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Thursday, October 31, 2013
Situated in Germany’s Eifle national park, the picturesque town of Bad Munstereifel is a very popular destination for holidaymakers, but also boasts strong links with one Kent town, as Greg Miles found out.
They both nestle in the rolling hills of beautiful countryside, but that is where comparisons end when juxtaposing Ashford and Bad Munstereifel.
For a start, the hills in eastern Germany are more akin to mountains rather than the North Downs around the Kent town.
The picturesque spot in the middle of the Eifel national park is surrounded by pine-coated rolling mountains rather than jagged peaks offering some of the most beautiful sights in the country.
The spa town in the district of Euskirchen in the Eifel mountain range, is just over the border from Belgium and has been twinned with Ashford since 1964.
Its association with Ashford aside, Bad Munstereifel has always been a popular spot for holidaymakers from Britain, and with Germans looking for a relaxing weekend away, with many of the town’s spa-related hotels and the outdoor adventures in the national park attracting visitors.
Although the formal twinning will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, the association stretches much further back than that.
Their history dates back to World War One when British troops occupied the town in 1919, under the command of a Major J Goode.
It was his brother-in-law, John Wiles, who later became Mayor of New Romney in 1946.
Six years after Wiles’ appointment, he arranged a goodwill journey to the Rhineland, with Sir Winston Churchill as patron of the trip, and the Mayors of Dover, Sandwich, Hythe and Deal all present among the delegation.
That visit, which took in many German towns including Bad Munstereifel, was the start of the German-British youth exchange.
The idea was to give young people from both nations the chance to get to know each other while staying with host families on three-week exchanges.
The link with Ashford only became more prominent after John Wiles resigned as New Romney mayor and moved to the town, which meant most of the youngsters involved came from Ashford. He was later declared an honorary citizen of Bad Munstereifel in 1961.
Two years later the partnership went some way to becoming official with 300 German and British young people attending a reception in Ashford, with the formal twinning agreement signed on August 26, 1964.
Ever since, the exchanges have carried on with gestures including a massive block of stone originally from the Eifel unveiled in Ashford’s town centre.
Ferdinand Lethert, the long-time president of the youth exchange, was awarded for his work with an OBE from Queen Elizabeth and was also made an honorary citizen of Ashford in 1986.
Bad Munstereifel might be in Germany, but it is much closer than you would imagine, with Ashford’s close proximity to the Channel Tunnel and Dover’s ferry crossings.
With traffic on your side the journey is driveable in just over five hours, and if you want to break up the journey there are plenty of stop-offs to be had on the way with Brussels, Bruges and Ghent well placed on the route through Belgium.
The town itself is steeped in history with its medieval ramparts and walls dating back to the 13th century. It certainly has all the hallmarks of what you’d imagine ‘old Germany’ to be like.
Unfortunately the castle, Burg Bad Munstereifel, that accompanies the well preserved city walls was badly damaged by the troops of King Louis XIV of France in 1689 – it now houses a restaurant.
Timber-framed buildings stack up along the high street with quirky shops making for interesting viewing. There are also a number of cake shops selling the typical mammoth portions of delicious local makes and bakes.
There is even a red post box and phone box to make you feel at home if you’re travelling from these shores.
Being in the middle of the Eifel mountain range, there are no shortage of natural springs, which led to it becoming a spa town in 1926, which meant it took on the Bad (bath in German) part of its name in 1976. There is also the beautiful river Erft which runs through the middle of the town.
The town is also home to bleached-haired German pop legend Heino who has owned a restaurant under his own name in the town for a number of years.
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