So near and yet so far

This week offered a break from the classes I am currently auditing, so Don planned a nice short trip to Amish country in Pennsylvania. We were joined by our dear friend ML, who comes from that part of the world and who was willing to venture back into her past.

We began our tour in Lancaster, which is a well-loved and carefully preserved city, clearly ready for affluent tourists looking for shopping opportunities. We have to admit we strolled through some lovely stores, in buildings that have been nicely preserved.

It is one of those cities that has pianos sprinkled around the public areas, and lots of students who give the town the proper amount of funk. There was also a lot of signage that indicated some very welcome liberal leanings, which were nice to see

We sampled some very authentic German cuisine. The surroundings were humble, but the food was fantastic, especially my divine Jaegerschnitzel. Oh, and the homemade apple strudel with freshly whipped cream! (We could hear the beaters going in the kitchen.) Yummy!

We also walked through the very upscale town of Lititz. Gorgeous and beautifully preserved, it is also the home of a famous pretzel-maker (America’s first!) and Wilbur Chocolates, which was filled with goodies that now fill us. This area is also a center of watchmaking, and Rolex has its US HQ here. I’ll take any of the houses on Main Street.

In complete contrast, we then visited the market in Ephrata. It is a giant flea market/food market/street fair, that has been around forever. It has always been a center of Amish commerce, but now lots of other things get mixed in. Photos are forbidden, but I did snag one of our ‘restaurant,’ with a starring role for ML’s pickled eggs. A real local specialty, as well as the Lebanon baloney which we have all imported back to New York.

We also made time to take a trip in the parlor car of the Strasburg short-line Railroad, “the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere and the oldest public utility in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” so they say. It’s a 40-minute ride through corn fields, an ‘Amish’ amusement park with the obligatory corn maze, and lots of pretty farms. Tourists were taking pictures of tourists taking pictures of them. Fun.

We spent our last night in the town of Intercourse, PA, because why not? If you’ve always been curious, rest assured that there is no wild nightlife in this town. We had a nice dinner at a real Amish restaurant (no pics) and passed a lot of buggies on our way back to our hotel. But if you want a glass of wine to round off the day? The (15-year-old) desk clerk told us the hotel and its restaurant were strictly BYOB. Where to get the B? Not at the liquor store across the street, we learned. When we suggested going over there, the young man’s eyes got very wide and he said, “It’s not open. Not at THIS hour!” Guess one shouldn’t even dream of drinking in Intercourse at 8PM on a Friday night.

We were lucky the Amish restaurant stayed open that late. On Saturday night, it closes at 6PM. And this, BTW, was a place that is so popular you have to take a buzzer and wait outside for a half-hour till a table is available.

Though we did see a lot of lovely Amish children and lots of pastoral scenes, compared to previous visits, the area did seem like an amusement park or a zoo to look at the Amish and buy lots of junk. Some stores don’t bother to specialize, just advertising “Amish Stuff.” Sad. They must feel very exploited, and it will probably only get worse.

But when you squint your eyes and look past all the debris, it is a lovely part of the world.


3 thoughts on “So near and yet so far

  1. Amazing. It seems on a par with some of your wonderfully preserved European towns. “Authentic” may be another challenge, but lovely to see.

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