Home Again, Home Again: Part Two

When I last left off the story of this week’s vacation, Aaron and I had spent a relaxing/boring evening in the quiet town of Millersburg: walking the Rails-to-Trails, checking out the Amish people at Wal-Mart, and watching cable TV in our hotel room.

Next comes the meat of our vacation: travelling about Amish Country.

We woke up bright and early at 8am and headed out as soon as we were all showered and ready to go. Consulting our map in the car, we saw that the Dutch Harvest Restaurant was on our way into Berlin, and decided to stop there for breakfast.

First, though, we stopped at the Save-N-Serve, the local thrift store. I could have bought a “plain dress” and looked all Amish, but I decided that would be insensitive to the Amish and Mennonite culture. Aaron, however, thought it would be a great Halloween costume. 😉 We bailed on the Save-N-Serve fairly quick, but we couldn’t have just let the opportunity to check out a new thrift store go by.

It’s not far to Berlin from Millersburg — maybe five miles or so — so our drive to Amish Country proper wasn’t overly long. We found the Dutch Harvest Restaurant with no problem, and were seated by a window overlooking a rolling hillside with a pond and ducks. Very picturesque. The restaurant had a breakfast buffet going on, so we opted just to go with that.

So, so good.

We had biscuits and sausage gravy, fried mush (which I’d never tried before, but was surprisingly good), french toast sticks, sausage links and patties, scrambled eggs, fruit… oh, what else…? Anyway, we had lots and lots of quite excellent food. We weren’t hungry again until mid-to-late afternoon.

The clerk at the Hotel Millersburg had told us about this place called Behalt, which is an Amish and Mennonite cultural center. We figured that would be a good first stop for our day, so we drove through Berlin — taking note of the antique malls we passed on the way — and made our way to Behalt.

The nice receptionist lady at Behalt was very helpful when we walked in. As we walked in, probably obvious in our tourist-ness, she asked, “Can I help you?” or something to that effect.

My response? “Um… whaddaya got?”

To which she replied that there was a 15-minute video about the Amish and Mennonites in Holmes County, and a tour of their 265-foot mural-in-the-round, depicting the history of the Anabaptists (Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites). We said OK, and bought our tickets from the nice Amish lady. Or maybe she was Mennonite — we never did really find out how to tell the difference.

Anyway, we browsed the gift shop, took the tour of the mural, and watched the video. It was a good thing we had a guide for the mural, too, because there was no way we’d have known what was going on without him and his laser pointer.

Tell you what, there was a lot of burning at the stake back around the 16th century. The running story seemed to be, “So-and-so was an important member of the Anabaptist movement” — which, incidentally, means ‘rebaptized,’ as they believe in adult baptism, rather than baptism as an infant — “then they were captured, jailed, and were burned at the stake.” Rinse and repeat. One man was running across some ice to flee The Man, but when the guard fell in the ice, he went back to save the guard instead of saving his own ass. Of course, he was burned at the stake. Then there was the man who was jailed, and died in a jail fire — but the government/church retrieved his body and burned it at the stake, anyway. The list goes on.

We were glad that we got a taste of what it is to be Amish or Mennonite (their beliefs and lifestyle, I mean, not so much the burning at the stake), because the rest of our day was mainly driving around and antiquing in Amish Country.

After our visit at Behalt, we drove around Berlin and hit Heini’s Cheese Chalet, the Berlin Antique Mall, and the Berlin Village Antique Mall. We found another antique mall on our way out of town to Walnut Creek, then we hit another one when we arrived at Walnut Creek. We actually did end up buying some antiques, too: Aaron found (and I purchased) an old Conquistadors Drum & Bugle Corps ceramic whiskey flask from 1971 for six bucks, and I got myself a few little countrified knick-knacks for 50¢ apiece.

Whew. That’s a lot of antiquing.

When we grew tired of antiquing, we drove to the Ashery Country Store, which we had read online was supposed to be a huge bulk food store. Teh intarweb does not lie: we got ourselves some cheese sauce powder, some candied ginger, candied pineapple, and yummy beef jerky.

Then we were hungry. So we ate some beef jerky on the way to Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen for a late lunch / early dinner. We both had the meatloaf dinner — again, the special — and I had mashed potatoes and gravy and homemade dressing with mine. They also brought out bread and spreads: apple butter and peanut butter spread. The apple butter, of course, was good. The peanut butter spread was unbelievable. It was like the filling for peanut butter pie, but in a squeeze bottle. If we’d thought to bring our cooler along, we would have bought a container of the spread to take home. So, so good. Oh, and dessert was good too — Aaron had peanut butter pie, and I had peach cream pie. Oh, yeah.

Then I thought we could go back to Berlin and walk around for a while, and I could burn off the last exposures on my Holga by taking pictures of the nice Amish folk. Not so. Berlin is a tourist trap and a half, full of craftsy stores and non-Amish crap. We went into a few stores, but decided after a while that it was too hot outside and that Berlin sucked in general. So, we drove back to Millersburg around 4:00 or 4:30.

To pass the time on Wednesday evening: we hit the two antique stores in Millersburg, holed up in our room watching cable while it rained outside, took another walk after the rain quit, sat outside on a park bench until it got dark out, went back inside and watched some more TV, went to Wal-Mart to get some snackies, watched some more TV, and went to bed around 11pm.

The final installment will be briefer, and will cover Thursday’s exodus from Amishland and our trip to the Rock Hall and the Science Center in Cleveland.