Twenty years ago, a chance meeting on holiday led to a lasting friendship between two walking clubs, the Stroud Rambling Club here in England and the Reutlingen section of the DAV [Deutsche Alpen Verein]. Annie met Joy and, as they got on so well and both loved walking,they had the idea of joint holidays between the two clubs.
The first invitation by the Reutlingen club was issued in 1998 and a group of 16 SRC members went by minibus and car to Reutlingen where they stayed in a hotel and were astounded by the warm welcome, hospitality and generosity of the German club members and also charmed by the beauty of the countryside, the Reulingen Alb.
A return invitation was sent and two years later a group from Reutlingen came to stay at the Slimbridge Youth Hostel. A pattern developed of visits every two or three years. On one of these visits, a group from Stroud did some hut to hut trekking in Austria, which was certainly a change from the gentle charms of our own Cotswold countryside. As Reutlingen is in Southern Germany, in the state of Baden Wurtemburg, our German friends were glad of the opportunity to visit the Dorset coast on one of their visits. Other trips have been spent in and around the hosts’ home towns, Stroud or Reutlingen.
In June this year, it was the turn of Stroud Rambling Club members to visit Germany. A group of 20 flew to Memmingen where we were met by our friends and 3 minibuses which quickly conveyed us to a comfortable hotel in the little town of Isny quite close to the Austrian border. Another member was enterprising enough to have organised his own travel by rail. We highly recommend this pretty, historic town, partly surrounded by the walls it needed when it was an independent ‘free’ city.
The region is known as the Allgau, a country of rolling sometimes wooded hills. But climb one of those hills and you may be rewarded with a stunning view of the Alps, just over the border.
We did climb several of those hills! Every day there was a choice of a shorter or a longer walk, led by our hosts. One day we went to Neuschwanstein where we saw the stunning fairy tale castle built in the 1880s by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Walt Disney based Sleeping Beauty’s castle on it. Unfortunately Ludwig’s story did not have a fairytale ending as he was drowned in a lake, possibly murdered.
Another day we climbed to an Alpine style hostelry where we ate to the strains of a brass band complete with alpenhorns.
On the last day we visited the lovely island town of Lindau on the edge of Lake Constance and then travelled over the border by boat to the Austrian town of Bregenz where we admired the opera house where the stage is actually set in the lake itself.
Although the holiday was full of wonderful experiences which we shall treasure for years to come, the friendship of our German hosts was the crowning pleasure.
We have invited them to come to England in 2020 and we have already started to plan for their visit.
So, although Annie and Joy are a little older now and no longer walk with their respective clubs, their legacy is still much appreciated.