I feel like I am a time traveller. We seem to be flitting backwards and forwards from the very new and modern to the very old and steeped in history. So from the vibrant New York we now find ourselves in the Lancaster county which has a very large community of Amish (somewhere around 35,000). The cultural diversity in this area is amazing.
We went on a tour of the Amish Community, fascinating would not fully describe it. Learning the history of these people that we are rubbing shoulders with. Actually there are places that we feel the minority and now it seems that we have gone from the “oh wow” to “oh hum drum…. its just another horse and buggy”. No not really, I don’t think I would ever get used to seeing them walking in Walmart (with hitching posts out front for the horse and buggies) or driving past in their carriages or the shops specifically for the Amish. In fact just down the road is a car sales yard and service centre for the Amish….. Rows of Carriages out front not cars. (photos to come)
I have read so many books that have talked about the Amish people and to actually see them for real makes me need to pinch myself over and over that I am here walking amongst them.
Their history of how they came to be and in particular learning of their pacifism was in stark contrast to the afternoons tour around Old Town Lancaster. We again steeped ourselves into the civil war history and landmarks.
At the visitors centre we were told to go into the Marriott Hotel Penn Square and go downstairs as the hotel was built around a historic house. I didn’t really understand what they were telling us to do, but hey I thought it will be cool in there and as we were sweltering in 34 degrees anywhere that is air-conditioned is a welcome respite.
This hotel, The Marriott Hotel, when they wanted to build in Penn Square (in old Lancaster town) they had the problem that there was a historic house of William Montgomery which was built in 1804 on the site. So they built the hotel around it. This house was built by a famous architect of that time, Stephen Hills and was built with a rare oval room.
But we kept on going down the levels and we found an archology site in the lower level. This was the house of Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) who was a member of the “underground railway”, which was a network of safe houses during the mid 1800’s for the African-American Slaves to use to escape North into the free states or Canada.
I wondered if we should have been there, as there was no one around. While we were taking photos and trying to see if we could get any closer, we were approached by a gentleman who asked if we knew about Thaddeus Stevens. Well then an amazing history lesson of the area began. His passion brought the times of Thaddeus Stevens, Abraham Lincoln, the peace agreements with the Iroquois and lots more come to life. A big thank you to Kevin Malloy (Executive Director of the Marriott, Penn Square, Lancaster).
Up bright and early the next day we headed off to the town of Hershey. Yup that’s right there is a town built around the Hershey chocolate factory. In fact when Milton Hershey built his chocolate factory, he went on to build the town around it including flower gardens, a zoo, a theme park and schools. In particular a school for orphaned boys, (this school which is still a working school today as a school for social and under privileged children) is the sole heir to the Hershey fortune .
Wow oh Wow. Another religious mecca – that of the chocolate lover for the millions that make the pilgrimage here every year. It was fascinating and I think as I walked in to the foyer of the main entrance/hall my blood sugar levels spiked just from the smells.
Driving into the town you can help but notice the magnificent building on the hill top with the huge sign “Welcome to Hershey” carved into the side of the hill below it and then the fair ground full of rides (lots of Roller Coasters including an old Woody Roller Coaster). We had to laugh as the roads around Hershey are called things like Cocoa Road or Chocolate World Way and the street lights are Kisses.
After Hershey we found ourselves on the road to Harrisburg (the capital of Pennsylvania state, who would have known). In the centre of the city are the state buildings. Once again, that wow moment happened again.
The State building is a replica of the Basilica in Rome. Just stunning. What great photo opportunity’s it gave TOH. The inside was as stunning as the outside. This architecture was again inspiring. Also to stand where Theodore Roosevelt stood to dedicate the building at its opening in 1906. 113 years later, it makes me wonder if the large glass buildings we are currently building ever likely to last anywhere similar the time that these buildings have and are standing for. We certainly seem to have become a throw away society.
Again we or I should say TOH (have a chat) got talking to a gentleman at the entrance to the State Building, who gave us another great history lesson this time of the building, only to discover he was actually Mike Kelly a Pennsylvanian State Representative (Same as a MP for New Zealanders). One interesting tidbit he told us was the heads cast around the door at the entrance were the engineers and people that were responsible for the State Building.
As we wandered around the centre of Harrisburg, I kept asking TOH “where is everyone?”. The centre of the City was empty. Very weird.
Yesterday we moved camp site and have now set up home in “Intercourse”. No sexual connotations intended. The name actually came about as it is where the roads intersected a very very long time ago. It seemed as I sit outside in the evening, smelling the farm across the road and the constant trot of horses going past, we find that we have landed ourselves even deeper into the Amish country. As we were sitting getting ready for dinner, we had 2 Amish children come around the camp site selling home cooking. I should have asked for home baked bread…. without sugar (the bread over here resembles cake more than the bread we are use to at home). Maybe they might be back tomorrow night. It did make me think though, how these farmers are surviving. A lot of the farms are very small and I have been told that they are struggling to survive. The younger people are having to move into the “English” world to find work . English is what they call anyone who is not of the Faith. Many seem to be turning to tourism and exploiting their religion to make ends meet. Quite sad really.A