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
"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
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
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
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. Next is Oktoberfest for three weekends featuring
bands from the area and groups direct from Germany. Their first
Oktoberfest was in 1998 and only 400 people attended. Today it is
attended by well over 30,000 people and is rated one of the top ten in the
USA. Thanksgiving week-end
we offer Christkindlmarkt. December brings three special week-ends with
magic of Christmas Lighting.
TOURIST WEBSITE: www.leavenworth.org.
EDELWEISS TANZ GRUPPE:
ENJOY A SHORT TOUR OF LEAVENWORTH AND THE SURROUNDING AREA.