Welcome to Leavenworth, Washington’s faux-Bavarian village

The dying logging town of Leavenworth, Washington reinvented itself in the 1960's as a faux-Bavarian village. Today, over a million tourists visit annually to enjoy the scenic mountain views, soak in the fake Bavarian atmosphere, and revel in events like the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration which starts tomorrow, or the three-weekend-long Leavenworth Oktoberfest every October. (Mind you, the Leavenworth Oktoberfest doesn't actually start until the Munich Oktoberfest is nearly over, because Oktoberfest starts in September.)

I found during a brief visit to Leavenworth that the people there may dress like they're from Bavaria, but they don't actually speak German.

But at least I was there undercover.

Some years ago, a colleague of mine was on assignment in Redmond from his home country of Austria. One weekend, he decided to pay a visit to our fake Bavarian village, and when he returned, we asked him what he thought of the town.

"Well, for a fake Bavarian village, it's not too bad. I mean, nobody would for a moment think it was the real thing, but I appreciate the effort they went to, and it was quite a pleasant little town. But the weird thing was what happened whenever I opened my mouth to speak: People recognized that I spoke with a German accent and a flash of panic crossed their faces, as if I was going to blow the cover off their little ruse and reveal it to be a fraud."

[Update 8:00AM: Various typos fixed.]

Comments (19)
  1. Derlin says:

    Minor typo.  I assume “According” is supposed to be “Accordion”?

    My brother just picked up a four record set of accordion music at a second hand shop.  Sadly one of the LPs was missing.  Maybe that’s why it was there.

    [Thanks. And I think you have a minor typo. “Sadly only one of the LPs was missing.” -Raymond]
  2. Ben Voigt says:

    Nitpick warning!

    If you’re going to go to the trouble of spelling Oktober with a K and fretting about the lack of German speakers in said faux-Bavarian village, you should also try to get the right spelling when doing the obligatory comparison to München.  And there’s a stray ‘t’ in half of your instances of Oktoberfest (yes I know American English spell check flags both variants equally).

    [That’s what happens when I rush a blog entry into print. I wrote that entry up just yesterday (to catch the start of the Accordion Festival), so it didn’t get a year of proofreading that most articles get. Sorry. (And by the way, I thought Leavenworth was cute. The not-speaking-German thing was just a little joke.) -Raymond]
  3. low saxon says:

    One could forgive the fakery, maybe even the accordions, if the beer is reasonably authentic.

    Did you post on this last year? It sounds familiar–maybe the NY Times did a peace.

  4. The tourist expects to see a real Bavarian village, so let’s pretend we are one. Now we have an extreme example of compatibility work! :-)

  5. nathan_works says:

    Well, perhaps the tourist is expecting one of the other more famous Leavenworths ?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Disciplinary_Barracks

  6. keithmo says:

    Almost Live once named Leavenworth "Best Fake Bavarian Village in the Cascades".

  7. Eric Lippert says:

    I am always amused by the Leavenworth "Gift Haus". Don’t eat anything you buy there!

  8. someone else says:

    Ve haff vayz to make yoo come to Leavenworss …

    Also: Welcome to Heaven here is your harp. — Welcome to Hell, here is your accordion.

  9. Leo Davidson says:

    Sounds like a nice place. Too far away for me to visit, though. Could someone open a faux-faux-Bavarian village near London?

  10. will dieterich says:

    As for beer in 2007 they had Warsteiner.

    The weirdest thing is how they decide to split german words they are using.  Some are combine words correct in german some split so they are word by word translations.

    But if you want a good german fest in the US head down to New Braunfels, Texas and thier Wurstfest at the end on October through November.

  11. Leo Davidson says:

    kbiel, I don’t want the real thing, I want the authentic faux experience! (Also where people speak a language I understand.) :)

    Like how I’d rather watch the US remake of The Italian Job than the UK original. (I’ll probably be forced out of the country for saying that in public about the nation’s most treasured film.)

  12. Christian says:

    Does Uwe boll run this place? No, wait. That was the little Germany amusement park.

  13. porter says:

    > Did you post on this last year? It sounds familiar–maybe the NY Times did a peace.

    Presumably that’s "Peace in our time".

  14. Paul says:

    I can see Leo is going to have to turn in his English membership card :)

  15. MadQ says:

    Are you sure he said that they thought he spoke with a German accent? Austrians have their own very distinct accent when speaking English.

  16. Henry Boehlert says:

    Ich war 2003 mit ein paar Freunden dort und wir sind gleich als Deutsche erkannt, in gutem Deutsch angesprochen und in ein Restaurant eingeladen worden.

    Bier, Weißwurst und Brezel waren gut, der süße Senf eher nicht.

    Der Ort selbst ist recht hübsch, auch wenn (oder gerade weil) es nicht wirklich typisch bayerisch ist, sondern eher viele Stile aus der europäischen Alpenregion verbindet.

  17. Thomas K says:

    Schöne Grüße aus Österreich :)

  18. John Webber says:

    If the beer is Warsteiner, then it’s not a true Oktoberfest. At the Münchener Oktoberfest only beer from München (Munich for English speakers) is allowed. Warsteiner is from Northern Germany (or Preußen, to Bavarians).

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