On day two of my journey in Germany, the first of May, I took a train from Stuttgart to Kandel (see on map), via Karlsruhe to visit the small town I have ancestry tracked back to the 18th century. Thanks to research by my Great Uncle Edgar who put together an extensive family tree book a few years ago, I knew my Great Great Great Great Grandpa George Lindemann was born in Kandel in 1780. The Lindemann family is actually the ancestry of my mom’s father’s mother, but it’s the most in depth family history I’m aware of and technically just as much a part of me as my paternal lineage. Explained visually below.
I arrived at Kandel Bahnhof, a minimal two track station, around 11:30am and walked a few blocks north to the center of town where my hotel was. My first impression was nice; it was small and quaint, just what I had expected. Since it was near my hotel, I first went to the one large cemetery in town, located on near the northern edge next to the contemporay (mid 20th century) Catholic church, though not directly affiliated.
The cemetery (photo below left) was compact but dignified. Unlike the typical small town cemetery in America, it was not grassy; rather a grid of paths and individual plot landscapes. However it was more familiar with similar gravestones and modest markers than the cemetery I explored in Rome. I browsed around for a little while, looking for any Lindemanns to see if I could find anyone new. I didn’t spot any and the cemetery was not that old, most burials within the last hundred years and only two or three plots with birhts in the late 1700s. This was a bit disappointing – I even went back later in the day and checked every row, no Lindemanns and no other cemeteries in Kandel.
After skimming the north edge of town I walked to St. Georgskirche (St. George’s Church), the landmark church in Kandel, parts of which date back to 1468. The largest Gothic church in the region, it has been largely rebuilt more than one time. For about a hundred years the church was home to both the Protestant and Catholic congregations until 1957, when a new Catholic church was built in Kandel and St. George’s reverted back to purely Protest. I was hoping there would be an older cemetery of some sort by the church. Instead it was surrounded by a small parking lot – but a very attractive one, neatly paved in cobblestone that could very well function as a public plaza.
I continued on walked a few blocks of Hauptstraße, the main street running through town lined with real timber frame homes and businesses stretching from city end to end. I noticed there was very little activity today – I would walked blocks without seeing anyone. I later realized it was May 1 – May Day, which evidently is a national holiday in Germany. A bustling main street scene would’ve been nice – or at least open businesses – but oh well.
I made my way to the southeast corn of town and than down south along Lauterburger Straße, what I’ll call the “South Duff of Kandel” (Ames reference) because it was lined on the east side with the town’s “big box” stores and businesses. These included an Aldi, a Netto discount market, a small car dealership – not exactly Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, but they’ll do.
I made my way back west as I was making a huge clockwise loop around the town. I came upon a nice community park with a decorative pond and playground that were under renovation. Adjacent was a soccer field and two school buildings – one that I assumed to be the equivalent of a high school had a very neat new addition. The southwest corner bordered a large nature park forest dissected by several linear paths. I decided to walk down one for about 2 km, where I came upon a restaurant building and small beer garden in the middle of the forest (photo above right). There was a big crowd today – the most people I had seen all day. I then headed back northward along a road, eventually making it back to Hauptstraße at its very western extent of being built up around.
Walking along Haupstraße from the western edge all the way to the east end took a while, but allowed me to see pretty much every corner and end of Kandel. The entire stretch is characterized by small one to two-story, traditional timber-frame structures. Except for the middle that is dominated by businesses, they are pretty much all single family houses. The northeastern corner of town is newer with lower profile homes and a few small, bland apartment houses. Heading back toward the hotel I passed the Kandel hospital and culture center.
It was really unfortunate I visited when everything was closed and no one was around. Considering my success at the cemetery, I was unable to find any other Lindemann traces, so the visit was a lot less personal thank I had expected, inevitably just a random small town I chose to see. I had a hard time finding any German food for dinner that night. Every restaurant I came upon that was open was, believe it or not, Italian! There were a few fast food kabab/pizza place on the main street, but I eventually found “Candle’s Lounge” in a small beer garden complex. It was awkward and boring eating alone, but it was dinner.
Due to the gloomy weather and lack of pretty much any livelihood I initially felt a bit disappointed in my Kandel visit, but appreciate the experience as I look back. Sunday morning I was considering attending church at St. Georg’s even though it’d be in German. I ended up sleeping in instead, which I now really kind of regret. It would have been neat to experience – and finally see some people! I did end up going by on my way to the train station around 11am, thinking I could at least see the inside after the service (which began at 10). I got there just in time – when I went inside a few people were picking up and readying to leave. I’m curious if they would’ve had any records or displays that I could’ve learned more about the history and potentially my ancestors, but I wasn’t able to look around as they were closing. I’m glad I did get to see inside though; it was a good last impression of Kandel.
Aside from my own experience of literally just walking around all day long, Kandel was a really interesting visit to see a German small town and how they differ immensely from similar sized cities in the U.S. Although it appeared like a dead town when I was there, it actually seemed like an incredibly vibrant city. [I’m surmising] by resisting the over reign of chain restaurants, stores, and other businesses, a lot more of the economy is maintained locally, in addition to a remarkable national rail transportation system, small towns can stay viable and flourish. The quality and maintenance of public infrastructure is also very impressive. Kandel had a large stock of historic German timber frame buildings, which was also delightful to see.
See all my photos from Kandel here.