Moye! (Good morning in the regional dialect!). We had our first day of school today. It was very nice to see the students together speaking German and English. Especially nice was hearing about their weekends and exciting adventures from the Middle Ages Market to their visit in (hmmm) Bitche, France, and their funny stories about cultural differences between our two countries. Mrs. Schäfer and Ms. Buhr took the students and me on a tour of the school and explained the history of the various building. We then met this afternoon at the city hall and were received by the mayor of Blieskastel, Mrs. Faber-Wegener, as well as the Gesellschaftsdame (ladies companion) of Marianna von der Leyen, the wife and countess of Count Franz-Karl der Leyen for whom the city is named. This aristocratic family moved their residence from the German city of Koblenz to Blieskastel, where they established a orphanage as well as other social services for the less fortunate in the area. Today’s city hall occupies the orphanage that once was. Franz-Karl, who died at the very young age of 39, passed on the reign to his wife, as his son at that time was a minor and ineligible to rule by himself.
Mrs. Faber-Wegener also brought us up to speed on the current status of the city, for which the inhabitants of Blieskastel should be proud. Blieskastel has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, which means several things: 1) The city must have special permits when renovating buildings, making sure to keep them in the style in which they were built 2) The city has been recognized for continuing to develop homegrown products (honey, jam, fruits/veggies, etc.) and keeping with traditions.
The UN has also recognized the city as a biosphere reserve. This means that it features “a high degree of spatial and histroic complexity whin a relatively small area, simultaneously in abiotic, biotic and social respects.” The mayor mentioned how proud she was that her town has been recognized as a “slow city” – a recognition from Italy for being a town that does not include fast-food or other such restaurants that mimic a “fast town”, i.e. USA, Canada, etc. where such food is available overall. This information was interesting to the students and me, especially because we had never heard of such towns. I’m certain they will gain some new perspectives as a result.
Pretzels and were offered at the end of the presentation as a symbol of mutual friendship. The mayor stressed before we left the importance of our exchange program and the life-changing opportunities they will encounter in the next several weeks. Please see some pictures from today: