By Ken Jennings. Photos: Alamy.
Hundreds of American cities and towns have "sister city" relationships with other municipalities across the globe, in order to encourage business and cultural ties. Atlanta, Georgia, for example, has officially paired with no fewer than twenty-two other metropolises worldwide, including Bucharest, Romania; Lagos, Nigeria; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But not every town has its pick of the world's most glamorous and bustling capitals for its sister cities. In fact, our favorite pair of sister cities is Dull and Boring.
The first sister cities bonded over an exhumed corpse.
The idea of cities partnering up across national borders goes back almost to Charlemagne. In the year 836, the city of Le Mans, France agreed to return the remains of native son St. Liborius to Paderborn, Germany, where he had served as bishop. A ceremonial procession marched five hundred miles from Le Mans to Paderborn to deliver their patron saint, and the two cities became permanent partners.
Toledo, Ohio: meet holy Toledo.
But the notion of formal "sister cities"—or "twin towns," as they're known in Great Britain—didn't get rolling until the 1950s, when President Eisenhower proposed a city diplomacy initiative to rebuild international ties broken by World War II. Toledo, Ohio was the first North American city to find a friend overseas, when it paired with—where else?—its slightly more picturesque namesake, Toledo, Spain.
A Dull woman dreams up a Boring plan.
Today, Eisenhower's sister city program is a global nonprofit, Sister Cities International, that maintains partnerships between thousands of world cities. But some relationships are less formal. In 2012, Elizabeth Leighton, a native of Perthshire, Scotland, was on a cycling tour of the United States. When her route took her through Boring, Oregon, she had an idea—why not pair Boring with Dull, a village near her Scottish hometown? Thirty-eight Boring residents attended a city planning meeting on the subject, and unanimously voted to extend the hand of Boring fellowship to Dull. Then they got to work on the "Boring and Dull" T-shirts they hoped would boost tourism.
Dull and Boring just got a little more interesting.
Neither town name is really a putdown. Dull takes its name from a Gaelic word that may mean either "meadow" or "snare," while Boring is named for William H. Boring, an early farmer in the area. In 2014, the governor of Oregon named August 9 as "Boring and Dull Day" statewide, and the town added bagpipes to its regular summer ice cream social to bring in some of that Scottish flair. Everything is going so well that the town has reached out to New South Wales, hoping to get something going with the Australian shire of Bland.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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