The Cascade Mountain range along the eastern edge of Washington state is unquestionably beautiful, but for travelers, they can be precarious due to the unpredictable weather along their low passes. Our plan for heading west was to make the trip across a relatively low pass (only 4,061 feet) known as Stevens Pass. Unfortunately, on the day we had planned to pass over the range, the weather turned cold and snow piled on to the roads causing Highway Patrolmen to close the road after a number of “chains required” announcements, and fear of avalanche (check out our time lapse photos crossing the pass here)
Forced to find a stop just East of the pass, a friend suggested (and the idea was reiterated by a friendly waitress) that we stop in Leavenworth, Washington. The town has become a favorite with locals and tourists alike, and it’s been featured on a number of travel shows. As you lurch into the valley on Rt. 2, you’re immediately greeted by chalets, German flags, and fonts designed to make you feel as though you “spreken ze Deutsch.” It’s as if you’ve traveled to Brabach or Hornburg with all the Facchwerkhauser timber frame architecture, themed restaurants, kitschy shops and the peasant dress. It’s very quaint, and very fake.
In 1962, facing economic destruction thanks to the relocation of the railroad, the town’s leaders created Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee. After a member visited the real Danish immigrant town of Solvang, California, the town decided to create a Bavarian town of their own, and that’s just what they did. Despite almost non-existent German heritage, the city helped the town’s businesses convert their storefronts to the visually recognizable timber-frame buildings of Europe.
In all honestly, the place was actually pretty cool, even if the backstory took away some of the “realness”. We had a delicious sausage lunch at King Ludwig’s and perused the cute shops for a few hours and even bought some German-style salami and cheese for a snack at the hotel. Though we weren’t in the mood, there are a dozen or so wineries begging for business as soon as you drive into town, and we’d highly recommend giving them a whirl.