Leavenworth, Washington: A German Village in the USA

 

Nestled in the Cascade mountains of Washington State is a bit of Bavaria called Leavenworth. The land is about as idyllic as it gets: a vibrant autumn palette spilling out onto the leaves and bushes, babbling creeks and thick forests all surrounded by jagged peaks waiting to be dusted with snow.

The present-day town is small, but inviting—main street makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a German town in the Alps rather than Washington State. Beer halls and German eateries are full of tourists visiting on weekend trips. Boutiques are making sale after sale. It’s only October, but once the town turns on its impressive Christmas lights at the start of December, the town is standing room only—nearly impossible to maneuver through without waiting in a line of some sort for your currywurst and Hefeweizen.

However, Leavenworth wasn’t always so busy—or so German. Historically, the town was on the land of the Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes, where they were said to have co-existed peacefully. Later, pioneers came to settle what is now Leavenworth in search of gold, bringing in even more settlers, and by the end of the 1800’s a rail line.

With the arrival of the rail line, job opportunities popped up and the local economy flourished. Leavenworth became a hub of logging and the town was thriving…until the Great Northern Railway Company decided to re-route and pulled the rail line out of Leavenworth. This caused the local logging and sawmill industries to collapse, and Leavenworth was dangerously close to becoming a ghost town for many years after.

The great thing about small towns is that there is often a tight-knit community at its backbone. Thankfully, Leavenworth was no exception, and the townspeople rallied together to think of inventive ways to keep their secluded, mountain village from falling by the way-side.

In the 1960’s, more than 30 years after Leavenworth saw its darkest times, the town leaders proposed a unique idea to revive their beloved home: they wanted to give Leavenworth an extreme makeover. With the surrounding mountains as inspiration, the townspeople decided they’d model Leavenworth after a Bavarian village.

The entire downtown area was remodeled in a Bavarian-style, and several festivals were implemented into the town’s calendar. Soon after, tourists began showing up in search of this odd village, and now Leavenworth boasts more than 1 million visitors annually.

Though the main attraction of Leavenworth is its very Bavarian downtown area, I was equally impressed by the natural beauty of the area. Autumn has never looked so good.

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

The Expat Dilemma

I’ve fallen in love with Seattle hundreds of times. Every time the sun comes out after weeks of seemingly unending gray skies and drizzle, after I eat a great local meal, or can marvel at the city’s natural beauty from a new viewpoint, I’m reminded of why my home is so close to my heart.

Every trip back, I discover something new, rediscover old favorites, and yearn for a life that Spain can’t give me. What was once old and familiar is now new and exotic after years of living on the other side of the world.

That’s the expat dilemma—you’re always reminiscing of your life pre-expat, but know that if you were to ever move back, that you’d miss so many things from your adopted country too.

So, during a recent visit to Seattle neighborhood Ballard*, I realized while walking around I was so focused on how I had to leave soon and would miss everything, that I wasn’t enjoying the moment. I chose then and there to remain thankful for the things both Spain and Seattle have given me, and soak up as much as my rainy city as I could before boarding that plane back.

What do you miss most from home?

*All photos are of Ballard, WA

San Francisco’s Chinatown

During my recent trip back to the United States, I stopped not only in my beautiful city of Seattle, but also in San Francisco, for a week of relaxing with loved ones and sight-seeing. I had been to San Francisco’s Chinatown a few years before, but the memories were fuzzy, so I made sure to include it on my itinerary this time around.

I’m so glad I did.

Street Art in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Chinatown, as to be expected, is certainly unlike the rest of San Francisco. Old men teeter down the streets, the scent of sautéed ginger lingers near restaurant entrances, and street markets offer everything from fake Prada bags to live turtles.

The streets transport you to what one may imagine of population-heavy China: congested, lively and full of sensory surprises.

Lunchtime in Chinatown

An essential to-do on my Chinatown list was to stop for some ethnic fare. Hello, Mongolian beef, pot stickers, fried rice, General Tso’s chicken and Thai iced-tea!

Chinese lanterns were everywhere.

With a full belly, I continued through Chinatown, snapping shots of the traditionally-styled architecture before moving on to a different SF neighborhood.

Fun Facts About San Francisco’s Chinatown:

  • It is the largest Chinatown in the world. Well, outside of China itself.
  • It is the oldest Chinatown in North America.
  • It draws more visitors than the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • It is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods not only in San Francisco, but in the entirety of the United States!

Have you ever been to a Chinatown? Where? How does it stack up to San Francisco’s?