As of yesterday, I exchanged my recent travel buddy aka “Long Haul Trucker” bicycle for my life partner and spouse. Oh, and we are traveling by auto which means longer days on the road; but more access to anything that crosses our path.
Yup, ’tis true we successfully hotfooted it out of town less than 24 hours after coming home from a weekend at Shangri-la on beautiful Lower Lake Eau Claire near Hayward, WI. And quite the weekend it was filled with bike riding on some lovely country roads through a mix of deciduous and coniferous forests that are just starting to show autumn colors. This is the breathtaking view from Shangri-la — a major shout-out and thanks to Pat and Scott for hosting us; and a view of the colors too!
We are now heading south and east on an excursion to places both foreign and known. On Tuesday we visited the Amana Colonies located near Cedar Rapids, IA and which is comprised of five villages covering 25,000 acres. I will be the first to admit that I rarely think of Iowa as a tourist destination. However, I clearly recalled the Amana Colonies from my American Studies classes that had exposed me to many enclaves that had been founded on cultural, religious or political beliefs. The Amana Colonies were founded by German Lutherans who had pacifist beliefs that had put them in conflict with the more militaristic German society that existed in the 18th century. The founding of the Amana Church was the result of a schism in the German Lutheran Church. Two clergyman experienced what was termed a “religious awakening” that focused on a more contemplative manner of worship. They believed that God could communicate through an inspired individual. Such an individual then behaved as a tool of God providing guidance to followers.
By the mid-19th century this group had decided to move to America so that their beliefs could be followed with no state interference. This led to the founding of the first communal settlement in New York and then eventually the final move to present-day Amana where the sect has resided for over 89 years. Today the residents continue to follow the same religious beliefs of their ancestors. This includes speaking in German as well as English.
I remarked to my wife that this was a very high class tourist trap: top-notch antique shops, lovely quilt shops, bone-sticking hearty German food and classic art. As is my usual custom I had an opportunity to indulge in some locally brewed root beer–which had the perfect blend of bite and sugar. It went well with our traditional and very tasty German lunch in the New Colony Restaurant– needless to say this is the kind of food that sticks to your bones! The restaurant was housed in an old hotel and it contained some beautiful artifacts — see the mantle clock which was carved out of a single black walnut tree.
During our visit we wandered through a historic buildings that were originally either homes or places of business. This is an example of the architecture that relies on both wood and stone:
We had a delightful visit and the best part was that it was totally unplanned!
Next stop is Hannibal, MO home of Mark Twain.