Club visit to RC Bad Salzuflen

Club visit to President Colin's old club

On 6-8th December 8 Rotarians from RC Uppingham visited the RC of Bad Salzsuflen, Germany, which was the former club of our President Colin.  Our visitors were weel entertained by our German hosts and also made best us eof the time available with local sightseeing, visiting local Christmas markets and sampling gluhwein and the products of the local Brauhaus.  Below are some of the notes that Colin prepared prior to departure.

Some Notes for our trip to Bad Salzuflen 6-8 December 2022


The Federal Republic of Germany is made up of 16 states or “Länder”, 3 of which are city states; Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg. The latter two’s standing reflects their history in the Hanseatic League.  Each state has considerably more power that the UK’s devolved nations, making for a very decentralised political system.  In part that plays to Germany’s history, it being an amalgam of separate kingdoms, duchies and city states, eventually united under Bismarck and Prussia in 1871. It also indicates the post war allies’ intent to avoid repeating the risk of centralised power in Berlin.

Nordrhein- Westfalen / North Rhein Westphalia (NRW)

With a population of 18 million, Nordrhein Westfalenis Germany’s most populous state. It stretches from the Belgian and Dutch borders to the River Weser and Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). The distance from Aachen to Minden is 300 km. The landscape is dominated by flat arable country in the Rheinland and Münsterland to the west and north. Forested hills and ridges in the south and east of the state make for more attractive views.  NRW’s historic industrial centre was the Ruhrgebiet, which gained so much of the RAF’s attention during WWII. Since then, the decline of heavy industry across much of Europe has affected the area far more. Mines and steel furnaces have closed, leaving the region seeking new sources of income and employment, similar to many of our northern towns.

Ostwestfalen Lippe

Our visit will be to NRW’s region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe(OWL). The countryside is dominated by forested ridges and river valleys; notably the Teutobergerwald and the River Weser. Carpentry and linen weaving were the region’s traditional industries. Now it is a thriving centre of Mittelstand companies. “Mittelstand” is the German term used for small to medium sized, family owned or family controlled companies, typically specialising in hi-tech niche markets and producing highly sought after industrial tools and products. About 80% of the total German workforce is employed by Mittelstand companies. Banking, education and tax systems cater for their needs. The results are, long term finance and goal setting, excellent apprenticeships and progressive training leading to record beating exports.  

Bad Salzuflen

We will be staying in Bad Salzuflen, a spa town with a population of circa 54,000. The photo above left is of the area in front of our hotel, with the old town hall (Altes Rathaus) on the right. It is now the town’s Registry Office (Standesamt).  The style of architecture is known as Weser Renaissance. 

Bad Salzuflen’s history dates back to the very early middle ages and the early settlers prospered through the salt trade. Saltwater springs allowed the citizens to produce this precious commodity. However, the 30 year war (1608-1648) and the 7 year war (1756-1763) both devasted the town. As a result, in 1766 the citizens sold their right to produce salt to a local aristocrat, Graf (Count) Simon August zu Lippe. He invested in what was then hi-tech for salt production, Gradierwerke or distillation plants (see photo above right). These are large wooden frames holding bundles of hawthorn. The brine (known as Sole) is repeatedly dripped through the twigs. Natural evaporation concentrates the brine by a factor of 3, so much less firewood is required. Over the next century, the value of salt for food conservation declined but it had been noted that people working on the Gradierwerke, suffered less lung disease than others. They spent much of their days breathing in salty air, rather like at the seaside. Bad Salzuflen duly developed into a spa town or Kurort. Kur = cure or convalescence. That remains the case although the German health system is now much less generous than it was and being granted paid time off for a “Kur” is rarer, which has had an impact on the smaller hotels.

The Rotary Club of Bad Salzuflen

My former Rotary Club has 45 members. The membership is a mix of some really quite prominent businesspeople and professionals including lawyers, accountants, doctors, pharmacists, a vet, an architect, a padre and teachers. There are also a few retirees! The Club formed in May 2002, from what used to be RC Lemgo-Bad Salzuflen. The two clubs continue to meet regularly and a couple of the Bad Salzuflen members live in Lemgo. The current President is Horst Bastian. The Club’s partnership with Ipswich East goes back to 1972.  We have been invited as guests to the meeting on 6th December and Horst Bastian has suggested making a restaurant booking for the evening of 7th December after our tour of the Christmas market.  

As far as Germany etiquette goes, the only thing to be aware of is the handshake. It has a rather higher profile that in UK, so at the start of each meeting, each Club member takes great care to shake everyone else’s hands. That’s not just a Rotary thing, the same applies to offices and all walks of life.  

