GETTYSBURG, HERSHEY, AMISH COUNTRY

By Jug Varner

“Join the Navy and see the World.” That was the recruiting poster message in front of the home town post office. The time was in those dim dark ages past — when I was a young lad and hadn't been many places outside the local area. World War Two had started, so as soon as I was old enough, I joined and eventually made it a career.

The Navy certainly lived up to its promise in my case, and set a lifetime pattern of travel enjoyment that has never waned. Each change of duty station brought more opportunities for my family to see different parts of America and the world, and implanted the same seed in each of them to “go and see.” - which they continue on their own.

Since Navy days, business travel has afforded similar opportunities for my wife and me to continue seeing new places and meeting new people. A large U.S. map mounted on my home office wall has blue tacks for all the places we've visited and red tacks for all the places we've lived. There are lots of tacks, but still lots of places we haven't seen — yet. Here are a few places we covered on our last trip east:

GETTYSBURG, PA

It is such a short distance from Washington that I can't believe we waited so long to come here. Cool and crisp October is a great time to visit because the crowds are smaller, with less hustle-bustle. Its the sort of place that deserves a more leisurely pace. If you're a history nut and like to read plaques, markers, and such, plan a long stay. There are more than 1,500 monuments on the battlefield alone and, the town is rich in civil war history.

For an outstanding 360-degree visual orientation of the entire area, visit Battlefield tower high above the cemetery before starting any tours. Also, before taking a bus tour of the battlefield, study the available literature to gain a better perspective and make the route more meaningful. The noisy diesel engine made listening to the narration rather tedious. A personal driving tour is far better, if time permits.

Dinner by the fireplace in Dobbin House Tavern (circa 1776) was a food, ambiance and antique treat, and a visit to the Eisenhower farm is worth the trip. The friendly docents are knowledgeable, and the interior gives one a special feel for the personalities of this former military couple who moved around the world just like the rest of us, before they ascended to higher status. Mamie's collection of assorted knickknacks is so typical of military wives.

The natural beauty of this setting (adjacent battlefield notwithstanding) is peaceful and serene. It is easy to understand why this farm was Ike's favorite place to be.

HERSHEY, PA

Chocoholics beware! You may not survive this visit. Merely the aroma of around-the-clock chocolate cooking permeating the air is enough to make you throw caution to the wind. Even the street lamps will tempt you. They're shaped like the famous Hershey Kisses we all try in vain to avoid. When you visit Chocolate World. You won't believe there is this much diversity in chocolate.

The automated tour there is a classic presentation of how the famous candy is made, and you'll get a taste treat at the end of your ride. Also, take the Trolley Tour of the area. This interesting and humorous presentation makes one appreciate this clean and beautiful little city and the world's best-kept philanthropic secret — unsung hero, Milton Hershey. He did wonderful things for his town, his employees, and
orphan children.

To help the area economy during the depression years, he employed many locals to build quality community buildings for the town. One was a replica of a favorite Moroccan hotel he stayed in while abroad. His architect created the plans solely from photos Hershey had taken on his visit and the general verbal descriptions he gave. It still looks new and is beautifully landscaped and much in demand. We couldn't get a reservation there but did thoroughly enjoy its ambiance and a delicious meal.

Except for a fateful decision early in the century, there night not be a Hershey product today. He and his wife had booked passage for on ocean voyage, but she became ill. With great reluctance, Hershey canceled the trip and the Titanic sailed without them.

INTERCOURSE, PA

Perhaps a more appropriate title could have been “Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” because we stayed in nearby Lancaster and visited a number of Amish communities with odd-sounding names, but none quite as odd as Intercourse.

This town supposedly got the name because an early building was on the site where folks entered a race course for teams of horses. (ThatÕs their story and theyÕre sticking to it.) Horses are still the preferred mode for transportation and cultivation in these parts by those who strictly keep the faith. We couldn't turn down the opportunity to ride in an Amish horse and buggy for an unusual tour of the rural area. Actually it was a more comfortable ride than expected, but we were somewhat cramped for space.

Our driver was a pretty lass who told us about the life of the “plain folk,” as they refer to themselves. No cars or trucks, no electricity or modern appliances in their homes, plain dress, every member of the family works on the farm, and the kids seldom go beyond the 8th grade in school. Those we talked with seemed well educated for so little schooling.

Food lovers will love the Amish Country. These people set a table fit for a threshing crew, which may be the root of their culinary experience. Food and plenty of it is the order of the day in most of their public eateries and we did our bit to help.

Fine needlework is the hallmark of the women, and we bought two meticulously-made quilts that are daily reminders of the interesting and enjoyable visit to Pennsylvania Dutch country - Intercourse in particular.

See also
http://www.nps.gov/gett/
http://www.visithhc.com/choccity.shtml
http://800padutch.com/amish.shtml