Few realize this, but Raleigh has a string of sister cities around the world, notably Rostock in northern Germany – a Baltic Sea retreat known for beach walks, ice cream and fish-shaped waffles.
This year, Rostock celebrates its 800th birthday – a hefty milestone considering the city survived allied bombing in World War II, occupation by Napoleon in 1812 and a controversial beer tax in 1565.
So to start the party buzz, Rostock has invited one lucky couple from its only American partner to stay three nights in a beachside hotel, party on the cargo ship Cap San Diego and renew their wedding vows inside a shipping crane perched 164 feet high.
Only one requirement for eligibility: You must have gotten married in Raleigh, in any year, on June 24 – the high point of the festival. Entry instructions should appear soon on raleighsistercities.org.
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“Somebody’s sister city is a very big thing in Europe,” said Marjorie Salzman, past president of the Raleigh program. “This is a three-day red-carpet treatment, going to concerts, having all their meals taken care of. You get wined and dined.”
A sizable catch to this giveaway: Plane fare is not included. Some flight discounts will likely be added depending on how many donations can be rounded up, Salzman said. But as of today, Raleigh’s delegates at the Rostock birthday bash will have to arrive on their own. (The train ride from Berlin takes about two hours.)
But Jo Garrison, German teacher at Ligon and Martin middle schools, noted that Germans place a huge importance on the city of marriage. This is likely because before a German bride and groom throw a fancy wedding bash, they observe a less-formal civil ceremony that makes the union official.
Couples tend to grow attached to the spot where the bureaucratic dotted lines got inked, she said, thus the invite to Raleigh couples. As for renewing nuptials inside a crane, Rostock has a rich shipping history dating back to its 13th-century entry in the Hanseatic League, which ... well, you can look it up.
But if nothing else, Raleigh will benefit from its association with Rostock if only to brush up against a culture that predates the 20th century – a rarity in the Oak City, which has bull-dozed most of its history. Its cast of characters – from Oberburgermeister Roland Methling to the 12th-century Danish king Valdemar I – extends a hand across the ocean.