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jorgesanchez Lancaster - A travel report by jorge
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Lancaster,  United States - flag United States -  Pennsylvania
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

One lovely day with the Amish people

  13 votes
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Although Lancaster is a pleasant little town not far from Philadelphia, the major reason to travel there is for visiting the Amish villages and observe their centenary way of life. The main two Amish villages are Intercourse and Bird in Hand.

The Heritage Center Museum and the market
The Heritage Center Museum and the market
In Philadelphia they offer excursions to visit the Amish for 118 US Dollars, including a taxi service from your hotel to the Amtrak train station, the transport to Lancaster, a visit to some farms and back to your hotel.
But you can do it for only 33 US Dollars!
First take the train to Lancaster (28 US Dollars round trip), then, after visiting there the interesting Heritage Center Museum (free of charge) and the local market (just next door) where the Amish come to sell their products, buy a one day bus pass (just for 5 US Dollars and you can use it as many times as you like) and board the first bus to Intercourse. Then walk, just walk along the route 340 making deviations to visit churches and farms, which is the best way to get to know the life of these amazing people. Once in Bird in Hand you can take a bus back to Lancaster to connect with your train to Philadelphia.

The Amish migrated to America during the XVI century escaping of the persecutions that they suffered in Europe. They came basically from Switzerland, Germany and Holland. They are Anabaptists, what means that they baptise their children only when they are adult.
They speak three languages: the first one is German, but “Pennsylvania German”, with a mixture of English. Second is Old German, used for religious ceremonies and serious talk among the notable’s members of that community. Third is English, which is used to contact the external world.

Every Amish community follows an Ordnung, or norms of behaviour, but they do not have the equivalent of a Pope or religious leader embracing all the Amish. In fact, soon I would learn that in Lancaster County live not only the Amish but also the Mennonites. Both derive from the teachings of the Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli, observed by Menno Simons, but Jacob Amman, in 1693, thought that the Mennonites were not rigid enough and created a schism, the Amish, much more pure, refusing to use electricity and most of the advantages of the modern world.

Favourite spots:
In that farm I tasted the, probably, best root beer of the world
In that farm I tasted the, probably, best root beer of the world
Although there are several Amish villages in Lancaster County, the more popular are Intercourse and Bird in Hand. But if you take a deviation along the road 340, very advisable, suddenly you will see farms without a single tourist (who concentrate mainly in the two mentioned villages).
More than once I walked about 4 or 5 kilometres until a farm to find with surprise an Amish family with children barefoot (in summer children do not wear shoes) playing and smiling contagiously. I also saw their laundry with their blue colour trousers and other typical dresses. When they saw me, I was afraid that they would be shy, but not at all, the boys of about 14 years old asked me where I was from. When I replied “Spain”, I asked them at the same time if they knew where is located my country, and, of course, they knew it very well, they receive a good education in their schools.
In one of the farms out of the beaten track I was offered homemade fresh root beer.

What's really great:
Young Amish boys riding their buggy
Young Amish boys riding their buggy
If you are tired or do not like to walk, you can rent a Buggy to reach the relatively far away Amish villages in the area. They are offered in many places, but especially in Bird in Hand. You are not allowed to ride the Buggy, but if you ask the driver, he will permit you for a while.

Remember that if the horses are black, they belong to the Mennonite. But if they are grey, then they are pure Amish.

A place that you should visit with your Buggy is The Amish Village in Strasburg. Although is rather a kind of tourist trap, it is better than nothing, and will give you a good idea of the Amish life in their farms. There you will visit a silo, or granary, their laundry, school, blacksmith shop, the water wheel using horses, the livestock (basically piglets, goats and horses), the windmill and the operating smokehouse, where you will see the process of how the hams are smoked.

The church is not included in that tour, but you will find some churches in other villages.

Amish with their traditional clothes selling their vegetables
Amish with their traditional clothes selling their vegetables
Every sight is memorable in Intercourse and Bird in Hand. After one day with the Amish you will learn that they are pacifists, and do not like violence at all. They dress very simply, men with a shirt and a black hat in winter or with a straw hat in summer.
If an Amish is single he will be completely shaved, but when he get married, he will let his beard grow, but not the moustache (they explained me that their prosecutors in Europe had moustache, and they associate moustache with officers in the Army).
Women dresses are very modest, with the colours black or grey only, and their hair is always covered by a headgear.
They do not like to be photographed because their religion prohibits the humane images, but in the shops they sell books and postcards showing them.

You should visit at least one of their farms, with their silos, garage for the horses and chariots and their atelier. Just go to any farm, ask permission to the Amish and, invariably, it will be conceded to you.

There are too many hotels in Amish land, and too many tourists
There are too many hotels in Amish land, and too many tourists
I saw many advertisements of hotels along the Route 340. I fear that in the future the Amish villages will become a sort of Disneyland.
I even visited a hotel along my walk from Intercourse to Bird in Hand. It was the one shown in the picture: “GreyStone Manor. Victoria Inn” (look at the funny traffic sign on the right of the picture!). The price was over 100 US Dollars for a single room, breakfast included.
Some hotels had even theatre shows, shops and offered tours in Buggies.
I noticed with some sadness that the place had become too touristy owing mainly to the 1985 Peter Weir film “Witness”, with main actor Harrison Ford, filmed in Intercourse.
Now, when you walk, you see advertisements offering, not only hotels, but also free wine tasting, golf courses, restaurants, shows, souvenirs and toys, antiquary objects, rides in Buggy…

I did not sleep in Intercourse or Bird in Hand. Instead, I returned to Philadelphia to sleep in a park, on the grass, besides a Jesus Christ statue.

