An Interview with Brigitta Mullican about Rockville's Sister City, Pinneberg

By Becca Hunziker, last updated 7/24/14 08:06am

  • Author Becca Hunziker with Brigitta Mullican, President of RSCC. Brigitta is holding the first RSCC newsletter she published, in 1986 on a Tandy computer!
    Photo credit: Helen Triolo
  • Brigitta Mullican, President, stands beside the Rockville Sister City Corporation's wreath at the 2014 Rockville Memorial Day ceremony.
  • George Albrecht and Liz von Kaenel carry the RSCC banner at the Rockville Memorial Day parade.
  • Pinneberg students, from the Theodor Heuss Schule, at the White House
  • RSCC President Rotraut Bockstahler and DAGRP President Berndt Hinrichs unveil an anniversary banner at the 50th Anniversary Jubilee Ball in Pinneberg.
  • RSCC's annual wine-tasting at Glenview Mansion
  • RSCC members enjoying the buffet at a wine tasting event
  • Jack Rodgers, Gerrie Checkon, Steve Fisher, and Brigitta Mullican at the German-American Day Dinner
  • Jim McConkey, Brigitta Mullican, Liz von Kaenel and Tim Nixon man the RSCC booth at the World of Montgomery Festival
  • Welsh Park sculpture "On Site," created by Pinneberg artist Gabrielle Schmidt-Heins
    Photo credit: Helen Triolo

Before I came to Rockville for the second half of my summer break, I had an incredible experience living and working in Hamburg, Germany, which is situated in northern Germany, an area with beautiful landscapes, rich history, and wonderful people. It was difficult to say goodbye to Hamburg because I loved the area so much, so you can imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to interview Brigitta Mullican, President of the Rockville Sister City Corporation (RSCC), about Rockville’s relationship with its German sister city, Pinneberg. We had a lot to talk about because Pinneberg, matched up with Rockville because of similar size, importance, and proximity to metropolitan areas, is located just nine miles away from Hamburg.

Even though the connection between Rockville and Pinneberg experienced a dormant period from its founding in 1957 until its 30th anniversary celebration in 1987, the relationship between the two is now thriving. From exchanges to film nights to wine tastings, the RSCC gives members the opportunity to mingle with other people in the Rockville area who enjoy learning about other cultures, support exchanges, host people from Pinneberg (or want to find a host family there), and want to become more globally-minded. Ms. Mullican is so passionate about the RSCC and getting more people involved because it connects people, both here and abroad. In fact, Ms. Mullican says she has met more people here in Rockville through RSCC social events than any other organization she has been involved with. If you are interested in learning more about the RSCC, there are two upcoming events, the Taste of Dim Sum social and German American Day, that are open to the public and provide good insight into what RSCC membership has to offer.

Once you are a member, one way to take advantage of this dynamic relationship is to become involved in the hosting process. Every year, the RSCC and its Pinneberg counterpart work to foster exchanges between the two cities, so that people in both places have the opportunity to interact with a different culture firsthand. When in Rockville, people participating in the exchange explore the town, often visiting D.C. and taking trips to New York as well; participate in activities with their host families; go to a local school (if they happen to be a student); and attend Rockville events. In Pinneberg, members of the RSCC become immersed in Pinneberg life and experience German culture through visits to Berlin and Lübeck, harbor tours in Hamburg, excursions to islands in the Baltic, and local events. Currently, the RSCC is gearing up for a visit from a Pinneberg delegation in September. In the more distant future, Ms. Mullican is hoping to plan an adult exchange for next year and a big celebratory exchange, hosting 60 people in Rockville and sending 60 to Pinneberg, for the 60th anniversary of Rockville and Pinneberg’s relationship in 2017.

Although many people assume these exchanges are only for students, they actually vary widely and have included students, adults, sports teams, performance groups, firefighters, and bicycle riders. Hosting someone from Pinneberg requires that you provide housing, transportation, and meals for them, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect meaningfully with someone of a different background way and show them all the wonderful things this area has to offer. One of the things Ms. Mullican was most excited to share with me was her relationship with her “second daughter,” a young woman from Pinneberg that she hosted years ago that she still keeps in close contact with. In my own experience, I had a great time living in Hamburg with a couple that has been good friends with my family for over 50 years, because it allowed me the chance to experience Germany through the eyes of someone who lives there and knows it well. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in visiting tourist destinations and famous sites that you forget to experience the city as a local would. I’ll never forget my time in Hamburg because it felt like I really lived there; the RSCC is working hard to give its members and people from Pinneberg the same chance.

Even if you aren’t yet a member of RSCC, you can still experience Rockville’s relationship with Pinneberg at various places around town. In honor of Pinneberg, the “Pinneberg Room” in the Glenview Mansion is decorated every year for the holidays. You can see “Pinneberg Time” at the City Hall, and you can drive down Pinneberg Avenue. In addition, Rockville is the proud recipient of the Welsh Park Sculpture “On Site,” created by Pinneberg artist Gabrielle Schmidt-Heins to represent the early German tribal tradition of constructing a place for meetings and rituals, and the roses in the Friendship Garden in front of Rockville City Hall, a gift of friendship from Pinneberg. However, becoming a member of the RSCC, as an individual, family, or corporation, is the only way to experience the full benefits of the relationship between Rockville and Pinneberg because of its social events, learning experiences, and hosting opportunities. You don’t even need to speak German, be a student, or live within Rockville city limits to be a member! All you need is a desire to experience new things, connect with new people, and build bridges between cultures.

Filed under Around Town

Login to add a comment.  Forgot your password?  Need an account?

Your email: Password: