Saturday, August 05, 2006

Case IN POINT By Joe Koester, Councilman Ward 9

Ten Years of Saint Charles Ludwigs-burg Sister Cities

St. Charles sent over several delegates to Ludwigsburg, Germany to celebrate the 10th anniversary of friendship between our two towns. Ludwigsburg made St. Charles the focus of this year’s celebrations, however, Ludwigsburg’s other sister cities were there to help commemorate the occasion and celebrate their own long-standing friendships that have been forged throughout the years. The French City of Montbéliard has the longest sister city friendship with Ludwigsburg and shares common history with them because this town was once part of the Württemberg Kingdom that had its seat in Ludwigsburg.

The Welsh area around Caerphilly and the Ukrainian town of Jevpatorija are Ludwigsburg’s other sister cities and all had delegates present to celebrate with us. Also, present was a delegation from a Czech city that is now interested in forging a friendship with Ludwigsburg too.

While it is unlikely that many of the German-Americans in St. Charles came from this part of Germany, it is nonetheless appropriate that our first sister city is German since our town probably has its largest group of settlers from there. As a side note, Stuttgart is the sister city of Saint Louis, just about 20 km from Ludwigsburg.

If you picture the lot of us strolling the alleyways in Germany and relaxing in cafes and beer gardens, then you’d have the picture quite wrong. Our entire week was scheduled for us with very little time for ourselves.

We went to several official events and heard plenty of speeches – sometimes in German, English, French, Russian, and Czech, and something that is changing in Germany is the weather. It’s hot — too hot for long speeches, but that didn’t deter the politicians. The German summer is quickly approaching our own summertime temperatures and humidity levels. Adding to the Missouri-like heat is the fact that many places are still not air-conditioned, including the lobby of city hall where we attended the formal ceremonies of our anniversary and presented our partner town a bronze replica of the Daniel Boone statue that we recently cast. The entire time, Fire Chief, Ernie Rhodes stood at attention in his dress uniform – smiling! After the first thirty minutes of speeches, I wasn’t smiling much. By the end of the third thirty minutes all I could think about was getting my necktie off and getting a glass of water. Ernie was still smiling and made us all proud. His uniform did make people stop and look and two drugstore clerks approached me to ask if he was with the police, fire, or navy. They thought he might be an admiral. Ernie spent some time with the German fire department of Ludwigsburg including going along for a call that turned to out to be a false alarm.

Several of us had an opportunity to visit some German businesses including, Ziemann, a world leader in brewery manufacturing. We also visited the porcelain plant where you could buy a cup and saucer for the bargain price of about $325. I bought a postcard.

Larry Muench was our photographer. Last I heard, he ended up with about 1,300 digital images. It was liberating not taking a camera along – anything you wanted a shot of, you could just ask Larry. One photograph you should ask to see is of Larry sporting his authentic Tyrolean hat complete with boar’s bristle.

Bob Kneemiller arrived a day later than the rest of us. He and his wife stopped off in London before coming down to Germany. They arrived in town still suffering sticker shock at the prices of things in England and at how lousy the dollar/pound exchange rate is. Several members of Sister Cities also came over including former Mayor Grace Nichols and her husband, John. The banjo band, “The Last Generation” played at every event, including a very pretty rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” at church. I couldn’t help but wonder if it had been the first time ever that banjos were played in the palace church.

The southwest state of Baden-Württemberg is a mixture of both Catholic and Lutheran churches that came about more because of politics rather than faith and conversion. The result is, many churches have a Catholic appearance, but in fact, are Lutheran. A high point for me was the trip to Maulbrunn, a Cistercian monastery from medieval times (1147) where Johannes Kepler and Hermann Hesse spent time. The entire setting is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. This monastery started out Catholic and the influence is still seen throughout the place. Only much later did the rulers Württemberg convert to Protestantism to expunge the influence of Rome from their domain. One such obvious Catholic influence that remains is the beautiful, solid-stone-carved crucifix. The work is all the more impressive once you learn that both the cross and Christ are cleft from one solid piece of stone but appear to be separate. The cross has been stained or painted to appear wooden.

Also, at Maulbrunn, one can see a famous fountain which Conrad Ferdiand Meyer wrote a poem about called, “Der Römische Brunnen.” This took me back to college days and Professor, Frau Goessl.

Of course, the most important part of any sister city doesn’t lie in buildings, but in the people. The Ludwigsburg townsfolk poured out hospitality to make us all feel welcome. Mayor Spec even broke out his accordion and played for us one evening.
Most of us flew back just in time to get hit by the surprise storm that caused us to land in Louisville, Kentucky and when we did reach Lambert, we had to sort our luggage out on the tarmac and walk through a completely lightless airport. Jerry and Mary Reese went on from Germany to Italy and the mayor flew home one day earlier. We all found rides home and presumably went to bed with the exception of Chief Rhodes, he went to work.

Visit Ludwigburg’s website at: