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Enniskillen has been twinned with Brackwede, a suburb of Bielefeld in North West Germany for over 50 years.
This twinning of the two towns is also reflected in the close association that Portora has developed over the years with the Brackweder Gymnasium. Each year an exchange takes place between the two schools.

German Exchange 2013 

Here are a selection of photos from this year's German exchange!

German Exchange October 2009

German Exchange photo.jpg 

The second leg of the German Exchange took place this year in October, with 30 pupils travelling from Fermanagh to spend a week with their German exchange partners in Bielefeld . Enniskillen has been twinned with Brackwede, a suburb of Bielefeld in North West Germany, for over 50 years and the school exchange has been running successfully for over 30 years.


It was an early start, meeting at the town library at 1.30 am on a Friday morning to start our bus journey to Dublin airport, with many people never seen at this time before e.g. Miss Lagan! On arrival in Düsseldorf we boarded another bus where we sat for several more hours, which wore everyone out, except Miss Lagan who was very chirpy about getting away from Portora!


Nearly 12 hours after we left Enniskillen we finally arrived at our exchange school, Brackweder Gymnasium, to meet our exchange families (Gastfamilie). Some people were very content with their houses and families, for example Robert Connor, whose partner’s house had a swimming pool, sauna and gym, the whole works!

Over the weekend we stayed with our host families and everyone had different experiences, ranging from hanging about the house to going for a flight in a private airplane! And on the Saturday evening we were invited to the opening of a new ice-rink which was mightily impressive.


On the Monday morning it was an early start for all, meeting in the school at 7:50am, which was a struggle for most people except Miss Lagan who was very excited (*cough* coffee *cough*). We then set off for the Rathaus, the town hall, for a formal welcome to Bielefeld by the B ürgermeister , the town mayor . There we received a delicious buffet meal with many choices, including free bottles of coke (which everyone fought over, as the other option was fizzy water, which only Miss Lagan enjoyed). After eating our meal, Bielefeld’s town mayor gave a speech in which he thanked us for coming and spoke about how important the exchange programme was to the city of Bielefeld (Miss Lagan enjoyed her role as the mayor’s interpreter!) After that we left the town hall to walk across the street to get on the tram, at which point a very funny situation unrolled. We were about to get on the tram but Mr. Rasdale, the German teacher from St. Michael’s College (aka “Dizzy Rasdale” for most of the trip!), decided it was too full so we should wait for the next one. So we all stayed off… or so we thought! All of a sudden we realised that Miss Thompson (the German teacher accompanying us from Enniskillen Collegiate), was halfway to the next station in the tram! She later told us she was looking out the window trying to attract our attention as the tram pulled off as she realized her mistake, but no one noticed! After some funny sounding phone calls by Miss Lagan, we all laughed at the sight of her ‘leggin’ it down the street to get back to us. Probably the most amusing part of the day!



The next day we travelled to the city of Bremen, where we visited a science museum and discovery park. We spent the morning there and then we got the opportunity to visit the city centre for a bit of shopping. Miss Lagan was in her element!


On the Wednesday we took part in an activity day at Johannisburg in Bielefeld. After some rather challenging team-building activities, we were harnessed up to do some climbing through the tree tops! Most of us were pretty proud to make it to the hardest sections of the course. Miss Lagan, however, was one of those people who stuck to the children’s rope climb and then sat and watched everyone else ( scaredy cat!)


On Thursday we attended some classes with our exchange students, which was an interesting experience. We were all surprised that the discipline was nowhere near as strict as it at Portora, and there was more swearing in one lesson than in a year at Portora! Their textbooks were also quite old-fashioned and there wasn’t a computer in sight. We left class feeling quite grateful for the facilities at PRS!


After that we went on a town discovery trip in Brackwede, which involved walking up and down the main shopping street looking for answers to a quiz. We were split into teams and the team that we were on won! We received t-shirts and bags of chocolate. Miss Lagan suddenly wished she was on our team then!


On our final day we went on a bus journey to Detmold, where there was lots to do. Firstly, we went to an open air museum for a guided tour of Germany’s answer to the UlsterAmericanFolkPark, and then we visited the town centre to browse the shops and buy some last minute presents for the folks at home. And to top it all off, our final visit on our final day was to Hermannsdenkmal a monument otherwise known as “Hermann the German”. This was the highlight of the trip for Dizzy (sorry, we mean, Mr. Rasdale), who couldn’t wait to get to the top. After enjoying the view from the top and a final photo opportunity we returned to Brackwede to attend the town festival, at which we were given tokens for a free drink and ride on the bumper cars, all thanks to the very generous mayor of the town. The atmosphere at the festival was great, and a perfect end to our stay.


