But after four years in office, the current US President has yet to pay the town a visit. As the next election draws near, are the town’s residents relieved or disappointed that he has failed to live up to his promise?
The wine-growing town of Kallstadt makes no effort to brag about its links with Donald Trump, but the upcoming presidential election in the US has thrown the town and its 1,200 residents back into the limelight.
“There are always times where questions about Donald Trump come up more often and it becomes quite annoying,” says Mayor Thomas Jaworek from the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU). “But it’s not like we get asked about it every day.”
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An unfulfilled promise
Since Trump’s election victory four years ago, Kallstadt residents have heard the same question over and over: has Donald Trump come back to visit the town where his paternal grandfather grew up?
With only a few weeks left until the election, it’s pretty clear that he won’t be paying a visit. Is Mayor Jaworek disappointed? It does not seem like it.
“I’ve said the same from the beginning: if he comes, he comes, if he doesn’t, he doesn't. We haven’t gotten our hopes up which means we aren’t disappointed.”
Discussions with residents in Kallstadt make it quite clear that few people eagerly await a visit from the 74-year-old.
The surname of the US president – which is often pronounced in a deliberately German way as “Drump” – has become a buzzword in the town.
“The media frenzy surrounding the last election was a huge nuisance for many residents, so if he were to visit now all hell would be let loose”, said a man from the town.
“We also follow the news and see how Trump governs. I don’t know anyone here that would pay him a genuine welcome”, he said.
A worthwhile destination
The picturesque town of Kallstadt is home to just 1,200 residents. Photo: DPA
If Trump were to visit, he would not be at a loss for things to do. Kallstadt is one of the picturesque towns dotted along the ‘German Wine Route’ and offers something for everyone.
Those who fancy something heavier can try Saumagen (stuffed pig’s stomach), a Palatinate delicacy, whilst cyclists and hikers can enjoy lighter dishes.
There are outdoor restaurants, timber-framed hotels, and you can also visit the two houses on the Freinsheimer Straße where Trump's ascendants lived. The constant stream of visitors to the houses has long been a nightmare for the current occupants.
Trump’s grandfather grew up in an unassuming house in the town before emigrating to the USA in 1885.
The Salvator Church even boasts a chalice that Trump’s grandparents apparently drank out of at their confirmation.
Kallstadt was also the birthplace of the founder of the world’s most famous ketchup company, Henry John Heinz.
Years ago the Trump Organization, a company belonging to the President, donated 5,000 US dollars to help fund the exterior restoration of the church.
The descendants of Henry John Heinz were somewhat more generous: they donated €50,000 toward the purchase of the church organ.
The childhood home of Trump's grandfather has attracted a lot of media attention. Photo: DPA
“We are a very welcoming town”, said Jaworek. “I think that the residents would respect Donald Trump’s wish to explore his grandparents’ home town. They would ultimately treat him like any normal descendant of people who’ve emigrated from the Palatinate.”
But what would have happened if Trump’s grandfather Friedrich had come back from the US and Trump had grown up in Germany?
The director, actor and author Alexis Bug toys with this idea in his play Kallstadter Saukerl (The Bastard from Kallstadt), in which Donald isn’t the leader of the free world, but rather a hairdresser named Toni.
The play toured around various locations, mainly in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden Würtemberg.
“We put on the play in Kallstadt last Christmas”, said Bug. Half of the audience watched the play without cracking a smile. “The poor people did not know how to react. They had probably expected a comedic play, a Trump parody if you will. In reality, however, they found the character Toni to be quite normal.”
At the end of the play, Toni’s speech at the village carnival causes a brawl amongst the townsfolk. “That's a pretty accurate description of Trump's presidency, in my opinion,” says the 47-year-old. “A big spectacle comes first, then civil war comes after.”
Trump did visit Hamburg in 2017 for the G20 summit, but he has not visited the capital Berlin since being in office.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) visited the White House in 2018, bringing a copper plate engraved with a map of Kallstadt and the Palatinate from 1705 as a gift for the President.
Richard Grenell, then the US ambassador, repeatedly promised that Trump would visit Germany.
Merkel's gift to Trump in 2018 serves as a reminder of his German roots. Photo: DPA
And how does the town of Kallstadt view the upcoming election? “I think we see it the same as the rest of Germany”, said Jaworek. “We’re waiting to see if it will be like last time, where we all went to bed sure of the result and woke up to a completely unexpected outcome.”
If Trump is reelected, he may visit Kallstadt during his second term in office. If he is defeated, he may be able make a more low key visit to the town.
Ultimately, he says, it lies in the hands of the American people. “We will take it as it comes.”
At a meeting at the end of August, residents of Kallstadt were asked to write down their hopes for the future of the community. Answers included requests for a multigenerational house with a café as well as more shopping facilities, better leisure facilities and a vegan version of Saumagen.
Incidentally, a visit by the man in the most powerful office in the world didn’t make the list.