Inside the German town with Trump family ties and what it really thinks of him

Kallstadt, a tiny wine-growing town in the west German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, was home to Donald Trump's grandfather before he emigrated to the US.

Inside the German town with Trump family ties and what it really thinks of him
Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017. Photo: DPA

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.”

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.

READ ALSO: Eight American celebrities with surprising German roots 

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. 

Transatlantic links

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? 

READ ALSO: Why Donald Trump's grandad was booted out of 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.”

State visits

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.” 

READ ALSO: Why president Trump is avoiding visiting Germany – again 

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.

Translation by Eve Bennett

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.