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Germans say 'ja bitte' to Stockport

A TOWN whose main attractions include Britain's first hat-making museum and a viaduct lauded as "western Europe's largest brick structure", has emerged as an unlikely tourist magnet for German pupils.

But the success of Stockport may say less about the town's guide-book potential, and more about contrasting attitudes to language learning.

Teenagers from Heilbronn, near Stuttgart, have overwhelmed the council with requests to visit Cheshire after an exchange between the twin towns was advertised.

Already, the German youngsters have lodged 85 applications to visit Stockport for the 10-day, 30-pupil trip in August.

But the reaction of their Stockport counterparts could hardly be more different. Only ight have shown any interest in a return visit, despite Heilbronn's brochure description as a picturesque settlement on the banks of the river Neckar, nestling in the heart of the wine-growing country of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

However, those organising the exchange are under no illusions that there is anything unique about the charms of the English town, which sits on the Mersey and is also home to...erm Stockport County FC.

Sue Shore, Stockport's international liaison officer, said: "German pupils are desperate to come here because of the language they will need for their future careers. That's not the case when the roles are reversed. I don't think it's ever going to change."

Warwick Mansell

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