St Martinsmarkt was held in Vluyn, part of Neukirchen-Vluyn on the second weekend in November. According to legend St Martin was a bishop of Tours in France who gave half his cloak to a homeless person to save him freezing to death. German children are all very familiar with this story. 

Buckingham had been invited to have a stand there to sell English products. Four of us, namely Stephanie, Henry, Jo and Sue made up our team of entrepreneurs for the visit. We left on the Friday had an uneventful crossing over the Channel a nd after the usual traffic jams in Antwerp which delayed us somewhat we arrived at the houses of our host families who looked after us with delicious meals. 

Saturday morning turned out to be rather wet so we were given a short motorised guided tour around the town seeing the Castle and Windmill amongst other sights. We then set up our stall which we shared with Ustron, the Polish twin town of Neukirchen Vluyn. We had brought various items with us including Christmas cake, mince pies and shortbread. Our Polish colleagues were serving Polish sausages and sauerkraut and had also brought Polish vodka with them, which they kindly shared with us to cheer us up on a dank day. 

Before the market opened Gunter from the German Twinning Committee, suggested we went to look at the Karneval, which also began that day. Before we knew it we had been invited up on to the stage to be greeted by the Mayor as the visitors from Buckingham and then had to join arms and move in time to the music being played. After the opening we found that our Christmas goods, apart from marmite and honey, were very popular. We were kept going by friendly conversation and the occasional vodka. 

We were surprised to be visited by three of the square dancers who had visited Buckingham earlier that autumn and we learned that plans are afoot for a much bigger square dancing exchange next year. The sun came out towards the end of our session and we finished a successful day tired but happy and all from both sides met together for a tasty meal. 

On Sunday morning we all met at the town museum for a short guided tour led by Gunter and to sign the visitors’ book to accompany the photo which was taken there. Neukirchen Vluyn was at one time a mining town, although the main mine has now been replaced by a new housing estate. There is also some textile industry there. An old grocer’s shop and barber’s shop had been preserved and rebuilt in the museum and these were fascinating to look at. After a quick coffee we said farewell to our generous hosts, we went via Mouvaux to leave the unsold goods for the Marche Noel and had a much better journey back.  

Once again an enjoyable time was had by all involved. Long may it continue. 

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