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55 years twinning between Aberdeen and Regensburg

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Speech by Lord Mayor Hans Schaidinger at the ceremony marking 55 years' twinning between Aberdeen and Regensburg, Saturday, September 25th 2010, 6.30 pm in the Imperial Hall


Ladies and gentlemen,

on November 25th 1955 two men named Clark and Collier arrived in Regensburg on a special mission.

They came to promote the idea of twinning Aberdeen and Regensburg - at a time when the deep wounds suffered during the Second World War had not yet healed and were still causing pain - in Britain too.

Aberdeen held out a hand of reconciliation and friendship, and became Regensburg's first twin town; those in charge in both cities at that time took a decision which was far-sighted and far-reaching.

Today, five and a half decades later, it seems that while the activities of numerous individual citizens have given rise to contacts and friendships within the framework of our partnership, a kind of invisible hand – behind the scenes - has made sure that the cities of Aberdeen and Regensburg have developed in a similar fashion.

The potential and promise for the twinning apparent 55 years ago remain strong to this day.

Bavarians and the Scots have a special role to play in their respective states. Both insist on keeping up their national identities and in preserving their unique heritage. This involves pushing their independence to the very limits.

The single-mindedness of both is legendary, as is their warm heartedness, hospitality and reputation for being sociable. And neither will ever pass up an opportunity for a celebration. All these qualities make Bavarians and Scots special. And both are proud of their way of life.

Neither let things get under their skin - especially not the clichés which circulate in such great numbers.

Of the Scots it is said that they achieve an enjoyable meditative state by imbibing a beverage made of malt and barley.

In this state they are able to coax heartrending, romantic melodies from sack- like instruments which draw ancient monsters from their lairs in the deepest lakes, or lochs. People are fascinated by these mythical beasts - but also intrigued by other issues, such as: Why does a Scotsman wear a kilt?

And what is worn under the kilt?

The Scots themselves decline to comment - not in order to perpetuate myths but because they are canny with everything, including information.

Bavarians have to put up with remarkably similar clichés. It is said that Bavarians are known to don archaic buckskin shorts on special occasions, and that they achieve an enjoyable meditative state by imbibing a beverage made of malt, barley and hops. In this state they are able to coax powerful, deep notes from mighty wind instruments consisting of long brass tubes. At full moon these sounds could draw a mythical beast from its lair, a beast resembling a cross between a hare, an owl, a marten and a fox. This creature - known as a Wolpertinger, and now unfortunately extinct - harboured an intense dislike of some tribes. Bavarians and Scots, however, were certainly not among them.

Anyone occupying a prominent position in the world is subjected to, and has to deal with, envy and mockery. In Bavaria our attitude is: we don't even bother to ignore it. I presume our Scottish friends think along the same lines.

This shared experience, this teasing endured by Scots and Bavarians alike, has drawn us even closer and strengthened the bonds between us. And these jokes at our expense have not had any detrimental effects on the development of our cities. In fact, in terms of development, our cities are also remarkably similar.

Aberdeen's economy is driven primarily by oil; in Regensburg the manufacture of premium class automobiles is a significant factor.

Aberdeen regularly hosts the UK's biggest alternative energy event – the All Energy exhibition and renewables conference - while Regensburg is home to two major companies which make extensive use of wind and solar energy.

In addition the City of Regensburg supports a cooperative renewable energy project which our citizens can be part of.

In Aberdeen biotechnology is a growth industry - in Regensburg too.

Here we had to extend our biotech incubation centre, the "Bio park", a second time in order to deal with increasing demand.

We cannot really compete with Aberdeen's impressive harbour but please allow me to point out that Regensburg's Danube harbour is the biggest and busiest in the whole of Bavaria.

In both of our cities universities play a highly significant role. These institutions train and school the highly qualified young people we both so urgently need in research and industry today.

Young people from our cities and the surrounding area do not have to move away in order to pursue an excellent education, nor do they have to leave after qualifying in order to find a job. Aberdeen and Regensburg are thus not only prosperous and successful business locations, but also young, thriving cities boasting a vibrant cultural life.

