Although the Amish avoid technology their Strasburg neighbors give steam trains their due at the splendid State-run Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania where they display over 100 coal and wood-burning antique locomotives and rail cars.
- Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Just across the street from the Railroad Museum on Sunday morning we stood in the shadow of a seething steam locomotive as it fired up for its 11 AM run on the Strasburg Railroad.
- Stasburg Railroad, Train Rides, Dinner Train
“She’s a two by ten by zero, a Baldwin built in Philly in 1924,” the man standing next to us said as he hefted his digital point and shoot to catch the backhoe filling the coal car. “I have chased these old engines all over the country. The old steam trains have a life of their own don’t they, I can’t get enough of them.”
Billowing steam enveloped the engine as the engineer hitched to six antique coaches for the run to Paradise. The conductor ushered us into the dinning car where we would have lunch as the antique coal-burning Baldwin chugged across the Amish farm land. A few minutes later the train eased through the pin-neat Amish fields and we passed a road crossing where a black surrey with a young couple held back their trotter as he pranced sideways eager to race the train. We raised our coffee cups in a toast to the Amish with a bit of admiration for their simple life.
Amish Pennsylvania Dutch Country RV Vacation
Amish Penn Dutch Country, RV Vacation, Sightseeing
The rapid clip clop of hooves on pavement announced another sleek racer springing into view. The trotter pranced sideways against the bit, flashing his glossy mane as the driver pulled him to a stop at the traffic light. The young Amish man sat rigid in his seat, his wide-brimmed hat masking his features. The young woman beside him in white bonnet and grey cape avoided our eyes as the driver eased off the reins, turned on the directional lights and guided the black surrey west through the intersection. We sat in the sidewalk coffee shop in awe; had we just seen a horse-drawn buggy complete with directional lights, brake lights, and a pair of Westcoast rear view mirrors stop at a red light?
- Horse and Buggy Sharing the Roads
“They live in another country, these Amish farmers do,” a man at the next table said to us, realizing that we were fascinated. “The kids learn German as a first language; they only study English after age five. They call us ‘The English,’ They don’t even drive cars and they don’t work on Sunday.”
Villages named Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse, and Paradise had us in love with Pennsylvania's Dutch Country but we needed to check our notions of reality at the door; the locals were riding in horse-drawn buggies with rear-view-mirrors and directional lights while the tourists were coming to Strasburg to sleep in retired railroad cabooses.
On Sunday the young men of Lancaster County borrow Dad's top-down buggy for a horse-drawn cruise around town. That afternoon we saw many standard-breads high-stepping down Route 30 while truckers eased their big rigs around them trying not to spook the ponies.
We learned later that the Amish are expert horse trainers and that each large farm might have seven Belgians or Percherons to pull the plows, two draft mules to pull winnowers, and a trotter to pull the surrey used for the Sunday drive.
The young men will use the open coach in the Sunday courting ritual and prize their thoroughbred and Morgan crosses initially bred for harness racing because of the trotter’s grace, and spirit. The horses are such high steppers that if it weren't for the clip clop of hooves on pavement you would think that these ponies could fly.
Part of the Amish tradition is to be self-sufficient; they teach the children the skills and crafts of farming, woodworking, baking, and needlework. When their crafts and confections including an array of strudels come directly from the farms to the shops of Lancaster County, they make roadside shopping Amish country an event
Pennsylvania Dutch country gets its name, we would read, from the many groups of farmers of Swiss, Dutch, and German descent who immigrated during the 1740s. The Anabaptists of northern Germany had broken from Martin Luther's teachings and later founded a church led by Menno Simons based on strict interpretation of the bible and a doctrine of baptism after the age of 18.
Persecuted in Europe, the Mennonites came to America at the invitation of William Penn, a Quaker who had been granted a huge territory by King Charles II of England. Penn dedicated the land in his 1681,"Holy Experiment" to religious freedom. The Amish, an Anabaptist splinter group founded by Jacob Amman in 1693 came to America and eventually split further into eight levels of strictness in the interpretation of the Bible.
For the most part, these farm folk choose to live without modern technology but they have outfitted their horse-drawn buggies with running lights for safety and they also use bottled gas for light and power to run their milking machines.
Focused on humility, thrift, simplicity, and submission to a higher authority, these wholesome farm folk are no strangers to technology, they just prefer to live without electricity and the automobile.
