The German festival of Pfingsten coincided with the annual get-together of the Ross and Betzdorf Twinning Associations. This year it was the turn of the Ross Association to visit Betzdorf which lies in the Westerwald Region of Germany just east and south of Cologne. It is a beautiful area with lush river valleys and woodland and small towns and villages. Many of the houses are decorated with slate which is cut into many shapes and made into the most beautiful patterns.

The visit started with a coach trip to Dover, a short ferry crossing of the Channel and an overnight stop just outside Ghent in Belgium.

After an eventful onward drive on the Friday that included a major congestion, two serious accidents and the closure of the normal exit from the motorway, the 29 members on the coach arrived in Betzdorf at about 7-15 to a rapturous welcome from their host families.

The following morning dawned warm and sunny and two more members, who had travelled independently, joined the Civic Reception at the Town Hall. The Ross visitors were given a warm welcome by the Burgermeister, Herr Bernd Brato on behalf of the Betzdorf Town Council. He emphasised the value of the many warm friendships that have developed over the years. This warm welcome was underpinned by the presence of at least eight Betzdorf Town Councillors. The Ross Mayor was represented by Councillor Phil Cutter, who responded to the welcome with greetings from Ross Town Council and the Leader of Herefordshire Council.

Herr Brato presented Councillor Cutter with a framed artwork that incorporated the names of prominent “Twinners” from Ross and Betzdorf. It had been put together in the shape of Betzdorf’s administrative region. In return Councillor Cutter presented the Burgermeister with a bottle of Herefordshire Vodka. At the end of the speeches the gathering was amazed when several members of the British Royal family came into the room to greet everyone and wave before they rushed back to Windsor in time for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They were of course visitors wearing Royal masks.

The wedding was a major event in Germany and most of the Betzdorf hosts rushed home to watch it on TV.

On Saturday evening all the Twinners enjoyed an excellent meal at a Betzdorf hotel, followed by a performance by a local amateur group of actors and singers. They very soon got everyone into the mood of things with songs from musical shows. During the evening the two Chairmen, Bram Nash from Ross and Birgitt Wichmann from Betzdorf exchanged gifts.

Sunday was a day for the guests and hosts to really get to know one another with small informal gatherings, meals and sightseeing and discussions take place, usually, as is the German custom, over Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee and Cake - it’s wonderful!).

On the rivers Rhine and Moselle there are many fairy-tale castles and on the Monday one such, the Castle Burg Eltz on the river Moselle was the destination. The castle has been lived in by the same family for 800 years. It is full of beautiful artefacts, paintings, suits of armour, furniture and carpets. After the visit to the castle the day continued with a meal in the beautiful town of Cochem on the banks of the Moselle. After a short boat trip on the river it was time to climb back aboard the coaches and return to Betzdorf, tired but happy.

Tuesday morning soon dawned and everyone gathered at the Betzdorf Fire Station where, after the traditional hugs, kisses and handshakes, the Burgermeister and all the Betzdorf Twinners took part in the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” (there is no German translation) and the long journey back to Ross began.

All the Ross contingent agreed that this had been a wonderful visit and on the return journey ideas for the 2019 visit to Ross were bandied about. The Committee will be busy.

The Ross Association has just held its AGM at the Eagle Inn, Broad Street. Chairman, Bram Nash reported that the past year had been an eventful and busy one with numerous social and fund raising events. The membership had grown slightly but he would like to see a few more younger members.

The current committee was re-elected En-Bloc, as follows. Chairman:- Bram Nash, Secretary:- Sam Phillips, Treasurer:- Konrad Holleis, Minute Secretary: Christine Cutter, Social Secretary: Thelma Phillips, Ross Town Council Rep: Phil Cutter. Committee members: Rochelle Nash, Nick Milton and Elizabeth Holleis.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Twinning with Betzdorf can contact the Secretary on 01989 563874.