Most of us only packed our bags early on the morning of departure, apart from Miss Lagan who had done that nights ago, very organised! We said goodbye to our families, Miss Lagan very tearful, and left Bielefeld at 5.30am to start our exhausting journey back to humble Enniskillen. After two bus journeys and a flight we arrived back at Portora at 3pm to be collected by our parents.


 All in all it was an extremely worthwhile experience during which many friendships were made. Some of the German pupils plan to visit their partners again during the summer holidays this year and a few Portorans hope to return to Germany during the half-term holidays in October.


By Ashley E. and Robert C. (Year 11) 

Visit of German partner school to Enniskillen, September 2004 

The second part of the German exchange took place from on the 23rd of September to 1st of October. Students from Portora's twin school in Bielefeld came over to Enniskillen in September of 2004. 

The German students were hosted by our students who were then in their third and fourth years. Portora's students, together with students from other schools in the Enniskillen area, will be hosted by those who stayed with them last year. 

Below are two accounts of this year's exchange, one in German and one in English. 

Mein Austausch In Bielefeld 

Sam Galloway Year 11 

Vom 23. September bis zum 1.Oktober 2005 habe ich an einem Austausch teilgenommen. Es war unvergesslich. Wir sind von Dublin nach Düsseldorf geflogen. Die fahrt war interessant aber sehr lang. Bielefeld liegt in der Mitte von Deutschland. 

Mein Partnerin heiβt Nele. Sie ist sehr klein und schlank.  Sie hat kurze blonde Haare und blaue Augen. Sie wohnt in einem Haus in Brackwede. Brackwede ist eine Stadt, die in der Nähe von Bielefeld liegt. 

Wir sind met dem Bus zum Brackweder Gymnasium gefahren.  Die Schule war sehr modern und die Lehrer waren nicht streng!  Die Schule beginnt um 7:50. Ich war sehr müde. Die Schüler tragen keine Uniform. Das war sehr gut!  Die Schule ist um 2 Uhr aus. Ich finde es gut, dass man den Nachmittag frei hat. Du kannst etwas machen! 

Bielefeld hat sehr viel fur junge Leute. Es hat ein gutes Kino. Es hat einen Fuβballplatz (Arminia Bielefeld) und es hat einen Schwimmbad. Es hat eine neue Kegelbahn und eine Eisbahn. Die Eisbahn ist sehr kalt! Es gibt zu viel tun. Am Sonnta bin ich zu einem sehr groβen Freizeitpark gegangen. Das hat mir sehr gut gefallen. Wir haben eine alte Burg besichtigt. Sie war sehr groβ und hatte einen Blick auf Bielefeld. Das war sehr schön. 

Wir haben das Hermannsdenkmal gesehen. Das war sehr interessant und man kann Kilometer weit sehen. Wir sind am Mittwoch nach Bremen gefahren. Dort kann man viel kaufen. Ich habe geschenke für meine Familie gekauft. Bremen hat viele alte Gebäude aber moderne Geschaften. Ich habe viel gelernt. 

Das wetter war ziemlich gut. In den ersten Tagen war es sehr heiβ und sonnig, aber dann hat es geregenet. Wir hatten 20 Grad. 

Mein Aufenhalt hat mir sehr gut gefallen, wiel ich viel Spaβ hatte und viel Deutsch gelernt habe. Das Essen hat sehr gut gescmeckt. Ich werde wieder nach Deutschland fahren. 

Michael O’Donohoe Year 11 

Since 1958 the town of Enniskillen has been twinned with the German town of Brackwede, something  that  is a source of pride for residents of both towns. Since 1972 school exchanges have taken  place between the two towns, students from one town are given an  exchange partner of  roughly their own age and stay with this  partner and their family for the duration of  the  exchange. Over the years there have been a great many friendships made. 

Today, Brackwede is but one small suburb of the sprawling modern city of Bielefeld, an historic linen town turned thriving metropolis, which has over time engulfed numerous other small towns resulting in a city twinned with no less than seven cities and towns across the world, including places as diverse as Israel, Russia, as well as our own hometown of "Enniskillen/Fermanagh". 

