Home Maidenhead Exchange Visits Maidenhead Visit to Bad Godesberg 2017


24th – 28th April 2017


Two weeks ago, full of anticipation and excitement, twelve of us flew from Heathrow to Cologne-Bonn, for our exchange visit with our friends in Bad Godesberg.

We were met at the airport by Maria Woite and travelled by minibus to Bad Godesberg, where we were met with a warm welcome by our hostesses, many whom we recognised from other visits. After lunch in a nearby restaurant, we made our way to our lodgings for a well deserved postprandial rest.

On Monday evening, a Welcome Reception was held at the beautiful home of Margret Pauels, south of Bad Godesberg, where we were welcomed by Hildegard Saul, the group's co-president and many old friends. The cold buffet, prepared by our hostesses, was as delicious as it was attractive! Coffee was served in a collection of antique cups of different shapes and sizes - to everyone's amusement!

On Tuesday, we were driven to Konigswinter, where we had a private tour of the Siebengebirgs Museum, a local history museum which covers this Romantic stretch of the Rhine. To our amazement, we found out that this area was made famous by British travelers on their Grand Tour in the 18th C, when Konigswinter became a tourist resort. By far the most important visitor was Lord Byron who visited in 1816 and wrote Childe Harold's Pilgrimage here.

We then rode up the Drachenfels, the most famous of the seven mountains, on Germany's oldest single track cog railway, built in 1883 to take visitors to the Drachenfelds Castle ruins and to see a wonderful panorama of the Rhine valley. In the afternoon, we visited Drackensburg Castle, a fortress-like castle completed in 1884 for a local baron and used as a villa for summer vacations. With its beautifully paneled rooms and stained glass windows, it resembles a High Victorian edifice. This wonderful day unfortunately ended with a big shock for everyone: coming down the staircase, our president Anne Home slipped on the steps and badly injured herself. Emergency services arrived promptly and took our president to the University Hospital in Bonn, where unfortunately, she remained for the rest of the visit. That evening, rather subdued, we all attended lavish dinner parties in our friends homes.

On Wednesday we had an early start in order to travel by coach down the Rhine Valley, beyond Koblenz. Our day started with a guided tour of Marksburg, the famous mediaeval cliff-top castle on the Rhine which has never been conquered or destroyed.  Originally built in 1260, in Romanesque style, it had large windows and round arches, a draw bridge and other three massive gates, and a medicinal garden in the bailey. Later on, a medieval level was added in with a Great Hall, huge kitchen and even a privy - a luxury in medieval times!

Inside the castle on the first floor were the wine cellar, kitchen and refectory where servants lived and worked. On the upper floor lived the Lord's family: tiny bedrooms, a chapel and a Great Hall with a large table for banquets. On the ground floor there was also an armoury, a torture chamber and a stable for horses. The castle battery had cannons from Napoleon's time, but these have never been used in battle!

After a delightful lunch in the castle's tavern, we travelled to Koblenz where we boarded a small boat for a cruise on the Rhine. We went up and down the Rhine and the Moselle and then stopped on the Niederwerth island, which is an independent river community of 1300 inhabitants.  Here we visited the beautiful church of St George, a little gem built in 1256. In 1275 the church became a beguinage, but the clergy didn't like that women could organise themselves so they were moved forcefully to a convent. The Augustine monks were moved here instead and became powerful making beer and wine. During the reformation, the monastery was closed and the church became part of Koblenz. Heavily bombed in December 1944, it was reconstructed and the stained windows (saved elsewhere) were reinstated.

Thursday morning we gathered in Bad Godesberg at  "Haus an der Redoute", a beautiful Art Deco villa next to the old Town Hall. Surrounded by modern paintings - an exhibition was due to start next day - we were welcomed by the Lady Mayor of Bad Godesberg, Mrs Stein-Lucke, with a drink of bubbly and a warm message. Her speech was about European friendship - she hoped that our groups would continue after Brexit! Our vice-president, Mary Stock, responded with charming speech.

The reception was followed by the presentation of our Petit Discours, "The Islands of Great Britain", given very professionally by two of our delegates and well received by our German friends.   The afternoon was free and many of us walked round the historical centre of Bonn or by the Rhine promenade.

The Farewell Dinner at was at the Rheine Aue restaurant in Bonn. We were served beautiful food, artistically presented and a nice selection of wines. The dinner ended with our Thank you speech given by our vice-president.

So next day we said "auf viedersehen" to our German hostesses and travelled back to the airport, where we were delighted to meet with our president. We arrived back in England safely and with some unforgettable memories.

Michaela Howard, May 2017



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