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BAD GODESBERG GROUP'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

23rd - 27th SEPTEMBER 2013

Two weeks ago, our president, Linda Johnston, and I had the honour of being invited to join the Bad Godesberg group's 50th anniversary celebrations, alongside with fifteen  ladies from St Cloud and two delegates from other circle groups. Just like in St Cloud last  May, this was a very momentous occasion, celebrated in great style!

On Monday evening, an Welcome Reception was held at the "Haus an der Redoute", a beautiful Art Deco villa next to the Town Hall. Surrounded by modern paintings - an exhibition was due to start next morning - we were welcomed by our German friends with champagne and a warm message from their president, Karin Weiss. The cold buffet, prepared by our hostesses, was as delicious as it was attractive!

The formal celebrations started on Tuesday morning with another champagne reception at Hotel Dreesen, a beautiful hotel on the river Rhine. While a young chap played the circle's national anthems on a trumpet, we were welcomed by the Mayoress of Bad Godesberg and the German group's president, Karin Weiss, who opened the celebrations. Karin offered as a present to all the guests a short history of their group since its creation in 1963. The presidents of the other groups then offered congratulations, messages of greetings and presents, culminating with a garland of Mozart balls sent by the Salzburg ladies. We left the reception rooms to the sound of Beethoven's 9th on the trumpet and were escorted into the dining room for lunch. What a view! In front of us opened the beautiful panorama of the Rhine, with its green hills and castles! In a stylish ambience, we were treated with a wonderful 3-course lunch, local wines, coffee and chocolates to die for.

After this, a walk was desperately needed, and we visited a little village called Muffendorf with lots of lovely cottages. We returned to the Adult Education Centre, for the inauguration of the new French Petit Discourse on the life of Georges Sand, which looked amazing! In the evening, several hostesses took their guests to  Bonn, for a twilight stroll and supper in a brasserie called Bonn Gout. Then we were off to bed early as we had a very early start next day (we had to get up at 5 am GMT!).

On Wednesday, our German friends had arranged a day trip to Aachen or Aix la Chapelle, Charlemagne's imperial capital and the most influential centre of culture in Europe in the 8th century. Crowed King of Franconia and Emperor of Rome in 800, Charlemagne was the first emperor to unify Western Europe after the fall of Rome.

The first stop was the Aachen Town Hall, an impressive neo-gothic building built on  Charlemagne's palace foundations and restored ever since is a number of styles.  Each year since 1949, in the Peace Hall, a European personality is awarded the Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, for outstanding contribution to the unification of Europe. The founders of the EU as well as our PMs Winston Churchill and Edwards Heath were amongst recipients.

In the afternoon, we went on a guided tour of the Aachen cathedral, a magnificent building where Charlemagne and numerous other German-Roman kings were crowned. The cathedral, a UNESCO heritage site, houses many unique medieval treasures, such as the original octagonal cupola and Charlemagne's marble throne, dating from 800, a golden Pala d'Oro (1020), Barbarossa’s chandelier (1165), the gold shrine of Charlemagne (1182) and the gold shrine of St Mary (1220).  As a result, during the Middle Ages, Aachen became and remains one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage, on a par with Rome, Jerusalem and Compostela.

On Thursday morning, we visited the Adenauer Foundation, situated in the  village of Rhondorf, not far from Bonn. This houses a permanent exhibition on the life and work of Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of Germany after WW2. Here we found out that Adenauer, a leader of the Centre Party, was mayor of Cologne from 1917 to 1933 where he was instrumental in modernizing the city. He resigned in 1933 when Hitler came to power and spent some time in hiding. He and his wife were arrested before the end of WW2, and she died soon after her release.

After the war, Adenauer became the leader of the Christian Democratic Union CDU party and won the first post war elections in 1949 with full majority. He became good friends with Charles de Gaulle and established a lasting reconciliation with France, culminating in the Elysee Treaty and the Franco-German steel and coal consortia that would form the basis of the EU. In the garden, in honour of this friendship, there is a real size statue of Adenauer with De Gaulle. In 1955, to the delight of the German public, Adenauer travelled to Moscow where he managed to negotiate the repatriation of 10,000 prisoners of war from USSR. After 1949, he was elected Chancellor three more times, during which he established a stable democracy in West Germany.

Adenauer did not want to move to Bonn, so this modest hillside villa built in 1930s, where he lived with his wife and children, was extended with a garden room and a conservatory to house his many treasures and mementos of his political life: decorations, photos, books and presents from other statesmen, including paintings by Churchill and Eisenhower. When he died at the age of 91, Adenauer requested that the house is kept untouched and that his heirs use it each year at Christmas.

The Thursday trip concluded with a lunch at a local beer house, followed by a trip on a cog railway to Drachenfeltz, a folly on top of a hill overlooking the Rhine, from which we had wonderful views of Bad Godesberg, Bonn, and Cologne in the distance. In the evening, we were invited for the final "dinner en famille". My hostess and I went to the apartment of a couple that collected British antiques and spoke fluent English. We were treated once again to some wonderful cosmopolitan food, and to my delight, after a week of listening to guided tours in French, the common language round the table was English.

So next day, after waving "auf viedersehen" to our German hostesses and friends, we returned to London with wonderful memories and new friends.

Like the St Cloud group's anniversary in May, the Bad Godesberg group's celebrations were well planned and well organised; their hard working committee and members had put in a lot of effort in order to make the week a resounding success. Well done, ladies of Bad Godesberg!

Michaela Howard, MWGEF VP, October 2013

 


 


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