It used to be very much the case that first names were not used until such time a really good relationship had been formed. That is changing and when speaking English, you may well find first names are offered. If there is any doubt, use the surname and “Freund” e.g. Freund Bastian. 

Hermannsdenkmal (Hermann’s Monument)

The Romans never established any permanent camps east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, in what was known as Limes Germanicus. However, there were expeditions into Germania and that of AD 9 came to a very sticky end.  At that time, the Roman Governor Publius Quinctilius Varus had arrived from Judea, where he had overseen a very harsh regime and high taxation. Was it his edict that sent one Joseph of Nazareth to Bethlehem? Whatever the facts, he would seem to have been a much better administrator than general.   

Hermann or Arminius, to give him his Roman name, was the son of a Cherusker chief. The Cherusker or Cherusci in Latin, lived in the area we will be visiting. Hermann and his brother had been taken hostage by an earlier Roman expedition to achieve some control over the Cherusker. In Rome, the boys were given a military education. Hermann returned to Germania with Varus in the role of captain of native cavalry, which would have acted as the Romans’ reconnaissance troops. Hermann’s father, the Cherusker Chief had hatched a plot to bring all the local tribes together and attack the Romans. Hermann agreed to take part and turn his cavalry against the legions. 

Varus duly led 3 legions on a summer expedition, probably from Xanten on the Rhine towards the Weser, possibly following the River Ems. A legion numbered some 5000 men, so a force to be reckoned with but it had to be able to deploy into fighting formations for full effect. A modern, managed German forest bears little resemblance to the tangled, primeval forests of 2000 years ago. In addition, any flat ground would probably have been marsh. As a result, the route for such a large body of troops would have been restricted to a fairly narrow corridor between the forest’s edge and marshes.   

There is still academic argument over what happened to Varus and his legions. A single battle seems unlikely, the local tribes would not have been able to defeat 3 legions. However, sustained guerrilla tactics and ambushes would have played to the tribes’ strengths and local knowledge, particularly when the Romans’ cavalry was leading them into traps.  

Major Tony Clunn MBE was a British officer stationed in Osnabrück, a former garrison town some 80 kms north west of Detmold but also on the Teutobergerwald. He was an amateur archaeologist and is credited with finding the site of a battle at Kalkriese, some 20 kms from Osnabrück. Whatever actually happened, the legions were lost and it is said that Varus fell on his sword.   

Hermann entered the annals of German history as an early national hero. Fast forward to the mid-1800s and Bismarck is in the process of uniting Germany under Prussian rule. The citizens of Detmold decided on a display of nationalism with the erection of a massive statue of Hermann, which was completed in 1875. However, is it in the right place?   


Detmold is an attractive town with a population of 76,000. NRW is divided into 5 administrative areas, and 31 Landkreise, which more or less equate to counties. Detmold has its own town council, the Landkreisoffices and those of the administrative area, known as the Bezirksregierung.Add to that a high court and music university, there’s quite a large public sector workforce. There are also some very advanced hi-tech companies, for example Weidmüller Interface specialising in electronic connectivity. Finally, the current president (Bundespräsident) Frank Walter Steinmeyer was born here.  Detmold still has a family brewery, run by Frau Strate and her two daughters. They also have Brauhaus Strate in the town centre, where I will  reserve a table for lunch on Wednesday 7th December  


With a population of 41,000, Lemgo is smaller than Detmold and Bad Salzuflen but “punches above its weight” as seat of highly respected technical university and “Innovation Campus”. The marketplace is particularly charming and we will see another Christmas market.  The church has two completely different spires, one a normal bell tower, the other built by the town as a watchtower. 

Like other towns in the region, Lemgo suffered dreadfully in the 30 years’ war (1618-1648). Sadly, over this same period, there was another dark era under the Mayor or Bürgermiester Hermann Cothmann (1629-1683). This ghastly character was a fanatic witch hunter, murdering a total of 272 women and some men in the most awful manner. His house is now a rather grisly museum.   


Our last visit will be to Bremen and yet another Christmas market. As already mentioned, Bremen and Bremerhaven make up Germany’s smallest state. The city has a population of circa 568,000 and traces its history back to early settlements along the River Weser some 2000 years ago.   

In the early middle ages, Bremen grew wealthy as part of the Hanseatic League, trading salt amongst other goods. Bremerhaven is Germany’s second largest port after Hamburg. From the late 18th century, it was the principal departure point for voyages to America which later saw large numbers of Germans emigrating there.

Bremen’s famous emblem is from the Grimm’s fairy tale “The City Musicians” (Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten) and there’s a statue of them outside the Town Hall or Rathaus.

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