TARPON SPRINGS — City Commissioner Robin Saenger was so enthralled by a Chinese town she hiked through last year she inquired if it and Tarpon Springs could become sister cities.
Because Tunxi, an old town located in the Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province, is not a part of the international program, the partnership looked out of reach.
"It was just a neat town," Saenger said. "There were so many similarities between the town and Tarpon Springs."
Tunxi officials were just as interested in Tarpon Springs. So much so that they invited Saenger and Mayor Beverley Billiris to the town of about 100,000 for a conference. Tunxi is picking up the majority of the cost for the two-week trip, which starts July 8. No Tarpon Springs public funds will be used to finance any portion of the trip.
While there, Billiris will speak at a conference about international cultural exchange and tourism.
"It's a very unique opportunity," Billiris said. "The trip does not mean they will become a sister city to Tarpon Springs. My goal is to showcase Tarpon Springs and hopefully we will get tourists from China. For me, it's more of an economic trip to enhance our tourism in Tarpon Springs."
Billiris and Saenger are carrying loads of literature and artifacts that highlight Tarpon Springs, from movies and pictures to examples of how the city's reclaimed water system works.
"We are bringing everything we can to show them about what we do and they will show us what they do," Saenger said. "It's a dialogue."
The movie Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger, which won four Oscars in 2001, was filmed in the Tunxi area, which is surrounded by mountains and has a river running through it.
Billiris and Saenger are not the only commissioners traveling abroad this summer.
Commissioner Chris Alahouzos will travel to Greece on July 22. Alahouzos will participate in an Aug. 1 conference involving Tarpon Springs' three sister cities Kalymnos, Halki, Symi.
"The trip is going to give us the opportunity to enhance the communication and enhance cooperation among the cities," said Alahouzos, chairman of Tarpon Springs' Sister Cities Committee. "It's going to help us create programs that will continue our cultural, educational and economic development exchange."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4174.