Inger and Jeff Latreille
A Birthday, A First, and an Amish Lesson
~Wednesday, August 18, 2021~
Happy 🥳🎈😘Birthday to my amazing mom! I wish I was there to celebrate with her today, but know you’re being thought of. I am forever grateful that I had the best teacher and role model any daughter could ever want. Hope you enjoy your special day ❤️ And it was our grandson’s first day of preschool...mask and all! So quite a momentous day!
We definitely packed a lot into our final day in Amish country before moving eastward tomorrow. Our first stop of the day was the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin and a worthwhile way to gain more understanding about their culture. What was very unique about it though, was HOW the history was presented. Before we entered the building, we noticed a beautiful mural on the front of the building. As we got closer, we realized it was way more than a painting, but an unusual art form. It’s called Sgrafitto
which means “scratched” and is a technique of reverse art in which layers of contrasting colored plaster are applied to the surface. The design is achieved by scratching to produce an outlined drawing. This particular scene on the building depicts Swiss and German immigrants arriving with chests, kegs and basic tools ready to pursue their dreams in a new land. We’d never seen anything like it.
Once we got inside the building, we were led to a mini theatre to watch a 15-minute film which explained a more modern story of the Amish community and how they live in a more contemporary society. We can’t imagine a more beautiful, serene place away from all the chaos and temptations, than in this part of Ohio. It really is beautiful country. The Amish feel it’s all about building a community spirit and there’s nothing more “community” building than a traditional barn raising. This tradition dates back to rural America in the 18th/19th centuries. It makes sense that with all the labor and materials, that the community come together to help a neighbor which in the end, always comes around full-circle.
After our short-film, we were directed into a large room where the real story unfolded. Inside this room is a Behalt Cyclorama…..a 10 foot by 265-foot circular mural done with oil on canvas.
Behalt means to “keep” or “remember”.The work was done by German artist Heinz Gaugel who, not Amish himself, became fascinated with the people and their story on a visit to Holmes County in 1962, shopping for glazed brick for an art project he was working on at the time in Canada. While there, he encountered the Amish people who, like himself, spoke some form of German dialect. After eventually moving to Holmes County, he heard about the frustrations in the growth of tourism and the constant questions the Amish were being asked to understand exactly how and why they live this way. After much detailed research, he spent 4 years of his life committed to painting about years of Amish history and what’s brought them to today, in hopes that the public gains a better understanding of their way of life.
Our guide was extremely knowledgeable as he told the Amish story in the round on behalf of this huge mural. The illustrations are presented in an interlude of multiple stories that span over a vast amount of time from the mid-16th century to present day. It was quite moving to see and hear about all the persecution and martyrdom they faced and astonishing to know that they had quite a struggle to live out their beliefs, forced to migrate across Europe, some into Russia, and across the Atlantic into North America. Their quest….to lead a simple, peaceful lifestyle. We had already heard of the Amish and Mennonite people but learned of a third called Hutterites. Hutterites are basically the same as the other 2, but the main difference is they don’t hold any property individually…..it’s all community owned.
After our amazing history lesson, we pursued the bookstore and the many old hymnals and bibles that were preserved behind glass cases….some dating back to the 17th century. They also had a lovely gift shop full of handmade basketry, wood and fabric crafts made by the Amish.
Following our amazing tour, we wanted to check out a few furniture stores to see firsthand the fine craftsmanship of the Amish. The dining tables and chairs were gorgeous. In an area of one of the shops, it was really cool to see huge slabs of beautiful wood displayed (kind of like when you’re shopping for a large rug on a tall rack). The bases are selected separately. We thought for the quality, the prices weren’t too bad.
Next, we drove to Millersburg to sample some award winning cheese at the Guggisberg Cheese Shop where one of the cases read, “This case contains the best cheese in America”, which then of course prompted the question, “If you had to choose your best cheese, which would it be?”
The clerk replied, “Well, the Original Baby Swiss Cheese aged for 100-days, of course”. Last year, out of 2,555 entries from 35 states, this cheese took second place. Sold!! And the prices were soooo reasonable. They also have a wonderful selection of meats, jams, honey and kitchen gadgets. Definitely worth a stop!
We’ve heard so much about the Troyer Country Market just a short drive from our campground. Many of the dairy selections come from local farms and they have a wonderful deli, cafe, sample station and shelves full of wonderful products. Very high quality at a reasonable price.
We returned to the trailer to pick up Sadie to take a 45-minute drive, all for the sake of having a good brew. Another brew….another state! The Wooly Pig Farm Brewery is off the beaten path in Fresno, OH, which makes it even more intriguing. No IPA’s, but we were willing to try some German beer. Since Jeff’s the beer guy, we’ll use his review which got a 7 out of 10. The location was beautiful and the weather perfect as we chilled, watched the setting sun, and chatted with a guy from Ohio who goes by the name “lostwillandtestament” on Instagram. His schtick is touring great eateries/breweries off the typical tourist route. Love it! That’s what we love anyway, so we instantly became followers.
On the way home from the brewery we were surprised to see so many horses and buggies and bicyclists. The buggies have large headlamps on the underside of them, so you really can’t miss them. On the back they all have orange triangular shaped reflectors as well. What is dangerous, even during the daytime, are the blind hills. There are so many rolling hills everywhere, that when you crest over one, you might have the probability of running into one. And some of the roads have a 55 mph zone which we didn’t understand. We topped at 40 just to be safe. We also noticed many of the bikes being ridden were electric bikes, so they must be driven by Mennonites and not the Amish. These riders are also very proactive in wearing reflective gear, so they’re very visible as well.