VOLK FEST

Visit Wash­ing­ton town of Leav­en­worth to ex­pe­ri­ence pic­ture-per­fect Bavar­ian vil­lage

Boston Herald - - TRAVEL SMART - By BETHANY JEAN CLE­MENT

Leav­en­worth is a trip. Nes­tled against the far side of the Cas­cade moun­tains just a few hours east of Seat­tle, this lit­tle town does an im­pres­sion of a Bavar­ian vil­lage with all its might. The beer flows freely and the mu­sic is oom­pah; build­ings are dec­o­rated with wooden beams, fam­ily crests and gin­ger­bread trim (or their trompe l’oeil ver­sions). The Hei­dleBurger boasts “Best Burg­ers in Town,” and even the 76 sta­tion, Star­bucks and Howard John­son’s are in on the il­lu­sion, their cor­po­rate iden­ti­ties trumped, for once, by a civic the­matic mis­sion. The small town cen­ter is en­tirely com­mit­ted — sev­eral square blocks of signs in gothic fonts bear­ing names such as “Das Sweet Shoppe.” There’s candy and can­dles, hats and tchotchkes; you can get your photo taken in a dirndl with an ac­cor­dion in your arms; or ride in a car­riage hauled by a horse. There’s a mu­seum de­voted solely to nut­crack­ers. Leav­en­worth is deeply weird and alarm­ingly adorable, and peo­ple love it. And why shouldn’t those who set­tled here, com­ing from far away in Ger­many back in the day, cel­e­brate — and cash in on — their heri-

tage? But while that might seem the likely back­story, Leav­en­worth is an even more Amer­i­can suc­cess story than that: It was just a reg­u­lar log­ging town strug­gling to sur­vive in the 1960s when the idea of a tourism-friendly makeover was fab­ri­cated. As leav­en­worth.org puts it, “To say the change worked is like say­ing you can taste a hint of cab­bage in kraut.” Take an out­door table at Ici­cle Brew­ing Co. on a sunny au­tum­nal af­ter­noon, and see the vis­i­tors stroll by, happy in their new Ty­rolean felt head­gear (reg­u­lar size or com­i­cally tiny and at­tached to a head­band). Across the way, it’s self­ies ga­lore with the hops har­vest fes­ti­val mu­ral on Star­bucks’ rear; a cou­ple women pre­tend to hold the reins of the painted horses, and from here, with a beer, it looks pic­ture-per­fect. But the tourists must also be fed. Try Arg­onaut for cof­fee and snacks; South for Mex­i­can food (sources say to get the poblano sauce on a bur­rito); and Good Mood Food for just that. For a fancier (read: pricier) din­ner, Wa­ter­shed makes very good farm-to-table com­fort food (the meat­loaf, huge and de­li­cious, costs $32), while Mana is there for the up­scale ve­gan crowd (at $85 for eight cour­ses). Of course, you don’t have to ac­tu­ally move — what­ever uber-Ger­man-style pub you’re in will have pret­zels, sausages and the like. The name of one might ring a bell to some: Rhein Haus. Leav­en­worth’s lat­est ad­di­tion fits so seam­lessly here — pretty, pale pinewood; steins and antlers and snow­shoes ev­ery­where — you’d never guess its Bavar­ian ar­ti­fice is a meta-im­port, just opened in Au­gust. The first in­stal­la­tion is on Seat­tle’s Capi­tol Hill, and Ta­coma and Den­ver also have lo­ca­tions. Just three blocks away, Leav­en­worth’s other new de­vel­op­ment does a dif­fer­ent kind of im­i­ta­tion. Postho­tel is castle­like — six sto­ries built into the hill­side over­look­ing the We­natchee River — but it ex­er­cises res­traint with its cream-col­ored and flag­stone ex­te­rior. In­side, too, it’s taste­ful and sooth­ing, with a faint laven­der-herbal scent in the air, and only a mod­icum of antlers. Postho­tel staff wear the classi­est pos­si­ble ver­sion of tra­di­tional Ger­man coun­try at­tire, while most of the guests pad around the place in slip­pers and soft, white robes. Yes, it’s just like a Eurostyle san­i­tar­ium, and yes, it’s weird at first, but not for long. Quiet per­vades, and no chil­dren are al­lowed; every bed is king-sized, with a soft bank of pil­lows; and every room has a gas fire­place and enor­mous mar­ble tub. But why would you soak there when the spa awaits? A gen­tle­man will kindly ori­ent you, in­ton­ing the words “hy­drother­apy” and “re­flex­ol­ogy” over the four spe­cial foot-soak­ing pools, in­vok­ing the name of Se­bas­tian Kneipp, a Bavar­ian priest who founded the natur­o­pathic move­ment, pro­mul­gat­ing the idea that frigid plunges into the Danube cured his tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. In Postho­tel’s ca­pa­cious, vaulted-ceilinged spa, you may par­take of two lovely wood-pan­eled sau­nas, one ex­tra hot. There are two steam rooms, too, one of­fer­ing the op­por­tu­nity to re­cline on a con­toured mar­ble bed, like a body on a slab in a health­ful mau­soleum filled with a thick, hu­mid, tran­quil­iz­ing cloud. A shower with set­tings such as “Arc­tic Mist” will buf­fet you and, just as you look up, dump a del­uge from above. Padded lounge chairs, wear­ing their own terry-cloth co­zies, are in­ca­pable of any­thing but a fairly steep re­cline. An in­fin­ity pool, flow­ing from in­doors to out, has un­der­wa­ter bub­bling chaise-beds to tickle you all over. The view — moun­tain crags, dis­tant forests, cir­cling hawks, the river with reg­u­lar peo­ple tak­ing the air along it — is fab­u­lous. Should you grow weary, back in­side, there is a nap room with in­di­vid­ual wa­terbeds.

PHO­TOS BY PAIGE COLLINS / SEAT­TLE TIMES

OLD WORLD CHARM: Build­ings are be­decked with wooden beams, fam­ily crests and gin­ger­bread trim in Leav­en­worth, Wash.

GRAB A BITE: At Ici­cle Brew­ing Co., the pret­zels are good, the beer is great and the peo­ple-watch­ing is en­ter­tain­ing.

RE­LAX: The Postho­tel bal­cony pro­vides plenty of room for re­lax­ation and amaz­ing views.

COZY: Postho­tel’s din­ing room fea­tures white linens and a big dose of tran­quil­ity.

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