At the end of September a group of 15 members from Worcester set off for Kleve at 5am.

We stopped at the services on the M40 near Oxford, just as dawn was breaking over the horizon and our speedy arrival at Dover meant that we could catch an earlier ferry.

However, we were delayed by heavy traffic in Antwerp and Eindhoven and were delighted and relieved to see our host families in Kleve at around 8pm.

Petra was our guide on Tuesday and we travelled by coach across the border to Holland for a visit to the Museumpark Orientalis near Nijmegen. We had a wonderfully informative guided tour, experiencing three religions and cultures of the Middle East.

First we explored Beth Juda, the Jewish village and learned about the houses, synagogue, food and articles of everyday use. We saw the cave, depicting the type of stable where Jesus was born and a carpenters house, which was likened to the home of Joseph and Mary.  

Next, we visited Omani, a small fishing village, which reflected the Islamic way of life. We entered the suq, the mosque and enjoyed a glass of hot tea in the house, while learning about Arabic food, trades and traditions.

Then we saw a Roman street in Jerusalem, with an inn, house and shops. The Palace of Pontius Pilate. was in the main square. We walked briskly around the garden, before hurrying back to the café to shelter from the pouring rain.

On our return to Kleve Petra had arranged a short stop just before the border at Groes Beek. She then gave us a guided tour of Kranenburg and like the pilgrims over the centuries, we made a visit to the Catholic church of St Peter and Saint Paul. We could not resist stopping for coffee and cakes at the Konditorei in the square!

The following day we had an invitation to meet the Mayor in the new Town Hall. Karl-Heinz translated the speeches and gifts were exchanged over coffee and biscuits. We were then free to spend time with our host families until the social evening at the Wasserburg, a Catholic education centre in the nearby village of Rindern, where we were warmly welcomed by the Director, Kurt Kreiten.

Thursday was a public holiday (Day of German Unity) and we were treated to a two hour relaxing cruise on the Rhine from Rees to Wesel. Here we crossed to the ancient railway line and took the train (no longer steam) to the old waterworks. At 4pm we were boarding our ship, Germania, for the return trip to Rees. Of course coffee and cakes and beer were served on board!

The last morning was spent in the Airborne museum in Oosterbeek, near Arnhem in Holland and Petra was once again our guide for the day. The weather was stormy and the museum was busy, but the exhibitions depicting scenes from the Battle of Arnhem were fantastic. Between downpours, we visited the Portrait Exhibition outside, dedicated to the heroes of the Battle of Arnhem on the 75th anniversary. Prince Charles, in his capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment also came here two weeks earlier to pay tribute to these heroes and to watch the 97 year old veteran join the mass parachute in WW2 Battle of Arnhem memorial.

In the afternoon we visited one of the oldest castles in Holland, Schloß Doorwerth, which is indeed very impressive. Before dropping off his passengers in the town centre, our excellent coach driver, John, drove us to the German War Cemetery on the outskirts of Kleve.

We departed for Worcester on Saturday morning. The delegates from Worcester would like to thank Karl-Heinz, Petra and the other organisers in Kleve for all their hard work ensuring that our visit was a great success and of course our wonderful host families for looking after us so well.

A special thank you also to Margaret, our Liaison Officer and John, our driver, who made sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.