Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bavarian Ice Fest

Four hours northeast of Seattle is a famous faux Bavarian village in the midst of beautiful snow-covered mountains. Obviously, this place -- Leavenworth -- was on the top of our list of Washington must-sees. Purely by magical accident, we came on the weekend of the Bavarian Ice Fest, so we got to see ice sculptors, snow sculptures, sled dogs, and lots of faux Bavarian events such as smooshing, which is a race where teams of four strap 8-foot boards to their feet -- like cross-country skiing with four people on the same pair of skis. Chris and I entered the Bavarian mug relay. One person had to run to a hat, put it on their head and say "Welcome to Leavenworth," then run to a table, grab three beer steins in each hand, fill them with ice, spin around, dump the ice, put the mugs back on the table, run to a chair and yodel, and then to their partner, who had to complete the sequence in reverse order. We didn't win.

The village itself is filled with all manner of shops selling T-shirts, cuckoo clocks, beer steins, and all the usual tourist crap. But on the plus side, all hotels, motels, shops and restaurants -- even the McDonald's -- are on theme and have Bavarian-style signage, so you never lose the feeling that you're on vacation. Also, it may be mid-January, but it's still Christmasy. The Christmas trees are still up and decorated, and there are lights everywhere.

I found it interesting that Leavenworth was a former logging town headed to becoming a ghost town in the early 1960s. The citizens Bavarian-ized the town, and voila -- instant tourist destination. Willkommen!

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