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Pennsylvania: Out and About in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Terry from PA (Teaberry)

Just a little over an hour away, going west from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you will find yourself transported to a very far away place, extending back to a time that remains untouched by all the trappings of our fast-paced world of technology and industrialization. I am talking about Amish Country, in Lancaster County.

The Amish people can trace their beginnings to Europe during the Protestant Reformation of the 18th Century. As with other fringe religious sects, they were persecuted for their convictions, and came to Pennsylvania because of William Penn's strong belief in religious tolerance. Many settled in Lancaster County, and the Amish way of life still exists today as it has for several hundred years.

These Amish folk, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch, are called "plain people". This is evidenced in their clothing, their homes, and their lifestyle. Most are farmers, and pride themselves as such. There is a noticeable absence of electric wires and telephone poles around their farms and homes. The Amish prefer to be more self-reliant, and they adhere to time-proven ways that not only strengthen their bonds to each other, but also preserve their separateness from the rest of society.

They do not operate motorized machinery on their farms, and that includes driving cars. You will observe horse-drawn black buggies on every highway in the area. Their clothing is modest, never decorative, always dark, not even buttons are allowed (too fancy), with both men and women always wearing hats and head coverings. They are a God-fearing people, and are family-oriented and community-centered.

horse-drawn carriage

Taking a drive along the main highways in Lancaster County, one can often feel overwhelmed with the profundity of commercialism; outlet malls, touring buses, souvenir shops, and a multitude of fast-food joints. Yes, Dutch country has been "discovered" as a great tourist trap. But take any turn off the main highways, onto a smaller winding road, and then just "get lost" – you will discover the enchantment of the land and have some glimpses into another world.

Every time I come to Dutch Country, while I bring a good road map, I find that the best way to really see the area is to get off the main roads and keep turning down smaller and smaller roads. You never know where it will take you, and you will eventually reconnect with a larger road; then you can refer back to your map to get your bearings.

Rolling gentle farmlands, well-tended fields, tree-nestled homesteads, covered bridges, horse-drawn tractors, fruit and vegetable stands, quilts, the local blacksmith, the smells and tastes of local cuisine (shoo fly pie, apple cider, relishes, home-canned vegetables and jams, home-cured meats) – these are the images that will fill your senses and spark your appreciation of a simpler way of life. Spend a slow day meandering along the back roads; when you are ready for a break, stop into one of the larger villages, with names like Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, or Paradise to enjoy a meal and shopping for handicrafts. Or spend an idyllic weekend in one of the many plush B&B's or inns in the area.

To get there from Philadelphia, just take the Pennsylvania Turnpike west, getting off at either the Morgantown or Lancaster exits. Dutch Country forms concentric circles around Lancaster, so you can discover and explore in all directions.

Resources

www.800padutch.com/amish.shtml: The Amish and The Plain People

www.padutchcountry.com: Lancaster Country Pennsylvania Visitors Center

Find interesting B&Bs and Inns in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.


I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and find this whole area to be one more beautiful part of the world. See Terry's Slow Travel Member page.

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