Lancaster has become a sort of hybrid community – part cultural and religious artifact, part Gatlinburg-like tourist gacker.
It’s an amazing thing to have a strict, old-order religious community become a major tourist attraction even as it tries to go about its simple lifestyle. Apparently, the Amish are used to it now, and have even learned to profit from it. You can buy any number of locally handmade products (and some imitations probably made by the Shanghai Amish). In fact, you can even tour an Amish home, or farm.
Of course, there are many worthwhile things for tourists who are sincerely interested in understanding our differences with the Amish. You can see the countryside in a horse-drawn buggy. Browse through Amish-owned quilt shops. Or stop in the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society to gain a better understanding of Pennsylvania German culture.
Yes, that’s right, Pennsylvania German. It’s embarrassing, but I’ll admit this: Until a few years ago, I thought the Pennsylvania “Dutch” people were Dutch. Seemed logical to me. But I now know that they’re actually German – Pennsylvania Deutsch. I’ve read five explanations as to how this confusion came about, but I choose to believe it’s that lazy Americans asked the settlers what language they were speaking, and were told German – “Deutsch.” So the funny-looking foreigners became the Pennsylvania Dutch.
By the way, I just made up “gacker” in that first sentence, but I’m rather proud of it.