Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

(James Buchanan's House - Wheatland)

30 years ago my parens took a long weekend trip to Amish Country and my mother has been dying to go back ever since. My dad however was traumatized by the Straussburg Railroad (or as he has dubbed it "the train to nowhere") and has refused to go with her. So for years we've heard her plea of "who wants to go to Amish Country with me"? Last weekend I took one for the team!

My mom and sister are going to Seattle in August and I couldn't go with them so my compromise was that my mom and I would spend a long weekend in Amish Country after my Golf Tournament was through. We left on Friday, June 26th and came back on Sunday, June 28th. It's not a bad ride from NJ - just about 3 hours. I have to say that there is a nice variety of things to do in Lancaster, PA.

Friday when we arrived after lunch we headed to the Sturgis Pretzel Factory in Liditz, PA for a tour and of course to purchase some pretzels. The tour was $3 and lasted about 30 minutes. We started out each getting our own piece of dough that we rolled out and were taught how to twist it into a pretzel shape! It was pretty exciting as someone who grew up in a pretzel loving family (more like pretzel obsessed family!) Then the tour guide explained to us the history of the pretzel and how Mr. Sturgis was the first person to open a pretzel factory in the US. She also explained how they used to make pretzels versus how pretzels are made now. It was all pretty interesting. The tour leads out into the gift shop and of course we had to purchase pretzels. My mom got a nice assortment for my dad and I purchased two bags of Cheese Pretzels (that are divine!) We also shared a soft pretzels straight from the oven. I have to say it was the 2nd best soft pretzel I've ever had (1st place goes to the pretzels in Munich, Germany.) We learned that the average person consumes 2 pounds of pretzels a year and the average Pennsylvanian consumes 20 pounds of pretzels a year. I think my dad should have lived in Pennsylvania!

After the pretzel tour we did a driving tour suggested in my mom's guide book that drove us through typical Amish Country where we got to see some farms and many Amish people traveling in horse & buggy, by scooter or by foot along the road.

(The Carriage House at Wheatland)

On Saturday morning our first stop was Wheatland, where President James Buchanan lived. You know me and my Presidents! James Buchanan was the 15th President, the President right before Abraham Lincoln. He bought Wheatland with the intention of retiring. However, under President Pierce he was the Ambassador to England and then he was nominated for the Democratic ticket. He actually ran his campaign for the Presidency from Wheatland. When he was nominated for the ticket and elected President he made both of his "thank you" speeches from the front porch! He was our only bachelor President, never married. I found the tour very interesting and I love seeing places that were such a part of our history. It was an hour tour.

(Mom with our rail car at the Straussburg Railroad)

After Wheatland we headed down to Straussburg to ride the railroad! After hearing about "the train to nowhere" for 30 years I certainly wasn't going to come all the way to Lancaster and not ride on it! We got there 15 minutes before the next train was about to depart and snagged ourselves "First Class" tickets. We boarded the train at noon and sat in our plush comfy chairs. The train ride began and the conductor pointed out different items to us as we went along. We rode for 20 minutes to a "rail yard" and then the engine moved to the other side of the train and we rode 20 minutes back to the starting point. It really is a "train ride to nowhere"! I could see if you had small children that the novelty of riding on a train would be worth it but as adults I think my mom & I both felt that it was a little overrated. Nevertheless, I'm glad that we did it.

After that we went to the Mennonite Information Center and watched a movie about "Who Are the Amish?" It was a very interesting 30-minute segment that literally answered almost every question that I had asked out loud to my mom over the course of our weekend. I'm glad we took some time out of our day to learn about the people who make the community of Lancaster, PA so special.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities that there are to do in Lancaster, PA. There was more stuff we wanted to do but we just ran out of time! I can't say that I'll be running back to Lancaster, PA but if I ended up there again someday I know I'd have a good time.

Post in Comments:

Have you ever been to Amish Country?

If so, what was your favorite activity?


shi said...

So how is pretzel making different from the olden days?!

I also suggest reading Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult, which is about the Amish.

readerbean said...

I have read Plain Truth and I was telling my mom about it this weekend. She in turn was telling me I should see the Harrison Ford movie Witness...I'll be adding it to my queue.

Re: how is pretzel making different - I'll give you the indepth explanation tomorrow at I Bar!