Monday 9th October we were all packed and ready to leave but it was raining. Gemma’s garden was a fairly steep bank to climb up some uneven steps so we waited until it eased off a bit. At 11.00 we called an uber and went to the car hire place. After the initial checks we were on our way driving north out of Maryland into Pennsylvania. We headed into the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch community. These religious orders and cultures have been established here since the 18th century. Amish are the best known for their devotion to various degrees of low-tech, plain living but it was really slightly surreal seeing them in the flesh riding up and down the country roads in their very characteristic horse drawn buggies.
They were offering rides around the local homesteads in one of these so we decided it might be a nice way to dip our toes into their culture. We shared our buggy with several other families. Levi, our host in his straw hat, Dutch beard and plain garb chatted away about their culture. The first thing we noticed was that there were no power lines going to the houses.
As we trotted the few miles around his circuit Levi gave an introduction to the plain way of life they lead. We were fascinated that they did not not allow electricity into the house but discovered that this community, each having it’s own slightly different rules, allows a diesel generator to be run twice a day for just two hours to allow them to milk their cows. The power is also used for a variety of tasks including charging compressed air tanks up. This compressed air is then used to drive air powered washing machines inside the houses which along with gas lamps prevent the wickedness of electricity from entering the home. So they have washing machines, I could live there!
They have a very plain and simple life with a structured day that starts at 5am with milking the dairy herd and ends with lights out at 8pm. Youngsters are schooled in Amish schools and rarely go outside of the community other than for something called a run around where young adults are allowed out into the world to find out what it is like and then given a choice. ‘Come back and follow our way of life or go and never come back’. Unsurprisingly the vast majority return to live in the community for the rest of their lives. For such sheltered folk the world must be a scary place.
It rained on and off all day as we continued our drive to Philadelphia. We stayed in an airbnb for the next 2 nights. We purposely choose the cheapest accommodation just to see what you got for your money. Could have gone badly but worked out ok in the end. It was in the ethnic area of town and we were the only whites in the area but Deidre was very friendly. She had 4 rooms available that shared a bathroom and kitchen. It was clean and fairly quiet but i think we’ll go a bit higher next time.
Tuesday 10th we left the car outside the airbnb and took an uber into town, much less stress.
We enjoyed Philadelphia established by Quaker William Penn in 1682. Some if its streets are lined with glass buildings but it’s also the birthplace of American government where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. For a time in its early years, Philadelphia was the second largest city in the British empire, after London, then, along with Boston, the empire’s undoing. From the start of the Revolutionary War until 1790 (when Washington dc was founded), it was the new nation’s capital.
We started our day at the city hall completed in 1901. It’s 548ft high not counting the 27 ton bronze statue of William Penn which makes it the world’s tallest structure without a steel frame. It holds mostly offices.
The fountain in the square outside is allowed to freeze in the winter for ice skating but that day it was giving some wonderful reflections of the surrounding buildings.
The view from the observation deck at the top of the tower was stunning.
There was a lift to the top of the tower but the staircase alongside it was pretty impressive too.
Bill and I continued walking along Market street towards the old city which has been dubbed ‘America’s most historic square mile due to the role it played in the American revolution and the earliest years of American democracy. There is a large L-shaped area designated Independence National Historic Park. It starts where the foundations of George Washington’s house are marked.
Behind the house is the Liberty bell centre which houses the icon of Philadelphia history. Weighing 2080lbs it was made in 1751 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s constitution. It tolled on the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The crack developed in the 19th century and it was retired in 1846.
Independence Hall is renowned as the birthplace of American government. It’s a modest Quaker building and is where delegates from the 13 colonies met to approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776. There’s a painting of the meeting in the entrance. It was a beautiful building inside.
We continued to walk around the old part of the city, it was really attractive.
It was wonderful day and the rain kept away. We got an uber back to the airbnb and luckily not only was the car still there it still had it’s wheels! Haha only joking wasn’t that bad. More Philadelphia photos on facebook.
Wednesday 11th we headed out to the Delaware Water gap, a beautiful spot where the Delaware river passes through the Kittatinny mountains. In the pre air conditioning days it was a popular resort destination. It also acts as a border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The 30 mile road on the Pennsylvania side gave some stunning views and the beginning of the Autumn leaves. We stopped at the Raymondskill falls car park and walked down to the falls for a picnic. The falls were small but very picturesque.
After our picnic walked back to the car.
Btw this is the rental car. The bottom 2 categories, small or compact were the same price so we booked compact. When we picked it up we were offered the next size up for a few dollars a day extra. Having already spent a lot more than we intended we turned down the offer. Then they said they didn’t have any compact and this the smallest car they had!
The drive through the trees was beautiful although it clouded over in the afternoon. Frustratingly there weren’t many places to stop. We kept seeing the most beautiful scenes but no where to stop. Eventually we found a car park and I was able to take some reflection photos.
Having driven the Delaware Water gap we made our way back onto interstate 84 then onto the 87. We crossed the border into New York state and stopped at a motel in Poughkeepsie for the night. There were about half a dozen to choose from. The next day was the Catskills.