When we get together with my parents, we like to go on adventure days. Sometimes we go to a national park site. Sometimes we go to a place that one of us has visited and thinks will be interesting. It is always someplace where we can learn something new. On one of our days in Ohio, we had an Amish adventure day.
Mom suggested this particular adventure. We are still trying to visit all the national park sites in Ohio but none of them were fitting into our time frame. When Mom said she wanted to visit Berlin, we had our destination.
Ohio is home to the larges population of Amish in any state. Most people think Pennsylvania has the largest population, but Ohio passed it a while ago. Most of the Amish in Pennsylvania are Old Order Amish, while the Amish in Ohio are much more diverse. New Order, Old Order, Andy Weaver, and Swartzentruber Amish are represented and each is governed by different rules. Here are a couple of charts from amishamerica.com.
Over 20,000 Amish live in Holmes County, the largest concentration. Millersburg is the county seat, but Berlin is considered the heart of Amish Country. You can’t drive anywhere without seeing Amish buggies, farms, or clothes on the line.
On our adventure day we drove to Berlin to meet Aunt Anne and Uncle Paul. They live near Wooster and have spent a lot of time in Holmes County. They were our guides for the day. Uncle Paul, a retired newspaper reporter, knows everyone in the area. Tom wanted to look at some old tools in an antique store we passed, and it turns out Uncle Paul knew the owner. So we headed to Colonial Homestead Antiques in Millersburg.
We may consider the things in the antique store really old, but the Amish are still using a lot of them. There were treadle scroll saws and a treadle lathe. Tom looked at hammers, tongs, anvils, and a blacksmith forge. I saw sheep shears and butter churns. There were also three weasels, one of them very nice, but out of our price range. Dan Raber, the owner of the shop does restorations and uses period-appropriate tools in the restoration. Dan is also Old Order Amish, so he has a phone in his store but no web page.
Tom bought some hammers and then we headed back to Berlin for lunch. We ate at Berlin Farmstead Restaurant, owned by the Dutch Hospitality group. They also own the Der Dutchman Restaurant in Bellville Ohio and we eat there frequently. The restaurants have very good, homestyle food with good pies and other baked goods. I love the salads with their fresh baked rolls. The Dutch Hospitality restaurants are not open on Sundays.
After our fortifying lunch, we went to the Antique Mall in downtown Berlin. We found the same stuff you find in any antique mall. There was a nice little spinning wheel with all the correct parts, but it was overpriced. After walking through all that stuff, I reached my limit on antiques. Most of it was stuff from my childhood, so – of course – it can’t really be an antique!
We visited a couple of quilt shops and then headed a mile out of town for our final stop: Heini’s Cheese Chalet. The best cheese shops are ones where you can sample any of the cheeses. Heini’s had toothpicks and a bowl of samples for every kind of cheese on display. Dad is the master sampler – I think he tried one of just about every kind. I tried what I thought was a pineapple / mango cheese and it was the most delicious cheese I had ever had in my life! I didn’t notice until my third sample that it was cheese fudge! Heini’s also has long windows where you can watch cheese being made in very modern facilities.
We enjoyed our day wandering around the shops in Berlin. Thanks to Aunt Anne and Uncle Paul for taking time to be our guides. Seeing the Amish in Holmes County made me think that they are the real living historians!