Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lancaster County & The Amish

What do you think of when you see this sign?

Peeps from the Philadelphia area will probably know but for anyone else, there are people who live about an hour-and-a-half (via car) west of Philadelphia referred to as the Pennsylvania Dutch (also known as the Amish although they are just one group that makes up the PA Dutch). The "group" is made up of people from a variety of protestant religious groups and they live in and around Lancaster County. They're probably best known to non-Pennsylvanians from the movie Witness, which starred Harrison Ford as a cop protecting an Amish boy who witnessed a murder.

A couple of days after Christmas, I had the chance to go visit with some of my uncle's family who live near Lancaster so we left early and went to see some of Pennsylvania Dutch country, which is full of beautiful scenes like this one:

The Amish originally moved from Germany and Switzerland to Philadelphia in the late 1600s to gain religious freedom. As the city grew around them, they moved their farms west towards the city of Lancaster (and to other places in the United States), where many of the approximately 250,000 living in the U.S. can be found today. Ironically, Lancaster has become sort of an "edge community" of Philadelphia with folks commuting in towards the city and closer-in western suburbs. Every time I've been in Lancaster during the last ten years, I've heard at least one person remark on how the buggies block traffic on the local roads. The very lifestyle that the Amish tried to move away from!

I've always been intrigued by the Amish as they live "simply" and without many modern conveniences such as electricity. Actually, life on an Amish farm reminds me a lot of life on the farm in Chiquinquira except that in Colombia there's electricity. :-)

They prefer to not have their pictures taken, especially face-on, because, for them, it focuses too much attention on the individual whereas the Amish are a group-centered people. I tried to be respectful and took this far-away photo of one younger guy who's moving a buggy. I think it gives you a sense of their style with things like the straw hat and clothes as well as his full facial hair indicating that he's married (unmarried men shave clean). The cart he's pulling is painted in traditional black and gray, which is standard for the carts in this region, and is from a (for-tourists) buggy-tour operation.

Photo of me inside one of the buggies where you can see some of the what I'd consider to be fairly fancy interior fabric:

The Amish-owned farms in the area tend to be fairly distinctive for the clothes drying outside during the day. As with the majority of the world, they don't use clothes dryers.

The Amish's clothes also reflect their lifestyle and tend to be black and unadorned. If you look at the above photo, you'll see mostly non-patterned black clothing but there are some brighter colors too. Men mostly wear black and white and the women have a few other colors thrown in such as some blues and purples. Kids get a couple of more color choices such as green, yellow, and pink. For the most part, each local group sets its own limits for what's acceptable for the group in terms of "fashion", buggy styles/colors, behavior, and other life matters.

One of my favorite things to do when I'm up in Lancaster is to stop at some roadside stands that are set up by the Amish. Most of the stands sell homemade foods such as veggies, cheese, and homemade jams and pies like this farm that has "sho-fly" [shoofly] pies (but only on Friday and Saturday!):

Diana was amazed by the "trust" system that they've got at some of the stands. Because the Amish prefer to avoid the non-Amish for the most part, they leave their items for sale and have a container to put money in and to make change. This particular stand had a tablet of paper where they asked customers to write down what they were buying and how much money they were leaving. The white bucket was for the money. We picked up some Apple Butter, which is an apple-sauce like food, that cost about $2.50 U.S.

Another attraction that gets attention in this part of Pennsylvania are the old covered wooden bridges, which are similar to those featured in the movie (and book) The Bridges of Madison County. Although the movie takes place in Illinois, there are a bunch near Lancaster. Most aren't used any more and some, like this one just east of the city of Lancaster, are now on private property:

Our last stop before going to see my family was at the Lancaster Central Market, which is an indoor farmer's market. The market is the oldest farmer's market in the U.S. that's still in operation (over 250 years) and it's now housed in a 160-year-old beautiful brick building right in the heart of town. It was cloudy and rainy by the time we got there so the photo doesn't give it justice:

Inside, the architectural details of the building are just as nice as the outside. There are about 70 different stands that sell everything from fresh local meat and veggies to arts-and-crafts gifts. Yep, there's even a stand selling lattes although I didn't see eggnog ones on the menu.

The winning item at the market wasn't some strange fresh cow's head or even some cutsie arts-and-crafts thingamombob. Nope, in what reminded my of my friend Bruce, I present the bacon maple donut of Lancaster's Central Market, which can be yours for the low, low price of one U.S. dollar:

Unfortunately, I didn't buy didn't want to ruin my appetite before going to lunch with my family... Yeah, that's why. In retrospect, I probably should have as they look good! :-)


  1. It is wise not to think of all these material things... and I urge for an Ipad ;)

  2. barcelena: It's tough to avoid wanting material things. We seem to be wired for it! ...and many of my family now have tablets/iPads but I'm still fighting the urge... :-)


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