Two weeks ago my wife and I visited the Guggisberg Swiss Inn in Holmes County, Ohio, USA. For those who don’t know about Holmes County, it has one of the largest populations of Amish in the USA – roughly 36,000 total. Holmes County is not only a beautiful place to visit, with its rolling hills and winding roads (and splendid fall colors), but it’s also a step back into time. The Amish are not only very strict in regards to religion, but their rural lifestyle and clothing have changed very little since the 19th century.
The town of Berlin is perhaps the most popular Amish locale for non-Amish (non-Amish are called “English” by the Amish. So if you’re Hispanic, Asian, African American, whatever…you’re still “English”!). Berlin, with its world-famous Amish furniture, quaint shops, and home-style restaurants has become a bit of a tourist trap. But the smaller town of Charm is a little different. The “Charm Days” festival was going on the weekend we visited, the centerpiece of which was a large auction. Not only did we get to hear some expert auctioneers at work, but we actually got to feel like “guests” rather than tourists – the Amish comprised about 90 percent of the crowd, whereas we “English” were the distinct minority!
The Inn also offered the opportunity to eat supper at an Amish home. Lynn and I dined with two other couples at the home of Wayne and Iva Miller (one couple was from Cleveland, and the other couple were two ladies from Germany and Belgium). Although Wayne was out bowhunting “whitetail,” Iva and her six children proved to be fantastic hosts. We ate in the Millers’ unfinished walk-in basement, which was very sparse but also very clean. We had coleslaw for an appetizer; fresh baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, noodles, Canadian bacon, green beans, and bread with fresh strawberry preserves for the main course; and angelfood cake for dessert. Iva and the kids had their own meal on the other side of the room. After dessert, the four Miller girls entertained us by singing a couple harmonies they’d learned in church.
Overall it was a fun, peaceful, memorable weekend. We’re thinking of going back again next year – but I may have to diet for several weeks ahead of time!