Specializing in "Gemuetlichkeit"
By Charlotte Kohnhorst
Nestled in a cozy narrow valley at elevation of 1100 feet with surrounding wilderness of rugged, majestic mountain ranges reaching 5,000-8,000 feet, lies a quaint Bavarian Village. Snake-twisting rivers, deep azure lakes, crystal-clear crashing waterfalls, lush green rolling hills dotted with flourishing orchards alive with buzzing bees seeking sweet nectar provide the magnificent backdrop for this active community.
Houses here display pointed peaks with large wooden over-hanging rooflines on stucco/ timber combination structures. Main street finds hugging gingerbread-style buildings on one side and beautiful park abundant with variety of trees on the other. One finds scalloped trim on the rooflines, intricate folk art cutouts on balconies, exterior wall murals, window boxes and barrels with profusion of flowers everywhere! Strolling main street visitors admire the 96 foot Maibaum, (May Pole) dressed in blue and white stripes ( traditional Bavarian colors) with attached placards depicting town's history. These include: logging, railroading, skiing, mining, dancing, the town band and church - all denote role of significance to community. Plaque at base of Maibaum offers traditional Bavarian blessing:
"Maibaum steh auf, zum weissblauen Himmi
zoag naug, dass in's zu jeglicher Zeit d'Hoamat gedeiht."
Translation: "Maypole rise to the blue-white sky, so our homeland may forever prosper.
Continuing along main street one discovers shops filled with nutcrackers, dolls, beer steins, music boxes, candles, candy, cheese, toys, specialty clothes, gifts, and collectibles to tempt shoppers. One can always find the unusual exceptionally unique gift for that special person here. Restaurants, cafes and side street "wurst-stands" offer German cuisine from sausage with sauerkraut to finest dessert fruit filled pancakes delicately dusted with powered sugar. Delicacies of every gastronomical desire are easily found and enjoyed. Hungry visitors always find "Haxen oder Huhn," delicious goulash accompanied by "Spaetzle oder Kartoffeln," at one of a variety of good local restaurants specializing in"Gemuetlichkeit."
If you are lucky you might also spot the local German Bierwagen with its four horse team going through the downtown area. The harness on the bierwagen is all handmade in Sud-Tyrol, the German speaking part of Northern Italy. You might also spot a small 200 year old German carriage pulled by Haflinger horses going through their paces. The wonderful harness for these horses come from the town of Wallgau in the heart of Bavaria and are handmade. In the summer you can be assured of entertainment in the Gazebo in the heart of the downtown. It may be a German group visiting, or a world class yodeler and a visiting high school band. There's always a surprise for the visitor to Leavenworth.
Depending upon season, one discovers skiing, sledding, skating, hiking, rock climbing, camping, fishing, rafting, canoeing, bike riding, horseback riding, bird watching, and generally thoroughly enjoying and appreciating nature. There is possibly no greater spectacular burst of autumn color than Tumwater Canyon in fall.
Sound like you are in Germany? This is Leavenworth, The Bavarian Village of Washington! Situated in the heart of the state at the base of the eastern slopes of Cascade Mountain Range, 118 miles east of Seattle, one can easily drive to Leavenworth via Interstate 90 or U.S. Highway 2. Both routes guide one through beautiful terrain and are exceptionally scenic. Mountains and valleys of this area resemble parts of southern Germany so closely one feels immediately transported abroad.
Early settlers were Native American Indians and later, the Gold Rush brought many white settlers. During the 1900's, Leavenworth was a very small town where logging and fishing were primary industries, along with pear, apple and cherry orchards. With Stock Market Crash and Great Depression of 1929-1930's, Leavenworth lost residents and business owners as people moved to larger cities for better jobs and better pay. Through the 1940-1950's, Leavenworth became virtually a "ghost town," with many buildings empty or in sad disrepair.
1960 brought transformation as dream to change the "face" of the town into a Bavarian Village began. Architects were screened and selected who could create the look of German buildings. Construction began to change and adapt roof lines with scallops, decorative shutters, and attached window boxes. Artists were hired to paint murals
on exterior walls. What a delightful transformation the town experienced!
Businesses began encouraging women employees to wear Dirndls and musicians were sought to play German music. Today we are especially interested in authentic and traditional Bavarian dress.
In 1996, Projekt Bayern was created. This group consists of individuals dedicated to the preservation of the Bavarian Theme. Several goals established include: formation of a town band, (Musikkapelle) holding annual Christkindlmarkt, and seeking a German Sister City in Bavaria.
Our beautiful natural setting and Bavarian Village uniqueness have made Leavenworth a major tourist area within the state of Washington, well known throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the border to neighbors in Canada.
Leavenworth celebrates many festivals throughout the year. January brings Icefest and February brings Fasching. Springtime means Maifest, with Grand Parade, street dancing and great entertainment. Summer brings Kinderfest, International Accordion Festival and International Folk Dance Festival, and numerous productions by local Summer Theater Group. As leaves turn, we celebrate Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival with huge parade and wonderful entertainment. Oktoberfest follows and by Thanksgiving week-end we offer Christkindlmarkt. December brings two special week-ends with magic of Christmas Lighting.
Photos by Bob Smith & Ken Kohnhorst
For a complete information on Leavenworth please visit the Leavenworth Chamber website www.leavenworth.org