Monday, 6 June 2011

Scooters, Buggies and Blackberries

We leave Philadelphia having really enjoyed the place.  We haven't even got round to mentioning the huge number of cool urban bicycles that everyone seems to use to get around, or the Irish dancing out at the harbour where it felt more like Ireland than when we were actually in Ireland, or the amazing delicatessen just round the corner which made us wish we'd been self-catering.

Anyway we have to move on, and we pick up a hire car (an automatic with the driver's seat on the wrong side) and take the first tentative steps of our "Road Trip".  In an unusual departure for me, I sit and read a good chunk of the owners manual before even starting the engine.  It took a while to get used to the automatic transmission (I can't help feeling you're not really in control of a car if it decides when to change gear for you) but eventually we were on the Interstate (or the Freeway, or Turnpike, or whatever a dual-carriageway is called over here).

After an hour and a half we've passed through the familiar sounding town names of Devon, Bradford and Chester, but as we get nearer to Lancaster things start to get odd.  We go through "Paradise" which seems nice enough but I think they're over-egging it a little on the naming front.  Signs point to "Blue Ball", and "Fertility", and "Virginville".  We pass though "Bird-In-Hand" and finally,  we get to "Intercourse".

What's even stranger than the names is the population.  First we see a man with a beard and a big straw hat scooting along the side of the road on what can only be described as, a scooter.  Then there's a couple driving a little black horse-drawn buggy along the street.  And over in the fields there's a man ploughing a field on an old-fashioned plough pulled by a team of six horses.

This is Amish, or Pennsylvania Dutch country (Dutch should be Deutsch as the Amish people originate from around Germany and Switzerland).  The Amish emigrated from Europe to the United States so that they could practice their form of Christianity without fear of persecution.

What we found really interesting was how much a part of the wider community they appear to be.  I expected very private people who wouldn't speak to "The English" (as the rest of the population are referred to), and would avoid contact with us.  But they have local businesses and sell things in the markets - we bought some fantastic home-made lemonade and a "Whoopie Pie".

There are obvious differences between the Amish and the English - the Amish rejection of technology and their deliberately plain uniform dress, but everyone seems to respect each other's way of life - when the big new Target Supermarket was built it became the first branch in the USA which has a buggy shed where you can tie up your horses.  And while we were driving around we were frequently greeted with a friendly wave from an Amish farmer ploughing his field or a young lad driving a cart along the road.  But I'm not sure I understand where the line is drawn - while walking round the farmers market I saw a teenage Amish girl sitting in the corner typing a message into her Blackberry!

1 comment:

  1. I always thought that once you've got a 'bird - in hand', 'intercourse' was just around the corner.