You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
A brief sojourn in Little Bavaria (Michigan)
Prelude: our possibly soon-to-become-traditional stop on Cheat Lake [sic] just east of Morgantown, WV: The Cranberry, and dinner at the Lake House, 28 May 2023.
A cat assessing the accommodations
Melvin the Doge may or may not be signaling to Choupette to come and admire the scenery.
Choupette may or may not be exhilirated by the experience.
[The worthy Lake House restaurant, adjacent to the Sunset Beach Marina, Morgantown, photo taken exactly one year and a day ago, 29 May 2022.]
Frankenmuth, Michigan: Michigan's 'Little Bavaria'
We've made it! Frankenmuth itsownself, well spotted by Kristin as a rewarding waystation in our lengthy auto-plod up through eastern Michigan. We've been comparing notes with Sister Susan (with Sony, Jim, and Gracie) in Ashland, Ohio, and the next day have migrated northward easily (despite Toledo) to so far promising Frankenmuth ('Willkommen' is a giveaway; they're not kidding.)
PS: We're presently just 13 miles outside of so-called 'Saginaw', 67 miles (108km) north of downtown Detroit, and 177 miles (286km) south of the Mackinac Bridge to the Michigan UP [Upper Peninsula] [tomorrow].
PPS: We would have preferred the Badger Car Ferry but couldn't find a pet-friendly hotel anywhere near the Ludington docks.
Oh no, wait. A water park? (Yep, it's Zehnder's Splash Village.) Keep an open mind.
Newly graduated from 40-odd years in Switzerland, frequently visiting in the German parts, and sometimes in Bavaria, Germany, we can applaud this attempt at the half-timbered 'look' of traditional old German architecture, without falling for it.
Drury hotels are not bad at all, and pet-friendly, but this façade is a bit of unnecessary Bavarianizing. Still, why not?
A long drive today, and looks like the cats are ready to get out of their carrier.
Anyone accustomed to our moaning and groaning about Choupette's pathological nonstop squawking throughout our long road trips will be relieved to learn that on this five-day trip she won the coveted Best Behavior Award all the way through it. [Melvin always finds a comfy spot in the back of the car and sleeps through every trip.]
We're setting out for our perambulation through the Bavarian Village -- determined not to be discouraged too soon.
'Willkommen' is sort of a motto here, possibly because it's a bit of German that everyone will recognize.
That said, it's a very nice little corner park.
(Impatience is seldom a virtue.) From the Drury, we're getting into the central downtown now.
Willkommen!! And the Frankenmuth Brewery -- 150 years old, 'German & American fare, offers outdoor dining with river view & free tours'. Sounds great, but we don't have any time on this trip.
Frankenmuth FunShips, Those Nature People, and the majestic Marv Herzog Hotel. Frankenmuth is presently a small city of about 5,000 souls (97% white, and over half of them of German descent). The settlers arrived in 1845, mostly serious Lutherans who intended to bring a mission to the local Native Americans, most of whom however 'were forced away within a few years' (Wikipedia). Most of the newcomers came from the Rosstal area a few miles south of Nuremberg in the Middle Franconia region of northwestern Bavaria.
The attractive Emil Rummel Insurance Agency Inc. The area immediately round Frankenmuth became something of a magnet for German immigrants up to the start of World War Two, and more than a few nearby villages have names like Franken-something-or-other. Frankenmuth itself was recognized as a village in 1904 and incorporated as a city in 1959.
The Frankenmuth Cheese House ( Sorry, 'Haus'), described on Google Maps as a 'cheese shop', but . . ..
. . . it looks to be more like a full service 'cheese castle'. It was founded by the Zehnder family in 1968 and is still owned by the third generation of the same. The 74-foot 'Figurinespiel' Tower ['figurine game'] features a
ten-minute animated story featuring five children from European cultures describing the cheeses produced in their countries, shown five times daily. (Likely, they pop out of those five green windows.)
Frank's Muth, a gift shop [one nickname for Frankenmuth is just 'Muth'], adjacent to . . .
. . . the Taffy Kitchen and T. Dub's Pub (and pizzeria).
Toyberg, a toy store ('the mountain of toys'?)
Zak & Mac's Chocolate Shop ('largest variety of toffee in the world'!), and . . .
. . . that's probably Zak. Or Mac.
Tiffany's Food & Spirits, described as a pizza restaurant ('Lively bar & grill in a circa-1904 hotel with stained glass lighting, murals, & an outdoor patio'). It was begun in 1904 as the Hotel Goetz serving the lumbering industry in the region, purchased and remodeled by the Zehnder family in 1963 and renamed the Tiffany Biergarten.
The Visitor and Welcome Centre in an attractive little park, with fountain
Rapunzel's Boutique (economically described on Google Maps as 'boutique')
That's a huge ornate something-or-other. The crenellated defensive tower is probably not really necessary these days, but it's time may still come again, who knows?
Architecturally, a little bit of nearly everything.
It is, as it turns out, all part of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, where in fact . . .
. . . we've just booked a table for dinner tonight. A booth, rather.
This (says the sign) originated in the Union House Hotel in 1888, soon to become the home of the famous 'All You Can Eat' family-style chicken dinners. The Zehnder family bought it in 1950 and carried on with the famous chicken thing. They renovated it in 1959 'in a fantasy Bavarian motif' and its reopening 'evolved into the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival.
The economy of the town is described in Wikipedia as based upon agriculture and tourism, especially a full agenda of festivals (possibly Bavarian-themed!). Whatever it is, it seems to be working very well.
