Sunday, 07 August 2022

You’re beautiful, twin

THE Mayor of Bled praised Henley’s beauty during a visit to mark the twinning of the two towns.

THE Mayor of Bled praised Henley’s beauty during a visit to mark the twinning of the two towns.

Janez Fajfar said his stay at Leander Club was one of the highlights of a two-day trip which culminated in the signing of the official twinning charter on Monday night.

He said the union with Henley was a “great honour” and he hoped it would strengthen links between the towns.

Mr Fajfar said: “I think Henley is the most beautiful town you can go and visit, especially with the people, of course. What I see in the first instance is continuing the rowing link and secondly in encouraging all kinds of culture exchange. You have lots of societies, we have lots of societies and there are lots of sports to try.”

About 100 invited guests attended the ceremony at the town hall, including Andrew Page, the British ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia, Iztok Jarc, the Slovenian ambassador to the UK, Renata Cvelbar-Bek, from the Slovenian embassy, Eva Stravs Podlogar, director of the Bled Tourist Board, and Jernej Slivnik, secretary to the Slovenian Rowing Association.

Other guests included Lord Camoys, who is deputy lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Janet Carr, chairman of SouthOxfordshire District Council, and Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton and head of an all-parliamentary group for Slovenia.

Leander Club captain Debbie Flood, Paul Budd, general manager of Leander Club, and Mike Sweeney, chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, also attended.

Deputy mayor Stefan Gawrysiak formally proposed the signing of the charter, a motion which was seconded by Councillor Pam Phillips and passed unanimously.

Henley Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin and Mr Fajfar both signed two copies of the charter, which states that the towns agree to develop a “firm foundation for future understanding, respect and friendship between the citizens of Henley-on-Thames and the citizens of Bled for all time”.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy sealed the charters and the Slovenian and British national anthems were played before the mayors exchanged gifts.Cllr Hodgkin was presented with a glass plaque engraved with Bled’s shield and Mr Fajfar received a framed photograph of the group which was taken by a Standard photographer at a dinner at Leander Club on Sunday.

He also received a print of Henley Regatta, an abstract painting by Raul Dufy, which is on display in the River and Rowing Museum.

Bled, which is Henley’s third twin town, has many similarities to Henley.It is strongly linked to rowing because the Slovenian national team trains there and it has an international music festival similar to the Henley Festival.

Cllr Hodgkin said: “I believe there has been a link waiting to happen. I have heard from rowers who went to Bled as far back as 1966 when Great Britain took part in the world rowing championships.

“Links have been forged by Henley people with many having visited this beautiful town over the years to holiday, to ski and to compete on the lake. The obvious link is rowing but this will be just the start.

“They really want to extend a hand of friendship to us. Our next stage is to make sure that it is sustainable and we forge greater links.”

The signing of the charter was followed by a civic reception and a return river trip to Hambleden lock on board Waterman, courtesy of Hobbs of Henley. Jonathan Hobbs, managing director of Hobbs of Henley, said: “It’s the most famous stretch of river so we wanted our guests from Bled to view the splendour of the Thames scenery. It was a nice finale to the trip.”

Mr Fajfar arrived in Henley on Sunday and stayed in the Brown University room at Leander Club for the duration of his stay. He said the accommodation was “fantastic”, adding: “I even had a teddy bear in my room.”

“I think there’s no other place in the world where you can stay in the middle of a historic building still engaged as it starred in rowing. It’s a fantastic mixture, the people are very pleasant and the food is perfect.”

Mr Fajfar spent most of Sunday afternoon visiting the Red Lion Hotel, Angel on the Bridge and Phyllis Court Club, where he had stayed in two previous visits, as well as a wedding fair at the museum. The Slovenian delegation attended a dinner at Leander on Sunday with members of the twinning steering group as well as Flood and vice-captains Tom Wilkinson and Chris Bartley.

On Monday the group took a boat trip on Enchantress, an umpire launch used by Henley Royal Regatta, from Leander Club to Hambleden lock. They were then given a tour of the museum and had lunch.

Mr Fajfar, Ms Stravs Podlogar and Mr Slivnik were given a tour of The Henley College by principal Tom Epsley, accompanied by Cllr Gawrysiak. Ms Podlagar gave a presentation about Bled to travel and tourism students.

The group then enjoyed a traditional afternoon tea at Hotel du Vin before leaving the following day.

A group from Henley, including Flood, two junior eights from Henley Rowing Club and Upper Thames Rowing Club and civic dignitaries will visit Bled in September.

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