As someone who grew up in Wooster, near the Amish Country border, I didn’t truly appreciate living near one of the world’s most fascinating cultures. Visiting hidden little towns like Berlin, Charm, Millersburg, Sugarcreek, and Walnut Creek was an everyday childhood adventure. I once watched a group of Amish folks raise a barn. I remember being caught in a veritable buggy jam of traffic after church services let out. I had several close calls on my bicycle with the less-glamorous side of being around horses (it’s exactly what you’re thinking of). I attended plenty of fresh farmer’s markets supplied by local Amish families. The list goes on.
I live in Lakewood now, and “it’s a world away” is totally a tourism-board cliché… because Amish Country is a galaxy away from Cleveland. Metaphorically, that is. Berlin (pronounced BER-lin, not Ber-LIN), one of Amish Country’s most well-known towns, is only an hour and a half drive from Public Square!
Ninety minutes separates you from four-lane highways, hustle and bustle, malls, smog, skyscrapers, and all the other accoutrements of urban life – love them or hate them.
There is no borderline of Amish Country, of course. You’ll just know when you get there (the sight of cows in the distance chewing their cud will help). That may seem anti-climactic, but it’s a pleasant feeling. The road will dip, dive and dart across the countryside as if consciously evading the straight-lined sensibility of modern life.
The road will dip, dive and dart across the countryside as if consciously evading the straight-lined sensibility of modern life.
You’ll likely have to slow down and carefully pass a horse-drawn buggy. You’ll cross one-lane bridges. You’ll see eggs, pumpkins, firewood, or sweet corn for sale at the end of long lanes depending on the season.
Surrounded by soft countryside, you might find yourself smack dab in the middle of a tiny town barely on a map. You might find yourself on the roadside enjoying a picnic with greenery and farmland far as the eye can see. You might (depending on your phone’s carrier—probably, or even definitely) lose any semblance of an LTE signal, but isn’t that why you made the trek in the first place?
That’s all part of the fun, and yes, it’s truly authentic. Enjoy a jar of the peanut butter spread Amish enjoy at weddings. Bite into locally made cheese you can’t get anywhere else. Watch a buggy carrying a family as it trundles down a country lane.
It’s my duty to mention that the tourism industry has definitely found Amish Country, but the Amish continue their way of life much as they always have. Some Amish folks are more integrated into the modern world – many using cell phones. Others who are more traditional may not own a television, or not allow themselves to be photographed, or not use a car.
Their deeply held personal beliefs may seem quaint, but for the Amish, it’s a way of life. They’re more than willing to share a bite to eat and maybe even a story if you’ll just slow down, get out of the car, and take a deep breath… (unless you’re near a field freshly laid with manure). You’re in Amish Country. Enjoy one of Ohio’s hidden treasures.