Meanwhile, the Zehnder's all-you-can-eat family-chicken restaurant moved directly across the street, into the complex of the Zehnder's of Frankenmuth restaurant ('long-running American fixture with a folksy atmosphere known for family-style fried chicken dinners'), the Zehnder's Marketplace bakery, the Z Chef's Cafe, and the Frankenmuth Rotary ('volunteer organization').
(If you should lose your way inside, a guide can be provided.)
This is round the corner from the front of the Bavarian Inn, facing onto Fischer Platz, where . . .
. . . a gentleman plays the accordion nonstop, even when there's not a soul in the Platz.
('Let the good times flow . . . in the Fischer Platz. No Alcohol. No Smoking.')
With a touch of irony, the sign on the left offers 'Live music in the Fischer Platz', referring presumably to the lonely chap with the accordion.
Continuing south along South Main St., here's the Covered Bridge Shop, for gifts and what not, and an electric vehicle charging station conveniently placed alongside.
That's the back of the Covered Bridge Shop -- the excellent wall paintings are apparently a major theme in Frankenmuth; in fact, there's a 'Frankenmuth Mural Finder' scheduled for launch in June 2023.
And that's the Covered Bridge ['Holz Brücke (Wooden Bridge), 1979']. 'In the early 1960s, talks of building a covered bridge in Frankenmuth began between brothers Eddie Zehnder and William “Tiny” Zehnder Jr., then owners of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth and Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Both brothers had property on the far side of Frankenmuth’s Cass River waiting to be developed, but no bridge to give visitors and locals easy access.' The rest is history: from 1977 to 1979, the 2-lane & 2 sidewalk, 239-foot bridge connected the downtown with the various attractions, sports and festival sites, across the mighty Cass.
Speaking as a connoisseur, one avows that the bridge really is a lovely piece of work.
From the bridge, that's the mighty Cass river and an enormous Something along the shoreline park. We'll go have a look.
Looking south, that's a pedestrian bridge paralleling the South Main St traffic bridge.
That, it transpires, is what is winding out along 250m of riverside park. It is not exactly the Bavarian Inn -- it's the Bavarian Inn Lodge, which includes the Ratskeller Cafe and the Schnitzelbank Biergarten.
(In German-speaking countries, a Ratskeller is a bar or restaurant originally in the basement of or next to the Rathaus or city hall. A Schnitzelbank was originally a work-bench for wood carving, but morphed into a kind of rhyming funny song, then evolved into German immigrant clubs in the US for singing the songs.)
This is an establishment called the River Place Shops -- trotting along through the baseball fields, carparks, and festival grounds on this side of the river, we first thought that this must be a shopping mall, and it is, but what a mall!
A nice Bavarian sort of entrance from this end
And a festive interior
Now we've circumambulated round the outside to the south, not wishing to miss a glance across the street at the Frankenmuth Clock & German Gift Co. - Clocks, Clock Parts & Authentic German Gifts! (with 'clock repair service').
Not to mention the Wild Birds Unlimited 'hobby store' ('retail store stocking supplies for feeding & observing birds, including bird baths & binoculars'). A handsome building, like so many of them in this town.
At this point we've progressed nearly as far south as Zehnder Park and Kern's Sausages, and not so very far from Zehnder's Splash Village waterpark, which we needn't include in our itinerary, not today at least.
But we're intrigued by this River Place place, and seriously must investigate.
We approach the gatehouse -- no portcullis, not even sentries.
Free admission this far -- very nice!
It's not well populated at the moment (it's only late May), but still welcoming. Oh, there's the Frankenmuth Popcorn Wagon, brilliant.
(Next beyond the Popcorn is the Ultimate Mirror Maze ('Funhouse labyrinth of mirrors & halls') . . . if only we'd known. Too late now.
One can't pass by without noting the elegant heraldic crowned eagle or turkey with the banner reading 'Woody's'.
Surely, Lord Woody's, or at least Sir Woody's.
It would be easy to just wander about here all afternoon
(especially with 'Buy One Get 50% off' something; anything).
But if that village clock is correct, we've got promises to keep, and miles to go before we eat.
An Enchanted Forest, sounds tempting but we usually try to give those a miss. 'Enchantments' can be a double-edged sword, we've discovered.
'Designer Cakes', love it. Like my jeans.
An inspired name for a German tourist boat reminiscent of Mark Twain's Mississippi -- the 'Bavarian Belle Riverboat'.
This would doubtless be a wonderful tourist experience, as, just across the road (but we didn't get get a suitable photo), must be the Fantasy Carriage Company, with some very fancy single-horse carriages.
Back past the Covered Bridge Shop, from the front side this time.
With the quite odd tower on it, and a lonely unoccupied throne out front. (But it's still early season.)
We're back to the Bavarian Inn again (though it's not yet time for dinner alas), just in time for what must be the pièce de résistance . . .
. . . an automated version of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, brilliant, and so German!
[Though Hamelin is nowhere near Francoia or Bavaria. Never mind, it's just for kids, who may love it: we do.]
The Pied Piper and the rats -- not quite the 'Walk of the Apostles' on the Prague Old Town Hall, but folksier.
The Frankenmuth Historical Museum, featuring ---
The German word Almabtrieb ('pasture-drive') means bringing the cows down from the summer meadows in early autumn (best milkees get to wear the floral crowns); the Swiss German is Alpabzug, and in the French-speaking Alps this is called the 'désalpes'. People line the farm roads off the mountains to cheer the farm families and especially the lead cows.
Toyberg again, and the Fudge Kitchen
And the Cheese House (um, Haus) ['Cheese is so dog gone good'?]
Rummel's Insurance castle again, nearly back to the Drury Hotel in time to dress for dinner.
Next up: The subtle joys of Manistique