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Residents heading to Wesel, Germany

June 18, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner will lead a group of 21 area residents to Hagerstown's Sister City, Wesel, Germany, on Wednesday.

This is the 50th anniversary of the Hagerstown-Wesel affiliation, and groups from each city will visit the other this year.

Breichner said establishing the affiliation was "pretty progressive back then," considering that just a few years earlier Germany was a World War II enemy.

"The whole process was a healing process," Breichner said.

Continuing the affiliation has helped develop an understanding of the people and culture between the two cities, he said.

"Sometimes our ties outside Hagerstown are limited," Breichner said.

Having this affiliation with Wesel has helped broaden our view of the world, he said.

"The cultural exchange has been very worthwhile," he said.

City Building Inspector Mike Heyser, who will be making his third trip to Wesel, said he has been able to get to know the people of Wesel, not just see the tourist sites.

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"You see how they live and they see how you live. You get to see how they are different and how they are the same," Heyser said.

For example, he said, in Wesel people generally live closer to their place of work and bicycles are their main mode of transportation.

"They have cars but they don't use them as much as we do," he said.

Breichner said the trip also is interesting because Hagerstown and Washington County have a German heritage.

"Jonathan Hager was German," Breichner said about the founder of Hagerstown.

The local groups heading to Germany include some city employees and business owners. All but the mayor are paying their own way.

The City of Hagerstown is paying Breichner's $1,059 air fare to Europe, said city Assistant Finance Director Ray Foltz.

The group will be in Europe until June 26, Breichner said. While there, group members will stay with host families.

Breichner said that during their visit they plan to attend a welcoming ceremony at Wesel's city hall, an opening ceremony for an exhibit on the history of the Hagerstown-Wesel partnership, and they will go to a museum.

Hagerstown and Wesel delegations generally visit with each other every two years, taking turns as the hosts.

Breichner said a group from Hagerstown last went to Wesel four years ago. That group was led by then-Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

A group from Wesel was in Hagerstown two years ago. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Sister City affiliation, Wesel will send another delegation to Hagerstown Oct. 17 to 21, Breichner said.

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