A Step Back in Time
by Sandra Scott
On our recent trip to Lancaster my husband, John, and I learned there are two Lancasters – the county and the city. This time we explored Lancaster County and fell in love with the countryside. We immediate felt at home when we checked into the Artist’s Inn in Terre Hill. The Victorian B&B is on a quiet street in a quiet town where the most common noise is the clip-clop of the horse and buggies. We arrived on Sunday in time to borrow two lawn chairs from Jan Garrabrandt, the innkeeper, and headed to Long Park where they have a free concert every Sunday. It was a beautiful evening to sit on the hillside and listen to some light jazz.
The next day, after a leisurely gourmet breakfast at the Artist’s Inn, we headed to Lititz, which quickly became our favorite town and the smell of chocolate in the air had a lot to do with it! The factory responsible for the delicious smell was Wilbur Chocolate where Wilbur Buds were the inspiration for the Hershey Kiss. The factory has a show kitchen where we watched the ladies who have the sweetest job in Lancaster County hand-dipping chocolate. We spent time in the museum featuring early chocolate making equipment and watched a great video that started with the discovery of the “Food of the Gods” by the Spanish explorers who then spread the love of chocolate across the world. The entire process from raising and harvesting the cocoa to the fermentation followed by the drying and shipping of the beans to the factory gave us a new appreciation for chocolate.
Next to Wilbur Chocolate is the Tourist Information Office where we picked up a brochure for a walking tour of Main Street, which is lined with 18th century buildings. Many, like the Moravian Congregational Store dating from 1762, have changed little. Our goal was the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, the home of America’s first pretzel bakery. One of the wonderful things about the factory is that it was founded in 1861 in the same location and is maintained by the fifth generation of the Sturgis family. While we were waiting for the tour to start we read the wall posters and learned that in ancient Egypt if a baker was caught selling underweight or adulterated baked goods he was nailed by the ear to the door of his shop! Guess that kept them honest. We joined the tour where Carol, our guide, showed us how make the pretzels which symbolize hands at prayer. It was especially fun watching the children learn how to make the pretzels then proudly display their diplomas. We left with John’s favorite – cinnamon stick pretzels – and my favorite – caramel filled chocolate covered pretzels.
On the way back to the car we could not resist stopping for lunch at Café Chocolate. What a wise choice. John had toasted peanut butter & banana panini with dark chocolate while I opted for Chile Con Chocolate, Oaxacan style. But it was more than the great lunch it was the great conversation with Selina. Selina is an amazing woman who exudes happiness and energy. From Hong Kong to Toronto to Princeton to Lititz, her personal story is amazing. We wished we had more time to spend with her but she is always on the move and we, too, had to move along.
Just a bit south of Lititz is the Landis Valley Museum, a living history village and farm, depicting the Pennsylvania German rural community from 1740 to 1940. I was mesmerized by the display of scherenschnitte, the art of scissors cutting. How could anyone have the patience to make such intricate cuttings? But then we stopped in the textile building where a lady was making bobbin lace. Another example of amazing concentration and skill.
Before dinner at Good ‘N Plenty, an all-you-can eat family style restaurant featuring authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking, we had just enough time to stop at Kitchen Kettle Village for some shopping. Kitchen Kettle is another one of those heartwarming stories. Kitchen Kettle was started in 1954 by the Burnley family and is still family owned where all the products are made on site except the apple butter and peach butter which are made by a local lady. They make about one million jars a year all by hand. We were back at the Artist’s Inn in time to watch the sun set from our porch while enjoying shoo-fly pie from Kitchen Kettle.
The next day after our divine breakfast we headed to Bird-in-Hand where we took a buggy ride with Aaron and Jessica and learned that Aaron was the name of Jessica’s horse! The gentle ride took us along country roads through a working Amish farm. Before leaving we visited the horse barn and watch a horse being shod – a common occurrence in Lancaster County.
The tolerance and acceptance that the people of Lancaster County have offered to the Amish was also extended to the slaves during the days of the Underground Railroad. At AME Cultural Center the performance of “Living the Experience” brought tears to my eyes as we learned about the Freedom Trail through Lancaster County.
In downtown Lancaster we visited art galleries, the Quilt and Textile Museum with brightly patterned Amish quilts, and a walked through America’s oldest farmers market. The Lancaster Central Market has been in continuously operated since the 1730’s.
Lancaster is home to many theatrical experiences and we wanted to attend one of the famed Bible presentations at the Sight and Sound Theater but there were no performances while we were there. That will give us a reason to visit again. Instead we went to the American Music Theater where we felt right at home recalling our youth with a performance of “Classic Crooners.” Finally, a show where we knew all the songs!
The next morning we lingered over our gourmet breakfast and took time to look at some of the artwork of Jan’s husband, Bruce. We loved his out-of-the box humor. The cow on the swing was titled “Mood Swing.” But our favorite was the picture of their cat sleeping on the back of a chair with parts of the fringed lampshade draped on his head titled, “Furry with the Fringe on Top!”
Wistfully, we said our “Good byes” and Jan pointed us in the direction of the covered bridges. The drive through the well cared for countryside and across the covered bridge made us wonder once again about the serene lifestyle left behind with the advent of technology. We were thankful that there was Lancaster County where we could get a glimpse into a simpler time.
For more information check www.padutchcountry.com and www.artistinn.com.