A strangely incongruous title, eh? But in the heart of Chelan County in Washington is a city called Leavenworth that whisks you into the heart of Bavaria, even though it lies at the foothills of the North Cascades. When we entered Leavenworth, we were witness to a town that had centered itself around a sawmill industry, but left bereft when the industry died away and when the Great Northern Railway Company was re-routed around the city. It was on the verge of an utter breakdown.
That is when enterprising minds in the early ’60s got together and hatched a plan to transform it into a village with an alpine look. Baskets of bright petunias hang from eaves of cottages which are built distinctly in a Bavarian Alpine style of architecture and horse-drawn carriages trot through town.
You know that bit about making the most of a journey to any place? I think that drive through from Seattle to Leavenworth was just divine. Our brother-in-law drove chirpy five fellow passengers, his family and the two of us, through evergreens that framed the mountain passes in the Cascades. We wound past emerald-hued creeks and rivers with distinctly Native American names. Even though Stevens Pass that is hugely popular with skiers was chanced upon by a non-native man called John Frank Stevens. We passed by railroad towns called Skykomish.
My favourite part of that drive was when we stopped at an espresso stand with a dramatic backdrop. Espresso Chalet sits on Route 2 with the stunning Mount Index in its backyard. Its three pointed spires were like three mysterious damsels, smoky blue and mired in mist. That was a view I could have sat in front of and stared at for a long, long time.
The line-up of espressos was mind boggling. And the sizes had me. The mug which my brother-in-law chose was the biggest and tallest I had ever laid my eyes on. If clichés are clichés for a reason, then it stands true that in America everything comes in a jumbo size. Cars, trucks, supermarket packs, burgers, coffee mugs…the works. Apart from the espressos and Mount Index, Espresso Chalet is littered with references to the mythical Bigfoot and a sulky statement that announces to the world: “BIGFOOT doesn’t believe in you either.”
Below are some snaps from the drive:
Then we were finally in Leavenworth where I started off the jaunt on a different note.
Despite tucking into hot and spicy dishes through my entire holiday — the Americans even grade the level of chillies in their food — I had the most excruciating save-my-soul-and-call-the-firemen experience in a specialty store in Leavenworth. Its name was A Matter of Taste and it was there that my brother-in-law called my attention to a particular red sauce. Next, he saw me dipping a pretzel into it with great gusto. Just as he warned me, I had greedily popped it in.
The whole world came crashing down around my ears. My husband followed suit. There we were, the two of us – fire in our mouths, fire streaming out of our ears, fire in our bellies.
Fortunately, there was wine at hand. A wine-tasting noon went by in a blur, us nodding vigorously at fine words of appreciation from an eager wine-seller and quaffing glasses of wine to douse our screaming insides.
While my husband felt better in a while, the story did not end for me there. After some time, a series of cramps seized my stomach, so bad that I had to double over to tide over it. The only way out for me was double scoops of maple syrup and pecan ice cream. That was bliss in the most intense way possible.
And inspite of my love for fiery food, that steered me away from any more chilli-ridden foods for the rest of our holiday. You know, once burnt and all that.
Then to wind up an evening in Leavenworth, we sat in Mongolian Grill, a restaurant which had the most picture-perfect view of the village. It started pouring as if on cue, the sun shone on making those rain drops look unreal and a rainbow appeared in quick succession to all our delight. Pints of beers in our hand, we looked on, trying to convince ourselves that such beauty can be real.