Considering this part of our trip had been planned entirely around seeing Amish country, it was only fitting that we spend a few hours actually learning about the Amish.
The Amish Village was basically exactly what it sounds like: it was a little collection of Amish buildings set up to look like a village (there was a house, a school, a barn, a shop, as well as some random tools and structures strewn about). We signed up for a tour (it was mandatory to gain entrance to the village), and learned so much about Amish culture that I filled the back page of my map with notes. To avoid boring you with a long-winded summary, here’s a list of what I learned:
- The Amish don’t use electricity because of its connection to the outside world. For this reason, batteries are used as lights (sometimes even signal lights!) on buggies, and diesel-powered air compressors are used to power farm equipment and household appliances like stand mixers! Other appliances are still old school; we were shown a kettle that was run using a kerosene-like substance and a propane-fueled lamp!
- The reason the Amish don’t drive cars is that they move too quickly and have the potential to move people away from their families. This is also the reason they don’t use rubber wheels on their farm equipment (it would then become too fast!).
- Every farm has a modern tractor! However, it is used only to move other heavy equipment from one place to another; the actual work is done by hand or with animals (see my picture from yesterday).
- The Amish, or “plain people,” call non-Amish people “fancies” or “English.”
- Because European persecutors wore moustaches, belts, and shiny buttons, the Amish eschew all of that. (Also, shiny buttons would be considered “too fancy”!)
- Women can wear clothes in any colour except bright red or yellow (also “too fancy”!)
- Clothing is made without pockets, and Amish homes don’t have closets for their clothes (they’re hung on hooks). This is to prevent people from collecting too many things (this is actually a really good point!).
- Shoes can be bought from any store, so long as they’re not “too fancy.”
- Toy dolls are made without faces, as they would be considered graven images.
- Both boys and girls go to school until Grade 8.
- School is taught in English, the Luther bible (in High German) is read at church, and Pennsylvania German is spoken colloquially.
- The Amish have their own weekly newspaper, but they read non-Amish newspapers as well.
With all that information, Heinrich and I left The Amish Village, heads full but bellies empty (it had now been quite a few hours since our pretzels!).
I had been intent on trying out a traditional Amish family-style restaurant that I’d read about in Bill Bryson’s book The Lost Continent (a highly recommended read!). He recounted his experience at one such restaurant, detailing the neverending assortment of foods that were laid out on the table in front of them. And if the pretzels and sticky buns were any indication, we were in for a doozy of a meal!
Heinrich and I chose the Good ’n Plenty restaurant for dinner. The dining room was filled with long picnic tables, and despite our senior-hour suppertime (it was only 5 p.m.!), we were seated at one of the only partially-empty tables left.
After introducing ourselves to our dinner companions (I always find it awkward to spend time getting to know a table full of people, only to part ways an hour later and never see each other again), our waitress came by and filled our table with bowls of different types of salads and bread. Once we were finished with those, we were given platters of meatloaf, fried chicken, ham, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, and pasta. And then, to top it all off, we were given shoo-fly pie, cherry pie, mini cheesecakes, and rice pudding. In other words, just your typical family dinner!
After watching almost every single person around the table transform from an enthusiastic dinner companion to a self-loathing sloth, practically bursting at the seams (thank goodness there were no wafer-thin mints at the table!), Heinrich and I decided to call it a night. We had wisely held back at dinner, as our appetites would once again be key for the next day’s agenda.