If you’ve never traveled to Bavaria (a region in Germany in case you checked your map app and nothing showed up), you might not have to travel overseas to do it. There’s a quaint village in the Cascade Mountains called Leavenworth, WA, that promises you a sample.
I might have visited Leavenworth first, but I’ve also traveled to authentic Bavarian mountain villages. The similarity is striking. If you’re a resident of the Pacific Northwest and have never made the trip over the mountains to Leavenworth, please reconsider. It’s the closest thing to Germany on the West Coast.
It’s All About the Setting
Several mountain passes provide access to the Bavaria-of-the-Cascades (no idea if that’s a real moniker, but I like the sound of it). I drove through Blewetr Pass via I-90. Highway 2 takes you through the center of the village.
As you descend out of the mountains, the road flattens into a narrow valley. The Wenatchee River wends its way through, wide and sluggish from the spring rains. Fruit orchards and shuttered fruit stands pepper the sides of the road.
Then you drive around a curve and blue mountains rise up in front of you. My friend says they look that color because of the blue spruce trees. All I know is that the Cascades where I’m from are green or gray, never blue.
In the early spring, it’s a vista of blue with white peaks. My breath caught in my throat. I was here in the fall before and there hadn’t been snowy jags like this.
A grin tugs my lips and I forget the ache in my rear from sitting in the car for five hours. On the right, there’s a Safeway that looks nothing like any other Safeway in my experience. It’s painted with mountain scenes on its stucco-like sides. It’s roofline mimics the A-frame architecture of an Alpine village.
Every building that lines the highway takes its structural cue from the same guidebook.
I’m reminded how amazed I felt when we visited a mountain village in Bavaria and realized I’d seen buildings painted with murals and windows framed by dark wood shutters. Here. In Leavenworth.
And There’s Shopping
You could make the drive to Leavenworth just to appreciate the beauty. And it would be worth it. Because, believe me, it’s not on the way to anywhere. You’ll have to decide to visit.
However, if you’re there, you might as well park the car and stroll through the blocks of shops that nestle between the highway and the Wenatchee River.
The assortment is unique to this place with artisans alongside Cheesemongers and gift shops beside pubs and restaurants. Live music is featured in many of the eateries, and it’s supplied by a man in Swiss attire pressing out tunes on an accordion at King Ludwig’s.
I’ve never sampled Swiss chocolates (because I haven’t been to Switzerland), but the stuff handmade in the SChocolat shop in Leavenworth are melt-in-the-mouth delicacies. Without the waxy texture of most American-made chocolates, which is similar to the authentic Belgian chocolates I’ve eaten.
There’s a Danish bakery (the pralinas and cherry streusel are scrumptious) and a nutcracker shop. A photo gallery, metal artisan shop and a Christmas store called Kringle’s. On further exploration, you’ll discover a comic book shop, tea shop, smoke shop and a peddler of knives.
Perhaps it sounds like the same-old stuff to you.
The buildings painted to resemble a variety of Alpine structures and the cobbled streets beneath your feet might change your mind. If not, perhaps the horse-drawn carriage or the gazebo lit with a million white twinkling lights.
Still unconvinced? Turn your eyes upward and gasp at the blue and white mountains standing sentinel, close enough to touch it seems.
These Might not be The Alps
Okay, it’s an Alpine village look-alike. There’s a Bavarian feel to the majority of the commercial buildings in the shopping district.
But the elevation isn’t even a mile above sea level. Most of the spiking peaks rise a mere 2,000 feet more. In the shadow of the mighty Rockies, this is nothing.
Take a hike, my friend.
Trails for inexperienced and advanced hikers surround and abound. Let the wind sing through the pines and the nip of winter tingle across your cheekbones. Inhale the freshness of the wilderness.
You need to spend at least five hours in nature per month to reap the mental health benefits it provides. Why not let the Wenatchee National Forest be your therapist?
Have you traveled to Leavenworth? An actual Alpine village? What was your reaction? What distinctive sights have I neglected to mention?
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