And they’re off!   -  Twinning Weekend 2019 - Karlsruhe

And they’re off! - Twinning Weekend 2019 - Karlsruhe


Written By: Dan Harley
Edition: June 2019

After cancelled flights turning the last international visit from a well-planned relaxing weekend into a mad dash and superman style changes, I was nervous to say the least about a group of twelve making their way from Nottingham to Karlsruhe in Germany for the 2019 twinning weekend.  I'm happy to report that there were no hitches whatsoever and the journey couldn’t have gone smoother.  

Twelve was a good turnout bearing in mind a clash with the bank holiday and half term school holidays in Nottinghamshire. Our clash was nothing prepared to our colleagues from Ghent who really struggled to make the Twinning, not only because it is mandatory to vote in elections (which were taking place on the Sunday), but the lawyers are also conscripted to man the polls and to count the votes!

Spargelessen

Thursday evening was the Annual asparagus feast or “Spargelessen”.  The first time attendees quickly realised that I wasn’t exaggerating about the quantity of asparagus they would be presented with but everyone seems to enjoy the evening with some healthy (or perhaps not so healthy) competition between diners as to how many asparagus could be eaten.  

Friday

In the morning some of our group found the energy from somewhere to go for a run, others (including myself) took the more sedate option of a walk through the zoological park (over the elephants, and no, I’m not joking) and up to the Palace for a very pleasant stroll in the glorious sunshine.

After our walk we were collected by our hosts and taken to see the new offices of the Karlsruhe Law Society to meet and network with our hosts over a drink and some nibbles. The nibbles transpired to be far more substantial than expected leaving us pretty full. A nap in the sun on the balcony with a coffee from the amazing coffee machine in the office (who knows how they do any work?) was definitely calling but it was onwards to golf!

As none of our group are particularly regular golf players, our hosts had arranged a taster course for us with two very knowledgeable pros. Under expert tuition everyone managed to get the ball (at least some way) down the driving range. Even I managed to hit it in a straight line (once). The tutor must have had the patience of a saint; he was initially fascinated by the fact I was still managing to hit the ball (all be it in random directions) whilst having a good look around to see what everyone else was doing! Natural talent was one suggestion, but I suspect pure fluke had more to do with it. The putting practice was far more sedate and much more manageable!

After the golf we caught the tram to Café Rih for a buffet of Italian food where we were joined by other lawyers from our host society including a lawyer who had just returned from acting as advocate before the European Court of Justice which almost distracted us from the food!

Friday was also a celebration of 70 years of the Constitution in Germany and, as the highest Court in Germany: The Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) is based in Karlsruhe, there were events taking place in the city outside the Court building as well as in Berlin. One of the stalls was handing out copies of the German Constitution in English which we discussed over dinner. If the UK ever decides to go down the route of a written constitution we were assured it was fine to just copy and paste!

Saturday

On Saturday morning, bright and early (ish) we were collected by bus and taken to Mannheim to the recently extended Art Museum. Our guide was knowledgeable and passionate and explained that the ethos behind the gallery, was art bought by the people for the people, with the majority of purchases funded by donations from the citizens of Mannheim. On a personal note I have to say I really enjoyed the gallery. I was sceptical as modern art isn’t always my thing. The collection was interesting and varied meaning there was something for everyone and that it didn’t matter that I left one particular multimedia installation because I was feeling dizzy. There was a fascinating collection of other works including a work which was clearly supposed to be a murder victim in a bin liner. At least I hope that was one of the exhibits!

After lunch at the gallery we got back on the bus to head to Deidesheim which, in itself, is well worth a visit. Our destination (other than a quick stroll around the village) was the wine cellars of Weingut von Winning.

I have never been a particular wine snob and I’m often not sure what I’m actually drinking (other than white or red) so I cannot really confirm or deny whether I have had Riesling before, but it is now something I will certainly be on the hunt for. We tried a number of varieties, each with different qualities, which were all excellent. It’s just a shame that we had limited capabilities to bring some back, although we were sizing up to see if we could get a barrel on the bus.

Our guide for the afternoon had worked for the company for many years and assured us that it was ok not to drink the samples if we only wanted to have a little taste. There were limited take ups of this option. Fortunately for us he started the tour by confirming that, as he intended to do the tour in English, all of his best lawyer jokes were in German so we escaped too much mockery.

 

After the wine cellar we headed off to a vineyard for dinner where we were offered some regional delicacies some of which I understood, others I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting but sometimes it’s best not to know!

As the presentation of a gift from NLS to our hosts had taken place on the Friday, it fell to colleagues from Ghent to make a presentation which they did with gusto appearing as speaker of the (wine) house and reminding us that in light of current uncertainties the twinning relationship is more important than ever. To much hilarity, our speaker took us through a review of various words and names relating to the twinning comparing the meanings of Jason (our President) and Götz (the Karlsruhe President) but failing to find a common theme. Eventually he hit on the fact that the words for ‘friendship’ were very similar in German, English and Flemish and that was the key message of the twinning, friendship with likeminded lawyers across the continent. The strength of the message wasn’t in the least affected when he also pointed out that the word for ‘wine’ is even more similar in the three languages!  

As we leave the European Union, possibly, maybe, who knows, the strong connections and bonds we have formed with our colleagues in Germany and Belgium will become ever more important. The twinning allows for an invaluable insight into how different jurisdiction's operate, helping us to reflect on our own practice and to consider whether there is anything we can improve. It is also an opportunity for us to share knowledge and experience with our international colleagues.

As hinted at in the title, and as per Jason’s column, the twinning weekend also allows you to inaugurate a 100m sprint race with random passers-by, demonstrating that the event isn’t just about the law!

Finally, for those who want to join us in Karlsruhe 2023 (Ghent is 2021, we are 2022), I wasn’t joking when I said you would need your sun cream! Sorry Jason!

Dan Harley