Guernsey Friends of Biberach

My visit to Schützenfest 2015 – Gloria Dudley-Owen

Biberach is a beautiful medival town that received imperial privileges in 1281.  Many imposing buildings dating from the 14th and 15th century are centred around the market square and include St. Martins church where Guernsey choirs, orchestras and music groups have performed since the founding of the Friends of Biberach group.

I always have great pleasure in visiting this beautiful town and meeting up with friends.

The “Schützenfest” folk festival has been celebrated since 1650.  The main event is the Historical parade.  Thousands of children, adults, and musicians dressed in medieval costume and hundreds of horses from the district take part.  Decorated wagons show case the weaving, tanning, brewing industries that helped make the wealthy trading town important.  Today vibrant industries such as biotechnology, heavy industrial plant manufacture, farming, and forestry contribute to its dynamic growth.

Another parade over the week long festival is dedicated to schools, when the children   dress to reflect a theme.  The children love the attention and have great joy and pride in their imaginative costumes, that they have made themselves.  Vibrant, and enthusiastic German bands lead school groups.  They pass along the winding town streets watched by thousands of people.  The horses pulling the traditional wagons appear to be unfazed by the cacophony of noise.

Early this year I received an invitation to walk in the town’s birthday parade along with my German year group.  Hundreds of people, ranging from 50 – 100 years old take part.  A lively band precedes each walking group.  Many people line the streets of the town and step forward from the huge crowd to give garlands of small gifts to friends.

I found it very emotive and carried both the flags of Guernsey and Biberach in recognition of the friendship that were formed and evolved out of the difficult wartime memories and experiences for both many of the 1000 Guernsey Deportees and local towns people.  My mother had a close friendship with a German lady who showed great kindness to her when they were in hospital for the birth of their baby boys during the war.

I was also born near Biberach and left Guernsey as a teenager to live with this family for a while.  I made many friends and grew to appreciate the culture of the closely-knit Swabian people.  The countryside and forests were so different from my life of beaches and seaside in Guernsey.

It was with this in mind that I was eager to make sure that our friendships would continue into the next generations and we took our daughter and 3 of our young grandchildren with us, aged 9, 10, 12 with us in order for them to experience a different culture and to make friends with the children of the Koch and other families.

The children fell in love with the place.  The atmosphere of the festival and the hospitality of the people seemed endless.  They made many friends and all hope to return.

The Guernsey Friends of Biberach was formed after the reconciliation of 1997 and invitation from the town’s mayor to the deportees from Guernsey to visit Biberach.  Many private friendships and exchange visits had already been in place since the 1950s.

We met and chatted to many people who have visited our island, either as private travellers or as part of the groups organised by the Biberach Friends of Guernsey.  Everyone we spoke to was very enthusiastic and only wished that travel to Guernsey was easier.

Our group welcomes islanders who might be thinking of visiting Biberach to contact me We can help facilitate meetings and give information on the language courses or cultural events such as the forthcoming “Guernsey Week”, being put on by the town in October.  Our young “ambassadors “ from Guernsey schools will also be visiting Biberach schools during this time, as will other speakers.

Gloria Dudley-Owen
Chair of Friends of Biberach
[email protected]

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