If it had not been for the fact that we were going to visit friends there, I am not so sure that the state of Delaware would have popped up on our list of places to go during this round-the-world journey! You do not hear much about the little corner on the US Eastcoast. The only thing I knew was that current vice-president Joe Biden is from Delaware. And that there are many very beautiful beaches!
We stayed with Mandy, André and Emil for one week and used their home as a base for excursions around the area. In the US “the area” means anywhere within a few hours of driving distance.
We visited two children´s museums. A fantastic concept that reminds me a bit of the Experimentarium in Copenhagen mixed with a huge indoor playground. They were located in Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Previously we have also had great experiences in for instance Olympia, Washington.
It is always an instant success when we take Anton to such a place. He can be a 200% child and play until he gets completely tired, as children must do from time to time. There are climbing trees, frames, caves and much more where the children can tumble around. But there are also the more “serious” activities where they can get a glimpse of natural sciences and potential future occupations, like doctor, nurse, fireman, policeman, zookeeper etc etc. Anton is particularly fond of climbing and hiding in caves or the like. As soon as he sees such an opportunity he will immediately take off his shoes and take off. We, the adults, can then take a seat in the corner, waiting. He will almost never want to leave again. But sometimes this is also an opportunity for us to be children again. For a little while. I have played quite a bit with the water basins, making dams, bridges, sluices etc. I have built some incredible (I thought) towers of wooden bricks that only came down as an older child with a remarkably smug smile on his face “accidentally” hit just as I was finishing. And I have drawn some nice steam engines for Anton, which he later on wrinkled and colored to his own liking. Anyway, it was all great fun for all of us. The museum in Wilmington was not as big as the one in Philadelphia. But it was absolutely OK to burn off some energy and fool around as Bob the Builder in the tools department. In Philadelphia they had a chance to play Crane Operator and Astronaut. We have become big supporters of these children´s museums, which are found in many of the larger cities throughout the US. Because even though the entrance fee is oftentimes significant (up to 25 dollars per person) it is an absolute hit among the children. So who would ever complain?
Not far away from Mandy and Andrés house the Amish district begins. We drove to Lancaster, Virginia to get a closer look. The very first Amish people came to the area around Lancaster already around 1720. Long before the Civil War in America and before the Declaration of Independence which was not signed until 1776. The Amish (or Pennsylvanian Dutch as some call them) all live a rather “cut off” life, away from the surrounding society. They do not have any electricity, television, telephone or other “modern” necessities. They live from farming on somewhat remote farms throughout the area, using only manual labor. You will not see any tractors or other modern agricultural machinery. Instead they use horses. It is common practice to wear only home produced clothes, which is always spartan and practical. Houses, furniture and other inventory is always built by hand. Cars are prohibited. You will only see horse carriages in the area. The only modern characteristics you will find on them are the battery driven LED brake lights that has been imposed by the local authorities for safety reasons.
We spent a few hours in the area. Unfortunately there is not much to see during the winter season. In the summer months there are a few open places where you can come and get a closer look at the Amish everyday life. You can see how they work on their farms, produce their products etc. But on the day of our visit everything was closed. We drove around for a while and saw several carriages and members of the sect. They do tend to keep to themselves and only want to have as little as possible to do with modern civilization. However, they are pragmatic and know that they cannot completely ignore the rest of the world. Tourism may not be a dominant income, but it is a nice addition.
It seems a bit strange to drive around the area and see the many farms and smallholdings with no electrical wiring from the communal grid. Instead of cars in the drive way you see carriages. On the clotheslines the laundry is drying in the winter sun. Carriages are arriving and leaving the houses with members in dark clothes sitting inside the cabins. The horses are grazing in the backyards when they are not working. We read somewhere that the Amish do not carry any photos of themselves or family members, and that they do not want to be photographed by curious tourists. Of course we respected that, although we were tempted a few times to just make a quick snapshot out the window from our car. We resisted the temptation!
I have had a fascination of the Amish ever since I saw the 1985 movie “The Witness” starring Harrison Ford. A movie that the Amish do not really appreciate, as it has brought way too many tourists to the area. It is also claimed that they are not happy with the way in which their lifestyle is portrayed. It was a good movie nevertheless. I am fascinated by their quiet, old fashioned and withdrawn life. That they are self-sufficient and not victims of modern life over-consumption. Their religious beliefs and rules of life, however, I could not personally live by. I am not a firm believer and I am also way too dependent on modern day “tools” like computers, television and fridges. I wonder though, if it would be possible to take out the best from the Amish world, and then have a few places in the house for electrical- and antenna outlets, a wifi hot-spot and just one flatscreen on the wall?
Before we said goodbye to Mandy, André and Emil in Delaware, we all went on a nice Sunday drive to Rehoboth Beach on the Eastcoast. Here you find the finest quality of water found on any beach in the US. The beach itself is also well worth a visit. Even on a cold and windy winters day it is not hard to picture yourself on a hot and sunny summers day building sand castles, eating ice cream and just flat out under the umbrella. Long, beautiful stretches of sand with numerous hotels, stores and restaurants just behind the patches of lyme grass. Everything tied nicely together by a long, wooden boardwalk promenade. Outside the main season there are only just about 1500 inhabitants in Rehoboth. But on any day during the peak season the number of residents exceed well over 25000 people. This is truly a holiday town!
After one week by our hosts in Delaware we moved on. Alexandra and Mandy know each other from their studies and it was really nice to catch up and get a glimpse of their life here in the US. So far they are here on a temporary basis and the plan is to return to Germany again sometime next year. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and relaxed as much as we could. Thanks! And see you all again soon!