Past meets present in 2 German cities

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    A typical narrow street in the city of Delemenhorst.

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  • A typical narrow street in the city of Delemenhorst.
    A typical narrow street in the city of Delemenhorst.

    DELMENHORST, Germany — Siblings are a lot alike in some ways but sometimes it’s hard to see the similarities.

    Toledo has 10 sister cities scattered across South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. A group of political and business leaders from Toledo recently spent nearly a week in one of those cities, Delmenhorst, Germany, which has about 77,000 people, and also the nearby and much larger Bremen.

    The cities are tied to each other and depend on manufacturing for employment, much like Toledo. Delmenhorst is well-known as a producer of linoleum, and Bremen, which has more than 500,000 people, is home to the Becks brewery where Haake Becks is also produced but not available in America. It’s a different brew and considered locally to be a far superior beer to the Becks shipped in green bottles and kegs to the United States.

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    A drive through the two cities shows the juxtaposition of the country’s past, with buildings dating back more than 700 years and electric-producing windmills every few miles built along smart highways.

    The main business district of Delmenhorst bustles every morning. Walkers and bicyclists move quickly past independent shops that include bakeries and cafes plus a few chain stores like H&M. And although the town has modern stores and transportation, people still walk on cobblestone paths past centuries-old churches. Like other German cities, Delmenhorst has mini-casinos where people can gamble and at least two brothels are easy to find on the Internet because prostitution is a legal and regulated industry.

    The historic marketplace in Bremen, dating back hundreds of years, is a short walk from the city’s riverfront and a historic windmill originally brought from Amsterdam. In both Bremen and Delmenhorst, World War II bomb shelters jut out of the ground like fortresses standing apart from rows of smaller homes and businesses.

    The marketplace of Bremen included a Brothers Grimm fairy tale named a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster as the city musicians. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell dropped several coins totaling about 2 Euros down a slot in an obvious tourist-attraction manhole cover that each time made the sound of one of those animals.

    Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171.