Travel · USA

A bit of Bavaria in the most unusual spot

A town must be some kind of special if one is willing to spend six hours on a Sunday drive to get there and back home again. And Leavenworth, the Bavarian-style village in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, is worth the visit, even if only because it’s so kitschy. 

On the ‘plane somewhere between Germany and South Africa I eventually got around to editing my photos from our day-trip to Leavenworth the weekend prior. And I thought how appropriate it was that this would be my final blog post of my 5-month-long trip to Canuckistan and the upper left corner of the USA, via Germany. 

I assumed the town had been founded by German immigrants but, with a bit of research, discovered that it was just a regular timber community and key rail junction for its first six or seven decades. In the 1960s, with the sawmill struggling, and the railway headquarters having moved, a project was birthed by two businessmen to try to revitalize the moribund town. Taking their lead from the Danish-themed town of Solvang in California, the duo developed a plan to transform Leavenworth into a Bavarian hamlet. The first building to be remodelled was the Chikamin Hotel, which was renamed the Edelweiss after the state flower of Bavaria.

Leavenworth is now a popular tourist destination, for its outdoor activities like hiking, skiing and kayaking, and then for its events like the Icefest, the Autumn Leaf Festival, Oktoberfest and several Christmas lighting ceremonies.  It is also home to the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, which opened in 1995 and contains more than 5,000 nutcrackers.  We missed all of the festivals as well as the museum but still enjoyed a stroll around town and a glass of glühwein to warm up as dusk settled. 

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