There’s a special feeling you get in our partnership city of Münchberg, Germany, when you see the homes on the hills and think back to generations ago and the immigrants who came to the United States, then to Jefferson City. Suddenly you realize where we came from as a community. The similarities are amazing. Some of the German last names are even identical to our current neighbors because so many came directly from Münchberg.
Recognizing the importance of celebrating our roots, former mayor John Landwehr and altbürgermeister (former mayor) Thomas Fein of Münchberg formed a partnership between our cities more than 10 years ago. It’s not something you can simply learn from a history book. In Jefferson City, that’s why we celebrate Oktoberfest in our Old Munichburg alongside other German traditions that honor our partnership and heritage.
My mother, Irene, and I joined two other couples from Jefferson City on our visit to Münchberg: police officer Lt. David Williams and his wife, Stephanie, and Brett and Rhonda Roberts. We traveled for a visit to the Wiesenfest festival this past July. This wasn’t my traveling companions’ first trip, and now I see why they continue to return.
A warm welcome greeted us the moment we got off the train in Münchberg with our Jefferson City flag proudly displayed. We had the pleasure of being guests of honor at meals — one of which included the best bratwurst I’ve ever had — and of course we did many other activities, including drinking the festive beer in mighty mugs.
Dressed in my dirndl, a traditional German dress, I felt right at home walking in the parade down the streets of Münchberg with Bürgermeister Christian Zuber and town council members! I shared the stage as Mayor Zuber tapped the celebratory keg, and when I proudly announced “Ich bin Bürgermeisterin!” or “I am the mayor!” the whole room cheered loudly for our Jefferson City visitors.
It truly felt like home. Even the climate is similar, which is why many German immigrants relocated to Missouri and the Great Lakes region. It was all so interesting, hearing the stories, traditions, culture and history — founded in 1364, but much older than that, the town sits on a small river where the water would rise every few years. Sound familiar? The town’s residents would relocate up the hills as a result.
We saw the oldest building in Münchberg, a blacksmith shop turned bakery, erected in 1630 and renovated in 1700 after surviving the town fire. The building is currently in danger of being torn down for parking. It’s a very controversial topic in town, and I only wish I could attend a council meeting to voice my support for keeping such a unique and historical structure.
In 1729 the town suffered another great fire, but was rebuilt again. The only problem was that the homes were constructed with wood, and in 1837, Münchberg burned again. The people of Münchberg rebuilt again, though, this time built to last with stone. Learning about the devastation of the fires made me think of our recent tornado and how we will also rebuild.
The warm welcome and friendships we formed in Münchberg made our world seem smaller and left our minds open to loving and embracing our heritage, no matter what our background is.
If you’re interested in visiting, we’re planning a visit next year to bring a large group! And our new friends have already been invited to visit Jefferson City in 2021 to help us celebrate Missouri’s 200th birthday!
For now, grab your lederhosen and dirndls and get a taste of Germany right here in #JCMO at the Old Munichburg Association’s 19th annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, September 28, on the historic south side! Enjoy festive German music, food, vendors, and Dachshund races!
Ich Liebe Münchberg! I love Münchberg!