Simon says, ‘Guten Tag!’
Ketchum mayor pays visit to promote
relations with sister city
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
When Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon traveled this
month to the Tegernsee valley, in the south Germany region known as Bavaria, he
did more than hike, swim and distance himself from the daily machinations of
Peter Rixner, the former mayor of
Tegernsee, was an essential figure in helping to establish the sister-city
relationship between Ketchum and the German city. Photo courtesy of Ed Simon
He went paragliding with the mayor of
Tegernsee, one of several small cities that surround a pristine lake by the same
name. Under a waving U.S. flag, he shared beer and words of wisdom with local
residents and city council members. And, he accepted an invitation to spend a
day in a Bavarian courtroom to promote his understanding of the German judicial
Tegernsee residents are known for their
hospitality, but for Simon, an extra measure of accommodation was put forth for
one simple reason: The small resort city is Ketchum’s designated sister city.
"I looked at it as an opportunity not only
to see Bavaria, but also as an opportunity to do a little promoting for
Ketchum," Simon said Friday, after he returned from the 13-day trip.
Former Ketchum Mayor Jerry Seiffert in
June 1981 signed an agreement with Tegernsee’s former mayor, Peter Rixner,
declaring that the two resort cities were establishing a relationship as
so-called "partner cities."
With a U.S.
flag poised behind him, Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, center, is introduced to
villagers from Tegernsee, during a barbecue to celebrate the sister-city
relationship. Photo courtesy of Ed Simon
In 1985, the relationship was formally
recognized by the U.S. State Department, which declared Ketchum and Tegernsee as
official "sister cities."
Indeed, the two cities, despite their
distance and cultural differences, are strikingly similar.
Tegernsee is one of a string of small
cities located in the Tegernsee valley, which has a population of approximately
20,000, much like the Wood River Valley.
The Tegernsee area has long been a
favorite with wealthy residents of nearby Munich, many of whom have built
weekend homes along sections of the lakeshore. The mountainous region is also a
popular resort area that boasts excellent skiing, boating and paragliding.
Peter Janssen, the current mayor of
Tegernsee, is an attorney and avid paraglider, much like Simon.
Prior to this month, Simon had been to
Germany only once, on a brief voyage 11 years ago.
Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, left, enjoys a
laugh with Peter Janssen, mayor of Tegernsee, during a nine-day festival
celebrated in the Bavarian village. “Everybody from the community and outlying
areas get together to eat and drink beer,” Simon said. “And believe me, their
beers are not little beers.”. Photo courtesy of Ed Simon
This trip, Simon said, was designed to
promote the sister-city relationship, with hopes that numerous new relationships
can be forged among the residents of the two cities in years to come.
"It is really for cultural exchange.
Educational exchange," Simon said.
Last summer, 14 Tegernsee youths were
hosted by residents of the Ketchum area.
In return, Simon was hosted on his voyage
by the family of Christine Zierer, who sits on the city council of one of
Tegernsee’s neighboring cities, Gmund.
In summing up his experiences, Simon said
he found that Tegernsee and Ketchum have many more commonalties than
"The one thing I saw there is that we are
more alike than different," he said. "One of my first days there, my hosts’
daughter put her hand out to get the car keys, and then put the other hand out
to get some money. It’s just like here."
A Bavarian valley. Photo courtesy of Ed Simon
On a grander scale, Simon said, high
real-estate prices and a lack of affordable housing permeate the resort
communities that surround the Tegernsee lake. Many residents and politicians, he
said, believe there are too few hotel rooms to adequately support the
tourism-based economy. And, he noted, local city managers feel forever pinched
for cash to support public services.
"They are dealing with a lot of the same
problems we are," he said. "They are trying to make an effort to let people know
that tourists are the life blood of the economy."
In addition, developers are commonly faced
with so-called "Not-in-my-backyard" objections, Simon said.
The differences, Simon said, became
apparent in looking at German society on a broader scale.
"The one thing that surprised me the most
is they don’t have a separation of church and state and the government collects
taxes for the church," he said.
After spending a day watching a criminal
trial with the support of an interpreter, Simon also noticed differences in the
German legal system.
"Unlike here, the judge can basically
decide what type of evidence he will consider."
The Tegernsee City Council, Simon said,
has 16 members, all of whom are openly affiliated with a political party, Simon
noted. In Ketchum, only four residents sit on the City Council, none of whom
represent a political party.
The greatest difference, perhaps, is the
sense of history procured in the two cities; Tegernsee is approximately 1,300
Tegernsee area residents expressed no
animosity toward the United States, Simon said, but were not shy about
criticizing President George W. Bush.
"George Bush is not popular," he said.
"I’d say 80 percent of the people don’t like George Bush."
Ultimately, Simon said he believes the
sister-city relationship can be used to foster fond relations between residents
of the two regions for decades to come. In the near future, the mayor hopes to
establish a link with the Tegernsee Internet site and to cooperatively promote
tourism in the two cities.
"I saw some spectacular sites, but what I
enjoyed most was the people," Simon said. "They couldn’t have been nicer or
offered greater hospitality."