward to a return visit from the Henley club next year, when we will try to reciprocate their hospitality.
The Henley-Leichlingen Twinning Association is now more than 30 years old. There are regular meetings during the year, opportunities to practise the German language and talks on topical subjects.
For more information, please call Patrick Fleming on 07733 026906, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.henleytwinning.co.uk