TS#8 – Käfertal : You can’t go back

[Travel snippets – TS – a series of reflections on past travels and adventures]

In 2008, I was in Germany for business. I decided to sneak down to Heidelberg for the weekend, one the way from one city to Frankfurt – yes, kind of out of the way I know, but on the upside, I did get a beautiful train ride up the Rhine river on the way back. The reason of took this excursion is because my grand father’s family, on my mother’s side, was from that part of Germany.

His family had a one time successful tanning company in the western part of Sydney, but in Germany, there were supposedly “Vinter’s”. So here I go, heading out from Heidelberg, to a town called Käfertal, in the Mannheim region. I was expecting this beautiful wine region of course, and what I found, especially in Manheim, was a very industrialized area.

I happened to be in Käfertal on Sunday, so it was sleepy at first, and then the church bells started ringing, and people started streaming towards, almost as if they were being summoned. Apart from that activity, everything else was closed.

So I puttered around, I went inside some of the churches, and imagined that perhaps they might have sat in some of them at some stage, but who knows what churches were there over a hundred years ago.

When I was first living in America, I started making trips back to Australia to see family and friends. I would expect everything to be the same, but of course it was not. High school friends were not having out in the same parts of town, and those same parts of town were sometimes unrecognizable. Life goes on. Things change, and after one hundred or more years, the town that I visited that weekend in Germany was nothing like the town that my relatives would have lived in, nor were the surrounding areas.

Perhaps with a little more planning, and a little more time, I would have gotten more out of it. I am glad I saw the town, it was not what I was expecting, and certainly I was not able to make any tangible connection with distant relatives. It was a spur of the moment trip, I saw an opportunity to make a quick trip, so I did. I am glad I experienced a town like this, it definitely made an impression on me, especially the people streaming in to church in response the bells ringing, but it is not the town my relatives were from – you can’t go back.


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