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A friendship lasting 70 years between Bristol and its German twin city of Hannover is being celebrated this year by the cities’ rowing clubs, Bristol Ariel RC and Ruderverein Linden. One of the oldest twinnings between Britain and Germany, links between the two cities began shortly after the Second World War in 1947, during a bitter winter with children in Hannover struggling to attend school because they had no shoes.
“It is lovely to have a friendship with a German rowing team, kindred spirits through a sport”
After learning of their circumstances, people in Bristol began collecting shoes, which were taken to Hannover by a goodwill mission from Bristol.In 1981 links were founded between the cities’ two rowing clubs as part of a friendly sporting exchange, and since then athletes have travelled over to compete with their rivals every other year.This year it was Ruderverein Linden’s turn to visit and, back in October, they joined rowers from Bristol Ariel Rowing Club, racing a testing 3km course along a beautiful twisting stretch from Hanham to St Anne’s.Following a procession of exhibition races, the Ariel and Linden crews battled to the line, with the Bristol boat narrowly taking the victory and the Bristol-Hannover Challenge Cup. Geoff Lester, Bristol Ariel’s club president, said how proud he was to welcome their friends from Hannover back to the club on the 70th anniversary.“We became involved about 36 years ago after getting a phone call out of the blue from the Bristol-Hannover council saying they had some German rowers coming over and [asking] if we could accommodate them. “It has become a really exciting, long-standing arrangement with many good friends having been made.”Some who attended the first exchange are still actively involved, with at least one wedding having come from the visits over the years. Ariel’s oldest member, 93-year-old George Evans, who served in the British Army during the Second World War, said how “brilliant” the event was as a bridge between two communities.“It is lovely to have a friendship with a German rowing team, kindred spirits through a sport, and we have had a very good morning today.“Wars are a terrible thing. Ordinary people don’t want wars and people on both sides were just ordinary people. I married a lovely German woman and lived there for several years after the war and all the people I met in Germany were very, very nice.“It is wonderful to see this is still the case.” Karl-Jochen Riehm, the exchange’s organiser in Hannover said it is one of the best and most popular parts of being in the club.
“Everyone who wants to be a part of it always want to be a part of it again,” he said.“It takes weeks, even months of preparation to organise everything but it makes it really fun. It’s one of the real outstanding parts of the friendship between the two cities.” Riehm was born 12 years after the war, but said that he grew up learning of the generosity of the people from Bristol and admired the bond that came from it.“Personally, I am really proud to see the rowing clubs continue the whole thing,” he said. “I remember when I started with the exchange in the late ‘80s, everything was sponsored by the cities. But as soon as Hannover couldn’t sponsor it anymore, it fell apart. The rowing club has kept it going out of our own pocket.”