The Exchange is in two stages, the first being the visit of the German pupils to Northern Ireland, where they meet their partners and take part in a range of activities and excursions designed to educate them in local culture, help  them  with their  English, and-most importantly-to enjoy themselves. The second, normally a year later, is the part wherein the group from Enniskillen visits Brackwede, and stays with a local family. 

This year, going on the exchange were some 30 pupils from Portora Royal, Enniskillen Collegiate and St Michael's College, accompanied by three teachers, one from each of the schools: Mr Brendan Rasdale from St Michael's, Miss Emma Hamilton from the Collegiate and Mrs McCready from Portora. 

The group arrived outside the "Brackwede Gymnasium" in mid afternoon on Friday after a long and arduous trip that  had begun in the (very) small hours of the morning and shuffled in a zombie-esque manner off the bus to meet with their partners, most of whom they hadn't seen in a year. As soon as they met up, all tiredness vanished as, despite the obvious language barrier, old friends met up, catching up on all that had happened in the intervening year. 

The group was then ushered into the school, where hands were shaken, greetings exchanged and warm welcomes extended to all. All visitors were also issued with town "passports", entitling them to free use of the town's extensive public transport facilities. 

This was just as well as the guests had the weekend free with their families and Germans, being much greener than ourselves, make full use of their excellent public transport system. The trams in particular were very good, running on time and showing us the meaning of "German efficiency". More than once, however, students saw the tram door shut in their face and watched in horror as the tram rolled off! 

On Saturday night, the suburb of Ummeln played host to a disco, which served to break down the few barriers that there were between the visitors and hosts, and indeed between the groups of visitors, who had previously only spoken to those from their own schools. 

As the days went on, students began sampling different aspects of German cuisine, including the famous sausages and somewhat infamous sauerkraut. 

On Monday the group visited the Brackwede Gymnasium and attended classes with their partners, one Northern Irish student having the misfortune to be singled out in French class by the teacher for an interrogation. The student was left at the end unsure of what language to speak, French, German or English!! 

In the afternoon the group travelled to the Rathaus, or town hall for a reception in the council chamber. Herr Kienitz, the Bürgermeister, or mayor, extended his warmest welcomes to the group, and the guests lunched on lasagne. Not very German, I know, but it would have been rude to refuse! 

The following day was a trip around the local area, taking in the sights, including Mr Rasdale's personal favourite, the Hermannsdenkmal, or Hermann monument, an enormous statue of a first century German barbarian chieftain. Hermann war ein Barbar! 

Wednesday saw a visit to the Universum science centre, similar to our own W5. The science centre was a huge hit with the visitors, with such attractions as an earthquake simulator and, bizarrely, a walk-in womb! In the afternoon the group was given free rein to go shopping. 

As well as the trips arranged by the Enniskillen teachers and Herr Franke, their German counterpart, the visiting students also arranged outings with their partners families, and with other guests and their partners. Teenagers being teenagers whatever language is spoken, a lot of these visits involved the cinema, or the local theme park. One night saw a very competitive football match take place. 

On Thursday, the group played "Mr X". In this game the visitors were divided into groups and given a German partner to work with. One or the groups was given the title Mr X, and the others had to catch them.  However, both Mr X and the pursuers were required to keep to the public transport system and Mr X was required to text "his" position to Mr Rasdale at the school. He would then text Mr X's last known position to the pursuers. 

As the trip  wound down to its close a  melancholy atmosphere descended on the group, but it was not all doom and gloom, as the final day, was regarded  as  one of the best. On  Friday, the group took part in a series of "team building activities"  in a centre not dissimilar from Gortatole, and by all accounts it was great fun. 

Saturday was time to go, and as the bus prepared to depart, there was a moving farewell as the partners and their families came to wish the group well. Everyone promised to stay in touch and visit one another. The bus rumbled off. 

On the way to the airport, the group stopped at a vast shopping centre, with upwards of 1000 shops. The atmosphere inside was somewhat like that of an anthill with hundreds and hundreds of people milling about in an endless sea of consumerism. Stand still and you'll be swept away. 

The flight from Düsseldorf took off at half past ten, and the group was home at midnight. 

Herr Kienitz mentioned that the 50th anniversary of Enniskillen's twinning with Brackwede is approaching. If all exchange trips are as good as this one was, let's hope it lasts another 50  years.