Two cultures became a friendship

On a return visit to friends in Leiria and Trakai

“Here, young people from two countries and two cultures met and a European friendship developed.”

Klara and Alina

In 2016, two youth groups travelled to Portugal and Lithuania as part of the 20th anniversary of the twinning. The respective programmes were designed similarly to make it easier to recognise what the twin towns have in common and what is special about them in comparison with their own town.  Of course, there are differences. For example, the small group travelled to Trakai without a travel companion. There, they were warmly looked after by the partner committee and the hosts. Josephin and Mara explored Trakai with its beautiful moated castle and learned a lot about history and culture. They particularly enjoyed the cepelinai, a Lithuanian speciality.

Together they also visited the old town of Vilnius, which is a World Heritage Site, and an estate with its beautiful park.  In the centre for the disabled, which Trakai created as an exemplary social institution with the help of Bernburg, Borne, and Rheine, they made wattle flowers and honey wax candles. And at the youth centre, they had a lot of fun playing games. Romualda, who is responsible for the exchange in the Trakai partner committee, sees the spontaneously expressed wish to go to Trakai again immediately as the nicest compliment.

This also applies to the large travel group. They were warmly welcomed in the town hall of Leiria. Goncalo Lopes, as Deputy Mayor, acknowledged the importance of the youth exchange for the European idea and thanked Lisete Pereira and Isabel Almeida by name. He would like to expand the exchange. Leiria, crowned by the royal castle, the world-famous monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaca, the Moorish fortress of Obidos, the rocky Atlantic coast with Nazare and Lisbon impressed the young people. They also learned about history and culture on excursions with their host families to Fatima and Coimbra, for example. In the evenings, they enjoyed the Portuguese way of life around the campfire.

That the exchange was enjoyable became apparent when they said goodbye. It was rarely so emotional, explained Petra and Jose Azevedo as tour guides. The host parents spoiled everyone with typical regional specialities.  When a film of the exchange was shown, there was no holding back emotionally: “Unforgettable the experiences, the new friends, the second family, we miss all that”.  Others added, “we made friends in such a short time” and “the exchange must definitely continue.” Klara and Alina concluded: “Here, young people from two countries and two cultures met, and a European friendship grew out of it”.