Our cities are rooted deep in history, a history still visible today in the built environment. This in turn makes Aberdeen and Regensburg attractive tourist destinations.

In 2006 Regensburg was immensely proud to be listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nevertheless some of our citizens cast a longing gaze northwards to Aberdeen because our Scottish friends have something denied us since the Mesozoic period: sea and sandy beaches.

Yet although there is a great number of astonishing similarities between our cities, and a strong political will to nurture and intensify the links between us – these factors alone cannot keep the friendship between Aberdeen and Regensburg alive.

Close contact between Aberdeen and Regensburg is the result of the efforts of numerous individual citizens who consistently work on developing new ideas and projects, thus strengthening the bond between us.

I would like to mention the most recent and current projects as examples of the work done these past 55 years:

Regensburg's Volkshochschule and City Library worked with partners in Aberdeen on a language learning project. Within the framework of the project, groups of senior citizens from both cities produced a book entitled "Connections", a collection of pieces recording personal post war experiences.

Just a few weeks ago pupils from one of Regensburg's secondary schools, Von Müller Gymnasium, took part in the renowned Aberdeen International Youth Festival, which attracts young artists from all over the world.

Among the events marking the 55th anniversary of our twinning are two exhibitions. These past two years, groups from Aberdeen and Regensburg visited and explored their respective twin city, documenting their discoveries in impressive photographs.

Last year the Aberdonians showed their photographs of Regensburg at Aberdeen Art Gallery. This year the Regensburg group is showing their images of Aberdeen here in the City Library, which is also hosting "Consequences", an exhibition of pieces by pairs of artists from both cities, working together on a specific theme. The fascinating results of this unusual collaboration have already been shown at the "Lemon Tree" venue in Aberdeen.

Last but not least, together with my esteemed counterpart Lord Provost Peter Stephen I today fired the starting gun for a special sports event marking our 55th twinning anniversary.

This afternoon a highly unusual cycling race between members of the German YMCA, CVJM in Regensburg and the YMCA in Aberdeen took place. Competitors on exercise bikes had to cover 55 kilometres in the shortest time possible – one kilometre for each year our cities have been twinned.

Of course bets were placed on the outcome. If Aberdeen won, I was to wear a kilt. If Regensburg won, my Scottish counterpart Peter Stephen was to wear traditional Bavarian leather breeches.

There were rumours that the Regensburg City administration was hoping our friends from Aberdeen would win, given the wager – the high stakes - involved.

Just how perfectly traditional music from both of our cultures harmonises was apparent yesterday at the Bavarian Scottish Dance Evening, organised by the City of Regensburg, Department of Culture.

Representing Scotland was the Halo Ceilidh Band - with us here now too - so a big thank you and a round of applause for the Halo Ceilidh Band, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the City of Regensburg I would like to say the following: we wish and we hope that the well- established links between our cities will be strengthened further, supported by new ideas and projects in the years to come.

But above all I wish - for both of our cities - that there will always be plenty of committed citizens, whether artists or pupils, sportsmen and women or teachers, members of clubs or national costume associations, rock musicians, senior citizens or members of the YMCA - willing to maintain our partnership. Everyone is invited to play a part, all ideas and efforts are welcome.

Of course we are delighted about every individual visit to and from our twin town.

All Aberdonians can be assured of a warm welcome in Regensburg.

Thank you, Lord Provost Stephen, for coming to Regensburg. It is your first visit, and I certainly hope it won't be your last. I look forward to welcoming you here again in the future. I know you support and promote twinning activities between our cities. I am delighted not only to have made the acquaintance of my Scottish counterpart, but to have found a new friend.

I am looking forward to spending an enjoyable evening in your company.

Allow me to quote a Bavarian saying, which sums up something important in very simple words: "Talking brings people together"

With these words in mind I hope that this visit from our friends in Aberdeen - and the time spent together this evening - will result in new contacts, and strengthen existing bonds between Aberdeen and Regensburg, between Scots and Bavarians.