Today is a rainy and droopy sixty degrees, but yesterday was full of sunshine and early fall crisp. Perfect for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, said Billy, only the Prospect Park neighborhood is, hmm, a bit farther now than it was six months ago. What’s a fish-out-of-the-East-River to do?
a) Watch “Sex and the City” reruns on TBS; drink every time the gang gobbles up Magnolia Cupcakes or Manolo Blahniks
b) Don flannel, skinnies, and colored Ray Bans; channel the Obnoxious Williamsburg Hipster within
c) Cry wee wee wee all the way home to Manhattan
Come on. Trick question, the answer is obviously none of the above. I miss Manhattan to be sure (thin crust pizza, boutique bakeries, french flea market style, new exhibitions on Monet and Kandinsky) but there will be no surrender here. Instead, B and I drove out to the Amana Colonies for the afternoon.
A BIT OF AMANA HISTORY, you say? The German religious group that would eventually found Amana was the Community of True Inspiration. Members of the Community, called Inspirationists, cultivated a humble, pious relationship with God based on simple worship and the belief that He would communicate with believers through a divinely inspired and informed prophet, or instrument (Werkzeug). The Inspirationists were kicked out of Germany in the 1840s, and eventually made their way to Iowa in search of cheap farmland. In 1855, a 1200-strong congregation led by Werkzeug Christian Metz declared their new village Amana, or “remain true,” and recommenced their communal way of life. This communal tradition was overturned nearly 100 years later with the 1932 Great Change, marking the first time Amana community members worked for wages and owned their own homes and farmland. The Amana Church is still a vibrant part of community life, we are told, and traces of their German heritage — as well as attempts to maintain it — abound. See: Germanesque shop names, menu offerings, etc.
Thus, our first stop yesterday, the Chocolate Haus, where we sampled peanut butter chocolate nibs, gawked at chocolatiers slicing blocks of fudge, and (I, at least) drooled over the freshly dipped carmel apples. We meant to stop by before leaving, but forgot, and I’m still moping about the apple that got away.
In the weirdly composite general store/Christmas shop we stopped in next, most remnants of authenticity flew out the window. There were locally made jams, vats of saltwater taffy and licorice sticks — good, all appropriately Little House on the Prairie. But an entire room of dissolving bath salts and another of bedecked Christmas trees? That’s just silly.
We sampled more fudge at yet another chocolate and coffee house and then crossed the street to the Wine, Cheese and Jelly Haus. When B and I first visited Amana about a month ago, we bought two bottles of fruit wine from Ackermann Wineries. They are still sitting in the cupboard, because honestly how many occasions really call for, really necessitate peach wine? There must be more in Amana than we’ve found in Iowa City. We judiciously did not stock up on any more.
To cap off our door-to-door moseying, there was even an outdoor band banging out instrumentals with tubas and, well, other band instruments. They were called die Treffen something. Shockingly my efforts to Google “die Treffen Amana Iowa band” have yielded zero information, but they provided a wonderful musical backdrop. They compensated for the un-authentic “orange vanilla blossom” bubble bath mix.
So it’s goodbye, Amana after a few hours, but not for long. For starters, I’m counting on my caramel apple fix within the month. And beyond that, there’s Oktoberfest in two weeks. Who needs to miss New York, when a community town in eastern Iowa has rendered a place as far off and exotic as Munich obsolete? Alles gut! Tchuss until next time!