Washington’s Beloved Bavarian Town: Leavenworth
Christmas Town in America
Danny and I were looking for an excuse to listen to our current audiobook, The Goldfinch, and that is how we came to do a weekend road trip to a Bavarian themed town set in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. We decidedly chose a random weekend, specifically not Oktoberfest and not Christmas.
What a Trainwreck
The weather was favorable on this day, so we stopped to get our FitBit steps on the Iron Goat Trail, sixty miles northeast of Seattle. We hiked about 3 miles (the full hike is 6) along an abandoned stretch of the Great Northern railroad grade. With the fog over the mountains, crumbling tunnels and snow sheds, the scenery is stunning. The town, Wellington, was the site of the deadliest avalanche in US history. In 1910, a large slab of ice was dislodged from a cliff above and wiped out a train. Now there’s a lookout at the exact spot where the tragedy occurred. A path below will guide you to pieces of the wreckage and a sign naming all 96 people killed.
By the time we rolled into Leavenworth, we were starving. Andreas Keller is known for their Schnitzel Cordon Bleu and some of the best food in town. We had a pretzel, schnitzel, spätzle, and sauerbraten which is a German pot roast type thing. All servers wore lederhosen, a fashion statement prevalent in this town. Another true to theme restaurant is München-Haus, where they have 12 varieties of sausage and 20 different kinds of mustards and sauces, a real crowd-pleaser.
Rudolph & Co.
A highlight of the weekend was our visit to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, even if it caused me a great deal of anxiety. I’m not a natural with animals. So when they let us in the pen with these large unfamiliar creatures armed with their favorite food, I felt less than at ease. I approached the baby reindeer in an attempt to warm up to the idea. Danny pointed out a 3 year old girl confidently feeding one of the larger antlered reindeer and I realized that I didn’t have anything to worry about. It turns out they are quite docile and gentle. After spending time with the reindeer and also chickens, a turkey, horses, bunnies, and cats, we’d heard enough “grandma got run over” jokes for a lifetime.
A Real Nut Job
The Nutcracker Museum houses over 7,000 nut cracking devices, most of them the traditional toy soldier kind and others more utilitarian cracks-an-actual-nut variety. Some date back to Roman times. They’ve got it all — Your Disney favorites, Star Wars, Christmas, US presidents, the characters from The Nutcracker of course. It started to get creepy when I encountered not one but two Hitler nutcrackers (one with the arm raised and all) and in the same display case as a Hilary Clinton nutcracker which seems a little unfair. (I would post a picture of this, but it made me super uncomfortable.) Odd in any circumstance, but even more so in such an otherwise family-friendly museum.
Originally named Icicle Flats
Some say Leavenworth is authentic, others raise an eyebrow. Heck if I know, but if it is just a tourist gimmick, it’s a good one. (I’ll admit, we kept accidentally calling it Solvang.) The soundtrack of the town is polka music and the ever-present wine tasting cackle. We ate well, stayed in a cozy Alpine Gasthaus in the Herzog honeymoon suite, and learned a few German words that we didn’t know before.