Abingdon is twinned with four European towns; Argentan in Normandy (France), Lucca in Tuscany (Italy), Schongau in Bavaria (Germany) and Sint-Niklaas (Belgium). The Vale of White Horse, Abingdon’s administrative area for local government, is also twinned with Colmar in the Alsace region of France. The Band has been fortunate to make several visits to its twin towns, as well as a successful tour of Luxembourg.
The most memorable visit to Argentan in France was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day in 1995. The Band paraded through the town on several occasions as well as giving a concert under the ancient walls of the town. The Band was well received with many thousands of people lining the streets, as well as some majorettes, who took forty minutes to march 300 yards taking steps forward, sideways and backwards! Argentan celebrated its 50th anniversary of twinning with Abingdon in 2006 and the Band visited the area once again. Around Argentan there are many beautiful chateaux to visit as well as France’s most famous stud farm. The ‘Route du Fromage’ which passes through Camembert and Livarot passes nearby and is worth taking whilst visiting the area, as well as sampling the local cider and calvados.
During 2001 the Band visited the beautiful walled town of Lucca in Italy, with much of its Roman, Medieval and Renaissance past much in evidence. Lucca has been twinned with Abingdon since 1972 and is the largest of the twin towns. The Band played in the Roman amphitheatre as well as the square in the centre of the town. Food and wine was plentiful and many Band members went to visit Pisa and Florence, all within easy reach of Lucca. A small group even ventured out as far out as Rome, which is a good distance away.
Schongau is a typical Bavarian town which was twinned with Abingdon in 1970. The Band has made a number of visits to Schongau and each time the hospitality has been superb. The Band has played at the local music festival which was situated in the mountains and has given concerts in the town centre as well as other numerous performances. The Band is always well received in Schongau and friendships go back along way with the local Schongau Band. Visiting Schongau is an experience, with Neuschwanstein Castle built by the mad King Ludwig II (a must on anyone’s itinery) with the scenery being fantastic at any time of the year. The Band visited Schongau at Easter one year when the snow was deep on the ground and the castle looked very picturesque. It is said that Walt Disney based his Fairy Castle on Neuschwanstein. Also within easy reach of Schongau is the picturesque town of Oberammergau, famous for the Passion Play held every ten years. To travel to Oberammergau in the summer months is a real treat to see all the typical Bavarian houses decorated with flowers of all colours.
During the summer of 2007 the Band had an extremely successful twinning trip to Schongau. The Band was made once again very welcome as they performed at several engagements with the highlight being able to perform at their annual beer festival where fun was had by the Band members and their families.
The Band has also visited Colmar in the Alsace region of France, where the Band stayed in the local Youth Hostel; an experience yet to be repeated, especially for the older members. Colmar has a number of art galleries and museums, including the Unterlinden Museum which hold the world famous Issenheim Alterpiece. Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty, was born in Colmar and his house now contains an exhibition of his works.