Welcome in Berlin opens the club year 2019/2020

“Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin.
 Deswegen muss ich nächstens wieder hin.
 Die Seligkeiten vergangener Zeiten sind alle noch in meinem kleinen Koffer drin. Der bleibt auch dort und das hat seinen Sinn.
Auf diese Weise lohnt sich die Reise, denn wenn ich Sehnsucht hab dann fahr ich wieder hin.”
Ich hab' noch einen Koffer in Berlin - text by Aldo von Pinelli, Ralph Maria Siegel.

"I still have a suitcase in Berlin.
That's why I have to go back soon.
The bliss of past times are all still in my little suitcase.
It stays there too and that makes sense.
In this way the journey is worthwhile,
For when I long to, I'll travel there again!"

These lyrics, belonging to the iconic song of the inimitable German actress and songstress Hildegard Knef, were the overarching message of the welcoming remarks of Helen Eichhorn, the new President of Welcome in Berlin (WiB), during the diplomatic club's opening on the 19 September 2019 at the Europasaal of the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.

She expounded in her speech how these words poignantly describe the aspirations of the club – that is, for its members, especially from the diplomatic corps, “to grow fond of Berlin and to pack a suitcase full of beautiful memories of what we (members) have experienced here together, memories that bind us in lasting friendships.”

This sentiment of lasting friendships rang strong throughout the club opening, as a number of WiB's over 400 members from different parts of the globe gathered together not only to celebrate the club's new season, but also to catch up with old friends after the summer break and to get to know new members - among them newly-arrived diplomats.

Antje Leendertse, State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office, who recently took patronage of the club in Spring 2019, also addressed the group and emphasized the uniqueness and importance of a club such as Welcome in Berlin. She mentioned how WiB provides solid support for diplomats and their partners, or “people in constant motion” as she refers to them, in a city like Berlin that is equally in perpetual movement.

One of the missions of Welcome to Berlin is to provide diplomats an opportunity to get to know the capital, as well as Germany as a whole, on a deeper level. To achieve this goal, the club organizes a plethora of activities – from German conversation courses to museum visits and physical activities, among others. These events are spearheaded by groups led by Berlin-based and German Foreign Office-affilliated members, who volunteer their time to organize fun and immersive learning experiences that diplomats normally wouldn't get from guided tours.

The opening was an opportunity for club members to familiarize themselves with the groups and their upcoming activities. It also served as a platform to formally introduce the new members of the board: Annette Dill (Vice President), Sabine Weyermann (Jours Fixes & Special Events), Alix von Studnitz Nell (Treasurer), Anja Gallon (Group Coordinator), Susan Gross (Secretary), Anjana Das-Hasper (Press) and Nita Isnaeni-Weber (Web Presence).

The attendees were also treated to the musical stylings of jazz duo Kenneth Berkel (piano) and Gaetan Fournet-Fayas (alto saxophone) from the Jazz Institute Berlin.

The event marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for the club, which very recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

By Carmine Viertel