Residents and leaders from the cities of Saline and Lindenberg, Germany, celebrated 10 years of international friendship and partnership Sunday during a reception at Saline City Hall.
A small group of people from Lindenberg, home to the location of Liebherr Aerospace, are visiting Saline and Michigan as the communities celebrate the 10th anniversary of their sister city relationship. At Monday's reception people learned more about each other's communities, friends shared memories and city leaders exchanged gifts.
Lindenberg Mayor Johann Zeh said the sister city relationship means more than visits to one another's city.
“Tourism is often consumption that doesn't change preconceived ideas. We've learned people from Saline and Lindenberg know each other and have common interests and goals,” Zeh said, adding that he hoped that he hoped student exchange trips also continued. “People have learned about every day life in other countries, what moves people, what concerns people and what makes them happy. Naturally, these days through the media and internet, we are very well informed. But there is nothing that can replace these personal impressions and conversations.”
Mayor Zeh and Mayor Brian Marl exchanged gifts. Marl presented Zeh with a watercolor painting of the Rentschler Farm Museum. The painting, by Saline artist Keith McGuire, depicts the former farm of one the many German families who farmed in the area. Marl also presented Zeh with a pen.
Zeh presented Marl with Lindenberg's new flag, which depicts the city's signature building, the Church of St. Peter and Paul. The new flag commemorates the city's 100th birthday, though the region traces back its history back to 857.
Former Saline Police Chief
For many years Lindenberg was known for hat making. Peter Feind, a Liebherr executive who leads the Saline-Lindenberg Friendship Committee, presented Mayor Marl with a felt black hat made by Mayser at its Lindenberg facility.
Saline and Lindenberg residents will reap the benefits of this relationship for years, Feind said. He pointed to exchange student Regina Muller, who is staying with the Smyrnis family and attending Saline High School. Muller plans to study hotel management when she completes high school. Speaking English and being familiar with Americans will help her in her chosen field.
“In this business speaking very good English is a mandatory prerequisite. In Saline she will improve her knowledge of English and, in addition, make some friends in the United States. I think this is a great opportunity for her,” Feind said. “Outcomes like this are beneficial for both of our countries.”
Saline High School students Kanella Smyrnis and Natasha Meinecke spoke to the gathering about their experience when visiting Lindenberg.
“We had a wonderful time in Germany and especially in Lindenberg. It was truly an opportunity of a lifetime and we're so thankful to have had this opportunity given to us,” Smyrnis said.
Meinecke they were transformed into global citizens because of the experience.
“It showed us a different culture and the beauty of Germany. One of our favorite parts was going to festivals and seeing how people came together even in rough times,” Meinecke said.
Though the governments have officially signed documents to “twin” the cities, it is the people who travel and the people who open their homes who build the relationship.
Hubert and Jutta Nagel are visiting Saline for the second straight year.
“Saline is a nice town. And now we have friends here,” Jutta said. “We like to see our Saline friends when they visit Lindenberg or when we come here.”
Jim Roth has been to Lindenberg several times. He's also visited Saline's first sister city, Brecon, Wales. He got involved with the Saline-Brecon Friendship Guild in 1967, a year after the cities were twinned. He got involved with the sister-city program because he believed peace would prevail if people were given the opportunity to become friendly. It's a belief he's had since he was a kid, and he made a teacher unhappy when he suggested that the people in the Soviet Union were not bad people.
“Meeting people in their homes is just fantastic. I've worked with our friends in these countries for many years. We've eaten with them and talked with them and solved problems with them. And it's all for the benefit of creating better understanding of each other,” Roth said.