White Dog Café, Philadelphia. Ask for their homemade beer!
White Dog Café, Philadelphia. Ask for their homemade beer!
As you can figure out, Amish people do not have an exciting night life. They pray before going to bed, and wake up with the sunrise.

You have to go to Philadelphia if you want action, unless you stay in a touristy hotel and assist to a theatre show about the life of the Amish people.

Even Lancaster village is a rather dead town at night, except a few restaurants.

But not Philadelphia! In this historical city I recommend you, first, to have dinner in the friendly White Dog restaurant (see my Travel Tip describing this restaurant/café), and then go to the Eulogy Belgian Tavern (, owned by a Belgian from Brugge, in 136 Chestnut Street, open until 2 AM, where you will find a terrific atmosphere and will have the possibility to make friends and choose among 300 kind of beers (try my favourite Belgian beer, made in an Trappe abbey called Notre Dame de Leffe: Leffe Blonde!).

Heavy traffic in Intercourse
Heavy traffic in Intercourse
In Intercourse I visited a very busy street with more tourists than Amish, plenty with shops selling ice-creams, souvenirs, postcards… But I immediately left for the Tourism Office, to study more about the Amish.

There I learnt that in Lancaster County, live approximately 27.000 Old Order Amish (those who drive Buggies) plus some 12.000 Old Order Mennonites who also drive Buggies. And about 45.000 Amish and Mennonites alike who drive cars, but nevertheless still observe a virtuous life (In the whole of USA live about 200.000 Amish members scattered around several USA states, and Canada too (mainly in Ontario).

All they are disillusioned with America, the land of the free, because it has one of the highest percentage of population of the world behind bars, and feel that their ancestors have been betrayed, because they left Europe searching for a place where they could freely worship God, but today they realize that in USA liberty is being translated as a licence to follow low instincts.

I am having lunch in the restaurant. I enjoyed the atmosphere more than the food
I am having lunch in the restaurant. I enjoyed the atmosphere more than the food
There are several restaurants along the route 340. I chose The Family Cupboard, located between Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand ( There is a buffet for just 10 US Dollars and you can eat as much as you want. Coffee is included in the price, but alcohol is prohibited.
I preferred to taste something genuinely Amish and ordered a German dish from the XVI century consisting on chicken with potatoes and some vegetables (I use to be vegetarian but that day I made an exception). All the ingredients are pure and homemade.
The restaurant is a very religious place, and some customers, before eating, pray thanking God for the food. It is closed on Sundays.
I can’t say that I had an exquisite culinary experience. No, although the food was decent and correct. But the experience was the place.

Look at the picture; it is me having the old German dish. In the tablecloth (well, table-paper) there are instructions about what to say before starting your meal.

Other recommendations:
A whole Amish family going back to their farm
A whole Amish family going back to their farm
Try to make Amish friends. Amish are especial people, like if they were out of this world. They have been educated according to the psychology of the XVI century Europe.
They are very curious and will ask you questions. They are pure, fresh, mentally clean and innocent.
I made friendship with boys in some farms, but we only exchanged a few phrases. It was different with the man in charge of the Tourism Office, in Intercourse, with whom I talked for over an hour. The conversation was very didactic and fruitful for me and taught me many aspects of the Amish life and, by addition, of the humane nature in general.

I am pretty sure that God, sad and disappointed for having created the human being due to their unmoral behaviour by their wars, degradation, shameful vicious against the nature, crimes, lies, and so many ruin and improper deeds, when he looks at the Amish he would benevolently smile, calm himself, and would give Humankind another chance.

Published on Saturday July 19th, 2008

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Tue, Sep 23 2008 - 01:13 AM rating by sofke8868

Very useful report! I'm planning to go to Lancaster in a few weeks. Will definitely visit the Amish too! A walk from Intercourse to Bird-in-Hand sounds great (didn't think about it before). Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Mon, Jul 28 2008 - 07:23 PM rating by aufgehts

I always love hearing a foreign tourist's view of aspects of American life. I myself have never been to the Amish country though I've always been interested. You have given information about the Amish that I didn't even know about and I'm glad you had the time to really expereince their way of life. That's what true travel is all about!

Fri, Jul 25 2008 - 03:22 AM rating by louis

Wow, maybe instead of changing my work I will change my way of life. Great report, I read once an article in the newspaper, but I enjoyed much more reading your report. I think that is unforgottable experience.

Tue, Jul 22 2008 - 06:39 PM rating by mistybleu

What an interesting insight into this community; thank you very much for sharing

Tue, Jul 22 2008 - 09:52 AM rating by marianne

What an interesting place to visit. Good description and photos

Mon, Jul 21 2008 - 10:41 AM rating by eirekay

You offer some wonderful insights! Thanks for a peek into a very different world!

Sat, Jul 19 2008 - 05:22 PM rating by krisek

A wonderful report! Very educating and full of tips and deep thoughts about life and whatever was before. Thanks a million!

Sat, Jul 19 2008 - 01:51 PM rating by horourke

This is a very thoughtful and helpful report. It combines factual detail of a very interesting location to visit with some deep insight into another culture and philosophy.

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