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Friday, May 24, 2013

Hanging with the Amish!

To say it's been a dream of mine to see the Amish country would be the understatement of the year!  I never imagined I'd find myself in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or have the chance to drive through their amazing countryside, or better yet, meet them on their own land!  It was incredible and something I definitely won't forget... and I have a terrible memory, so that's saying something!

We pulled up to our $55 a night Bed and Breakfast through in the center of the historic district of Lancaster! You can check out the rest of the house HERE!

It's so historic, in fact, that the house next door used to be a legal brothel and was built in 1842!

Our host was a fabulous mid 60 yr old woman named Carol, who was the most helpful, intuitive, generous, friendly, welcoming and creative woman!  We stayed in her 3rd floor loft and spent the first night chatting all night and the next day doing the same!  We just absolutely loved her! She would write us little notes all over the house and changed her kitchen chalkboard EVERY morning!  She reminded me so much of my best friend Sarah! (instagram pic)

We also loved this cute lil' cafe right downtown that she recommended, called Prince St Cafe... We ate there twice it was so good.

We spent a little bit of time checking out downtown Lancaster (which I DID NOT do justice in my photos, because there's so much to see and I was being lazy)...

Sorry, that's all I've got!  I told you I was lazy.

*** For the record, from now on in this post, the photos are mine AND Aaron's photos.  We shared my camera most of the last 2 days and he said it was cool if I posted his, so "Thanks A!"  Feel free to have a little game with yourself and guess who took which one. :)

But really who cares about downtown Lancaster, or who took the photos, when we can talk about the Amish!?  Carol gave us directions to an Amish village called Intercourse (yep!) where she said we were sure to see our fair share of Amish. We figured a good spot to start would be at the grocery store, so walked in and had our VERY 1st Amish interaction!  It was with the young female clerk, wearing a handmade powder blue dress and white bonnet, with her hair pulled back and not a lick of make-up.  She said the apples I chose to buy were her favorite!  I was in heaven.  Why are they like celebrities to me?!  Apparently leaving tracks on the counter is totally acceptable in Amish country, too.  

We drove over 100 miles today, down any street that sounded Dutch, earthy, or community centered, like: New Holland Rd, Harvest Dr, Spring Garden Rd, Friendship Ln, Meeting House Rd, and then drove onto smaller streets that came off of those roads, etc)... We heard that that was the best way to really see them in action.

.... and we saw some of the most beautiful Amish farms because of it!

... and of course, lots and lots of buggies sharing the road with present day cars.

It seemed as if every Amish home/compound had animals roaming around on their yellow-flower-filled-land!  Did you know that all Amish owned horses are thoroughbreds?!  Makes perfect sense with all the work they do, right?!

This little schmooch was only a week or so old!

Amish's primary form of transportation are their buggies, but if they're young (or sometimes old) and just need to get somewhere close, they ride these "bikes".  We asked one of the guy how much one was to buy and he said they're about $200, which I thought was super expensive.  What's interesting about the Amish though is that if you just looked at them on the street, you'd think they were dirt poor because they're shoe-less, dirty, and have terrible hygiene, but they're actually some of the richest people in the state of Pennsylvania!  So, really, what's a $200 bike to them?!

How funny is it that the Amish village is called Intercourse?!   I'll tell you what, after talking with quite a few of them, intercourse is definitely not something they're lacking - most had between 6 and 8 kids! ...And, apparently because of the town's name, the signs are frequently stolen right out of the ground! lol

Despite the sporadic rain throughout the day, we saw about 75 Amish in total!  They were out and about building a barn...

... playing in the dirt..

... young guys farming on their land...

... and high school age guys riding their horse drawn plows down the middle of the street...

Amish don't like having their picture taken, so it's nearly impossible to get a shot of their face, but we paparazzi-style-drive-by-shot them (that sounds bad, but you get the gist) and snapped a couple anyway.   They're just too awesome not to photograph!

Aaron and I really wanted to get an up-close and personal experience with at least 1 Amish person while we were there, so when we saw a handwritten sign that read, "Pick your own flowers" in front of an Amish house, we pulled right up to the house ready to pick some flowers and say hello! We were met by 3 sweet little Amish kids between the ages of 5 and 10 who very properly said, "I'll go get my mom" and sheepishly scurried into their house. Their young mom came out and smiled a rotten tooth smile (hygene isn't the most important aspect of Amish life) and guided us to her garden where she told us the flowers were 4 for a dollar!  4 for a dollar!  YES!!!  Her little girl very quietly helped me pick the best 4 pink peonies while the other two awkwardly stared at us as we walked around the garden, smiling here and there... and then waved us off as we drove away.  After that interaction, we were hooked!  We decided that we would stop at every house with a sign outside saying something was for sale! :)   
(I brought the flowers home and put them in a vase for Carol, which she loved!)

So, we decided to go to all of the houses selling stuff, except for this one... We're not all that interested in goat milk!

