Take a few steps back in time by visiting the Amish County in Lancaster and regain the peacefulness you have been longing for
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
Eddie Cantor, American performer
Our lives move at such a fast pace – being stuck in a traffic jam is a chance to make a quick phone call, travelling home on the local is an opportunity to compile the grocery list and the quick lunch break is the time to finish pending bank work. We often wish we could slow down a bit so that we could have a few more hours in the day to be able to focus on the satisfying simple pleasures our life has to offer.
The Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County in the US still live the old-fashioned “Plain” lifestyle. They believe in family values, sport modest clothing sans any checks and prints, travel in horse-drawn buggies, shun all modern ‘conveniences’ such as cars, electricity and telephones and make a living out of farming and cottage industries. A day or two in this Amish countryside is what every city dweller is looking for – some solace and sanity in a steady whirlpool of change.
FEEL LIKE A LOCAL
Stop and stare at the picturesque landscape that looks like a patchwork quilt. The rolling hills with lush greenery are dotted with neatly-painted farmhouses, whitewashed fences that outline the pastures, and windmills to help harness power from nature. Witness the countryside in person and you’ll truly wonder how the Amish live such a disconnected lifestyle in this day and age. Since they are shy and do not appreciate a lot of attention, it’s difficult to delve deeper into their culture to know ‘what it is like to live a humble life’. For a rare opportunity of visiting an Amish homestead and one-room schoolhouse on one of the back roads, enroll for a guided visit-in-person tour. Strike an informal conversation with a Stoltzfus or Fisher family or watch an Amish woman sporting a cape and apron and mowing her lawn.
Try a game of baseball with the rose-cheeked boys dressed in hats and suspenders, make a visit to a fruit orchard or simply get to know more about their home businesses of soap and wooden toy making. An absolute must-do is a 30 to 45-minute horse-drawn buggy ride that takes you to a barn where you can engage in the rural activity of milking cows.
RELISH A FAMILY-STYLE MEAL
Crazy busyness tends to edge out the act of dining together. If you’re finding it difficult to get together with your family at the dinner table, a meal in this Amish county is sure to give you some inspiration.
Indulge in a lavish family-style authentic Amish lunch at Plain and Fancy Restaurant along Route 340 between Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse villages. Understand their 53-year-old pass-the-platter tradition where in you need to take your share and pass the platter to the person sitting right next to you. Polish off some organic garden salad and iced raisin bread for starters and made-from-scratch golden fried chicken, homemade noodles, roast eye-round beef and baked sausage for mains with sides like mashed potatoes and butter corn. To end your meal, choose from irresistible local specialties like shoo-fly pie, sour cream apple crumb pie and snitz pie. You’re bound to leave with the desiring delicious food and strong family ties!
Is your life ready for a reboot?
Tip: Ask before taking photos or videos of the Amish. Not all appreciate being clicked.
MUST-SHOP FROM LANCASTER
Situated in the village of Intercourse, Kitchen Kettle Village is your one-stop shop for all things flavourful. Take back homemade jams, jellies, preserves, pickles and salsas made by Amish girls who’ve learned the art of canning from their mothers at home. And yes, you can sample each of them before you buy them! Or invest in traditional and contemporary quilts handmade by master quilt makers. They are available in all kinds of colours and textures imaginable.
LIFESTYLE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE AMISH
> Avoid overuse of modern technology like electricity and television. Try turning off TV and instead spend free time in the garden, listening to the melody of birds or other sounds of nature. Once in a while, have a candlelight meal to soothe your senses.
> Take some time out for a stroll or use slower modes of transport like a cycle; you’ll end up noticing many amazing things around you. You’ll also feel the fresh air.
> Emphasise on community bonding. Try spending some time with a friend without constantly checking your mobile phone for updates. You’ll be surprised at how enjoyable the conversation will be.
> While good food, for the Amish, is the greatest pleasure of life, they seldom eat out. By eating out less and fixing more potlucks, you’re not only saving money, but also taking care of your health.
> Both men and women in Amish County wear plain clothes and no jewellery. They do not have a separate pair of shoes to go with every outfit. Staying away from unnecessary material things is one way to simplify your living.
> While they do love gifting each other on special occasions, their gifts are usually hand made. Rather than buying birthday presents, you can customise a gift for your loved ones. Bake a cake, paint a greeting card or knit a monogrammed stole.
> Set aside a certain time every week to spend quality time with your family. Play board games, work on a puzzle or perform household chores together. This avoids all the burden on one person, plus work gets done faster.
HOW TO GET THERE:
By road, Lancaster County is 90 minutes west of Philadelphia and at a distance of around 2 ¾ hours from Washington DC and 4 hours from New York. By train, Amtrak takes about 70 minutes from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to the great old Lancaster Station, 53 McGovern Ave.
WHEN TO GO
Lancaster County can be crowded on summer weekends and in autumn due to the pretty fall foliage. Early spring, September or Christmas is an ideal time. Avoid Sundays as most restaurants, shops, and farmers’ markets remain close.