Sightseeing In Amish Country
Visitors can experience the life on an early 1700s Pennsylvania Dutch farm two miles north of Lancaster where two brothers of German descent created the Landis Valley Museum. Costumed guides demonstrate open-hearth cooking, weaving, and horse-drawn plowing in a preserved traditional farm where visitors can also purchase heirloom seeds and handcrafts.
For another look at the religious history of the area, the nearby town of Ephrata preserves its Cloister, a group of buildings built by a German charismatic leader who in 1732 gathered followers for the practice of a celibate and mystical religion. The vegetarian sect, renown for their musical compositions in five part vocal harmony and for their Germanic calligraphy and printing press, grew to 300 in the 1740s but then withered after 1768, remaining as a 28-acre museum with many of the original antique buildings preserved.
Town of Hershey
To see what happens when you cross 17th Century values with 20th Century technology we headed northwest out of Lancaster on Route 283 for Hershey, the town and huge factory built by Milton Hershey our favorite chocolateer.
Although raised by Mennonite parents, Hershey embraced the machine age, building a modern factory in 1905 near a source of abundant fresh milk. He built an antique automobile collection, a huge amusement park, a zoo, and a 23-acre rose garden for his wife.
Visitors can also take trolley rides through the town on streets named Chocolate Ave and Hershey Drive, each lined by street lamps in the shape of the Hershey Kiss. Visitors can also take a tour in a simulated factory complete with animated cows sporting boas and crooning a hip-hop opus to milk.
While it is unlikely that Mr. Hershey would have chosen the musical accompaniment for the factory tour, he was an innovator; the factory now processes one million pounds of milk chocolate daily and ships 80 million Hershey Kisses each day throughout the world.
In fact everything in town says chocolate including a spa treatment at the Hotel Hershey: immersion in warm therapeutic chocolate anyone?
We found so much contrast in Pennsylvania Dutch country and so much more to see -Village Pottery in Intercourse, the Wine Gallery in Mount Hope, the Cornwall Furnace Museum near Hershey, the Harley Factory in York-that at times we felt envy for the locals and their simple way of life; they take Sunday off, the day of rest. Do you remember the day of rest?
Amish Penn Dutch country is a vacation place centered in Lancaster, PA, an area of pleasant weather for outdoor activities from May to October. Penn Dutch Vacation rentals are available at many resorts in the village of Lancaster and in the inns and B&Bs of Bird In Hand, Ronks, Intercourse, Paradise, Strasburg, or nearby Hershey. Weekly rentals, or weekend rentals make this a summer family vacation place with lots of attractions, ( Winery brewery). Rental houses, cottages, B&Bs , historic inns, and lodging packages put the attractions close at hand. Family Lodging Package with Golf, Tennis Golf Packages are popular in the area where many fine courses offer inclusive resorts that also offer family attractions nearby. Spas and health resorts are also in the area and at Hershey , a chocolate spa is available. Amish Penn dutch country also offers a Pretzel factory tour , several golf Courses, and farmers markets.
An Amish Penn Dutch RV Vacation can be quite the summer event.
There is lots sightseeing in Amish country and some good roadside shopping; the Penn Dutch Amish make some great handcrafts and pastries.
Amish Penn Dutch RV Vacation, Sightseeing Lancaster County
How to Reach Amish Penn Dutch Country:
By Auto: From the south take Route 95 to Baltimore, Route 83 to York (Harley Factory). Route 30 to Lancaster,
From the north,: Route 95 to Philadelphia and then Routes 76, 202 and 30 to Lancaster. From the west, Harrisburg
By air: Philadelphia Airport and rental car
When to Go To Amish Penn Dutch Country: April is a good month to visit because you might combine your visit to Amish country with a visit to Longwood Gardens where on the second or third week in April the tulip gardens are in full bloom. Otherwise May until October are good months to visit and enjoy outdoor activities..
Photo, Bucks County Tourism
An Amish Penn Dutch RV Vacation in Lancaster County is a great RV vacation because there are steam train rides, a train museum, sightseeing, outlet shopping, and many modern RV parks.
- Farm Museum Working Farm and Museum
- Rough and Tumble Engineer's Historical Association Museum
More Sightseeing In Amish Country
The Strasburg Train and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania are in the same area in Strasburg
. Spas and health resorts, an amusement park, and a factory tour is offered in the town of Hershey where a chocolate spa is available.
Amish Penn Dutch Family Coach, Lancaster County PA
Amish Penn Dutch Horse-drawn coach going to the meeting, Lancaster County PA
Amish Penn Dutch Farm traditions flourish in Lancaster County PA