My Back Yard
Ohio’s Amish Country may seem like another world for many of you, but for me, it was my yard growing up outside of Apple Creek, Ohio. A rustle and shimmy of chains and steel wheels can be heard coming down bucolic country roads. The familiar clop, clop, clop of hooves on pavement. These are the rhythmic sounds the iconic horse and buggy. I learned early on when driving to take care at hill crests in the rolling terrain of Wayne and Holmes County that you never knew if a horse and buggy would be just over the horizon. If you come and visit, I hope you heed this advice as well. It is always tragic to hear of an accident caused by a driver hitting an Amish buggy.
About the Amish
People come from all over the country and even the world to visit this area, largely because of the Amish population. Amish are a Christian sect that has foregone the use of many modern conveniences such as electricity, automobiles, and even zippers! They still speak German within their communities but are typically bilingual and speak English as well. There are different subsets of Amish where their church decides what amount of technology they can utilize. The Amish dress modestly, the women always in long dresses and bonnets, and the men in plain button up shirts or polos, pants, and suspenders, straw hats beset upon their heads. Married men all have beards without a mustache. The longer the beard, the longer they have been married.
Places to Visit in Ohio’s Amish Country
Amish are known, in addition to their peculiar way of life, for their craftsmanship, such as furniture making, and their cooking. There are many places you can visit to purchase fantastic future family heirlooms or fine crafted outdoor furniture. One such place is Dutch Craft Furniture located in Berlin, OH.
Speaking of Berlin, it is the tourist destination village in Amish Country. It has many little shops where you can buy trinkets, antiques, ice cream, or handcrafted goods of all kinds. If you are in Christmas mood, no matter the time of year, ‘Tis the Season Christmas Shop is located nearby. They sell Christmas decorations of all kinds and is fun to visit even in the heat of summer.
On the subject of Christmas, I had worked with my Grandpa at Pine Tree Barn, a beautiful Christmas tree farm north of Shreve, when I just started college. Trimming trees was an enjoyable job. Keeping the tops straight was priority one as it ensures a straight and full tree year after year until harvest. Plus, no one ones to put their star on a crooked spire atop their Christmas tree! The view down to the lake and across the valley to more acres of evergreens away yonder is truly beautiful. It is especially on mornings when a light mist rises from the waters. In addition to Christmas Trees, they have a restaurant serving lunch and furniture store with full interior design services available.
Charm, Ohio, a tiny village that lives up to its name, is home to Keim Lumber and Hardware store which is worth a visit if you are in the area. If you are looking to update your home, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better store to help you with your upgrade.
Speaking of hardware stores, Lehman’s in Kidron has everything you never knew you needed. They specialize in non-electrical items to cater to the Amish but have all sorts of things that anyone could find useful or just fascinating. The oil lamp selection is beautiful and amazing, as are the wood burning stoves, and myriad kitchen gadgets. They also have a collection of unique glass bottled sodas, or as we say in Ohio, pop.
Where to Eat
My favorite places to get a bite in Amish Country starts in Apple Creek with Troyer’s Home Pantry. This was only 2 miles from my childhood home. There is no better way to start a day than with either a Troyer’s Creamstick or Maple Nut covered Cinnamon Rolls. Many swear by their pies. (They are delicious, it is pie after all!) In my home, a holiday meal was never complete without their dinner rolls.
Nearly across the street is Deb’s Golden Bear which has some of the best homemade, hand-dipped ice cream anyone could ask for. My personal favorite is the Ho-Ho Cake while my oldest daughter loves the Golden Bear Claw. They also have a tiny dinner called Deb’s Den in the house right next door if you want a tasty sandwich or amazing burger with homemade potato chip or cheesy potatoes.
For Dinner, My favorite place is in the Doughty Valley between Charm and Berlin, The Chalet in the Valley. This sits right across from the award winning Guigisburg Cheese shop. The Chalet in the Valley is Swiss themed as many from Switzerland have also settled in these rolling hills. They serve schnitzel, fondue, sausages galore (see the Best Wurst plate around). They also have delicious sandwiches, such as the Swiss-Zilla, a stack of 3/4 pound of meat, corned beef, Blak Forest ham, and pulled pork, covered in Swiss Cheese. Unique sides such as the cheesy potatoes named rösti (Ray-shti), spaetzle, and, sauerkraut, and sweet and sour cabbage are all worth a try if you have a hankering for the true Alpine fare. Be aware if traveling this way in winter as Chalet in the Valley closes for the offseason from December into March.
If you would rather have the quintessential “Amish Home Cooked Meal” head over to Walnut Creek and have all the roast beef, broasted chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, and stuffing you could ever want at Der Dutchman. Nextdoor is a candy shop, Coblentz Cholates. I personally love the chocolate covered dried cherries.
Sugarcreek has the World’s Largest Coo-coo Clock. Several small wineries also are in the area, including Brittenbach. My wife’s favorite might be Dandelion Wine as she loves everything dandelion, the most misunderstood of plants.
Lastly, my don’t miss spot, unless you are lactose intolerant, is Heinie’s Cheese Chalet, where you can sample nearly every type of cheese and dip they have, FREE! If I’m hungry and in the area, I will stop in just to get my fill of cheese. We almost always bring something home when we leave. I would feel bad not buying something after eating about a half pound of free cheese. All of this talk of rich and decadent food, I can’t wait for my cheat day!
The Little Things
Much of the joy of Amish country is exploring, getting lost, and just enjoying the scenery! I have seen several publications list the area to be one of the best fall foliage drives in the nation! In addition to horse and buggy, many Amish travels via bicycle or by foot, so as I mentioned earlier, please be cautious at the many blind spots in this hilly back country.
There are so many things to do in this area that is just a little out of the norm for many people, such as going to the livestock auction barn or stopping at a roadside produce stand. You may see modern-day one-room schoolhouses still in use by the Amish, and the kids playing baseball or volleyball at recess. When traveling down the back roads you will see signs for produce, eggs, baked goods, and many other goods and services hung out by the end of their lane. Don’t be afraid to stop in, make a purchase, and have a conversation!
If you visit Ohio’s Amish Country or anywhere nearby my backyard here in Wayne County, Ohio, let me know where you visited and what are your personal favorites!