But we did stop here!  Neither of us are fans of Sauerkraut, but luckily they sold Apple Butter, so we picked some of that up instead!  We met a dad and 2 of his sons, all of whom had rotten teeth, dirty clothes and no shoes on!  lol  And talk about being socially awkward, they were some of the most awkward of all, however they kept the conversation going.  We were always really careful not to overstay our welcome, so if they asked us questions, we just stuck around and took in the experience!  I asked the 14 year old son if he was born in the house and he answered in his adorable dutch English accent, "Oh, I don't know where I was born" as if he'd never thought to ask, and his dad said, "He was born here, in the house".   I loved it!  

Next stop was for some Amish cheese!  My sister had told us to buy some while we were there, so luckily we got the chance to!  We pulled up into a compound and parked the car between the barn and the main house and walked toward their little storefront.  Inside was a folding table with a money box on top and a piece of paper and pen with the customer's name and the item they bought.  Gotta love the honor system!  We were kinda bummed cuz we thought we wouldn't get the chance to meet anyone, but sure enough, a woman in her late 20's and her husband (I think) with the longest, coolest, ratty beard, came and met us and gave us their best recommendation for cheese. They said this was their most popular selling.  hhmmmm... We bought it anyway! :) 

Our next stop was here! Who doesn't love a greeting card, handmade by the Amish?!  We pulled in and parked between their GIANT house, garden and barn, where we were met by the dad, who was re-finishing furniture in his workshop on the first floor of the barn.  I told him we'd like to purchase a greeting card and he motioned for us to follow him upstairs, where we were brought to a small table with about 75 handmade greeting cards.  He said his daughter was born with Spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair in the house.  She makes these to contribute to the family finances.  We talked with him for a long time about our travels, his family, and his furniture business.  Then he asked us what we did for a living.  Aaron answered, "We're photographers" and he kinda cocked his head to one side and looked at us funny and said, "What's that?" Then Aaron motioned like he was taking a picture with his hands and the dad perked up and said, "Oh, yea, yea. I know about that."  I almost died!

We bought this one, which his daughter had hand painted for $1.50. :)

We were stuffed from eating lunch, the apples I bought at the grocery store earlier, and the chips we'd been passing back and forth during our 100 mile adventure through Amish country, but when we saw this sign, we couldn't resist!  We parked and walked into their family store and were met by a young girl in her 20's who was very friendly, but again, very socially awkward.  I told her that I was so excited to try a Fry Pie and that I didn't know what it was.  She literally grabbed one off the shelf, unwrapped it, cut it into pieces for us and handed us each half to tastes as a "sample"!  We were gonna buy one regardless, but she gave us the whole thing for FREE!  So, we bought 2 more!  They were delicious and extra special because she makes them here at her house! :) 

Next stop was this strawberry farm, which unfortunately we didn't get to meet anyone at.  I think it was probably dinner time and they were busy inside eating together... but I did buy some organic strawberries and put my money in an honor system box!

Our last Amish home stop was here, for homemade root beer!   I don't even like root beer, but I do like meeting the Amish, so off we went! lol  This picture is a lot brighter than what it looked like when we got here... When we opened the big barn doors and went inside their little store, there were no other customers there and it was so dark inside I almost tripped twice (since they don't use electricity), but 2 little Amish girls were standing behind the counter to meet us.  It was like stepping back 100 years!   They were pretty weary of us, regardless of my big ole' smile and Aaron's kind eyes (I love when people say that about him)!  And I'm pretty sure the younger one didn't speak a lick of English.   

I'll leave you with two of my favorite moments/photos of this Amish trip! 

... and this one, snapped by Aaron out the passenger side window.  :)

So, there you have it!  Who wants to meet the Amish?!


  1. I love the pictures you captured! My mom would always pretend like she was taking pictures of our family but move the camera just a little bit more over so she could capture our Amish family also. :) It is such beautiful country.

  2. I loved your blog and enjoyed the ride of how you were intrigued by the Amish. I was raised Amish and left when I was 18. I found you on IG and enjoy your pictures. I'm relaxnchic in IG. Thanks for sharing!

  3. WOW WOW WOW!! This is, by far, your coolest blog post ever. Man, I loved this. Oh, and the pics (both yours and A's) are brilliant!

  4. OH MY GOSH Jill.... you have no idea the love affair that I have with EVERYTHING Amish!!!! We are hoping to visit Lancaster this summer. I literally have read every book I can get my hands on and I know way too much. When Daniel said maybe one of them have a B&B where we could stay, I replied "No, we would have to stay with Mennonites. They have electricity and are more likely to rent out rooms or own a B&B, but it's usually pretty close to Amish communities". I can't wait to go. I LOVE this post. I will be looking at the pictures over and over!

  5. I do! I want to meet the Amish!!! Amazing! Oh and now thanks to you and your hostess Carol, I also want to own a Bread and Breakfast so that I can take care of people and leave them notes in the morning!!!