What kind of hats do Mennonites wear?
Amish is not always Amish
"Of course everyone wants to see the Amish, especially in their buggies.
I still remember when my sister-in-law visited us. We drove to Mount Hope, the big Amish center. And she called: oh, a buggy! There is a buggy "
"A lot of people have seen the Amish in the cinema films. But they really exist here. They are not a Hollywood invention. And they actually drive horse-drawn carriages. They have no cars and no electricity. And they voluntarily and happily live like that. That is unbelievable for many. "
Vicki van Natta lives and works in Amish Country Ohio. Approximately 60 miles from the big city of Cleveland and Lake Erie. She is the media director of a chain of restaurants specializing in Amish cuisine. She herself is Mennonite. All Amish were once Mennonites.
The split occurred when the Mennonites discovered electricity for their homes. This lifestyle was too modern for the Amish.
No phone, no electricity, no cars. Not a luxury.
The Amish drive buggy carriages. The men wear black and white combinations. The women long blue dresses. Buttons, zippers and belts are prohibited. The married men have beards. The women never wear their hair down.
Vicki van Natta prefers to wear jeans and a brisk, short haircut.
"I'm Mennonite. We have very few women who still wear a cap. Our services are held in churches and we have Sunday schools for the children."
The Amish services take place in turn in the families' homes. Always in the kitchen or in the barn. Every second Sunday. For at least three hours.
From the age of 16, young people can choose. For or against this life. This option actually exists.
Mary Yoder was once an Amish, moved to the Mennonites and now guides guests through the Yoder Farm.
"Welcome to the Yoder family's Amish home. I am Mary.
I grew up Amish but switched to the Mennonites as a teenager. I have great respect for Amish life and beliefs. But I just wanted a little more comfort. Electricity, heating, hot water.
By the way, you can take photos of everything here. Just not the Amish, please
I am Mennonite. They are allowed to take pictures of me. "
Before going into the house, Mary draws attention to a typical Amish toilet. In Germany they would be called an outhouse.
"" We're going into the house now and I'll tell you a few things about the Amish. What they believe in, about their clothes and the way they live.
Please up here! The last one closes the door! "" "
While Mary leads the guests through the house, work on the farm continues. The men make butter, the women bake cakes.
Every now and then a buggy drives by.
The tourists are torn between fascination and amazement. Because there is no film or music video playing here. But real life.
The Yoders are Mennonites or moderate Amish. Trend Yoder is the host here. When he opened his farm to tourists, his Amish relatives were skeptical. In the meantime, that has changed.
"My father was Amish. All of my relatives are Amish. I grew up with it, but never practiced the Amish faith myself.
But I know my relatives think it's perfectly fine for us to share their world with them. Because we know what we're talking about.
Interest in Amish life has been increasing steadily since the 1980s. Many of us find it better to allow tourism. Amish are different, but not mysterious. Above all, they cannot be viewed like museum pieces. The moderate Amish should band together. And educate the tourists properly. "
What Trend Yoder does is only tolerated by the moderate Amish.
The traditional ones - the so-called Schwarzentrupper - would never lead tourists across their farm. Even so, it's not entirely impossible to stay overnight on a traditional Amish farm. You just have to know how to do it.
Like the organic farmer Kurt Ohrndorf. He booked his trip to Amish through a horse-drawn forum. He attended the Horse Work Days in Ohio and was invited by traditionally devout Amish. An experience that made a deep impression on the farmer from North Rhine-Westphalia.
"We were a mixed group. From surgeons to captains. We visited Amish farms for nine days. It just impressed me how they bucked the trend of the times. Sure, they strictly follow the Bible. Refuse electricity . And wherever we need a car, they take a so-called buggy, a one-horse carriage where a horse is harnessed that trots almost all the time. The 85-year-old grandma and the six-year-old child come rushing around the corner with the buggy. The buggy is tied up next to the typical American off-road vehicle in the parking lot, which is a matter of course in the corner.
We were there at an agricultural exhibition. There were 20,000 Amish. When we talked in German, they pricked up their ears. Then they came and asked "Sid her Dütsch?" Or if I wanted to buy an ice cream, the Amish would speak to you in English. And since I speak English very poorly, only school English, where you don't get very far, my standard sentence came: "I speak no English. I German", then they said: "Then gossip mer Dütsch" or "But Hochdütsch you can ".
We talked until twelve o'clock in the night. You are very inquisitive. But they are fully informed. Although they have no television and no radio. They have their own newspaper. They know everything about genetic engineering - which of course they also reject - politics and these things. You absolutely cannot lump the Amish together. They are just extremely interesting, these people. "
This is exactly what Mary Yoder explained to the guests who visit her Amish farm.
"There are 9 different Amish groups in this area of Ohio. All of them have different rules. Some reject any progress. For example the Black Troopers. They are very traditional. Other Amish are more open to progress. But only up to one certain point.
The modern Amish have pictures on their walls. They allow mirrors and curtains on the windows. They cook on wood stoves. They place their food on blocks of ice to cool them. This is like an Amish microwave. "
If you look closely, you will not miss the fact that Mary occasionally risks an astonished look at the tourist children. Both boys and girls throw themselves on every bed in the house, crawl under all the stoves, and climb onto the tables. Meanwhile, Mary tells what the world looks like in which she grew up.
"Like all Amish people, I grew up multilingual. Pennsylvania German is our most important language. It's an old southern German dialect. If you don't speak it, you can't be an Amish. We don't learn English until we are around five years old."
In the meantime, Mary has led her group into the schoolhouse. Amish children are taught in just one classroom, often through to high school. Usually by unmarried women. Linda Schlabach is also a teacher here.
"We only teach English for the first two years of school. From the third grade onwards, German is also added. That is the old standard German that is in the Bible. We Amish do not use an English Bible. That means: Only those who can read Bible German understand God Word. The language of instruction is basically English. During the breaks, the children usually speak their Pennsylvania German to one another. "
And then suddenly one of the tourist group asks something in a strange-sounding language.
Tourist: "How are you: How do you say me sell in German?"
The tourist is Mennonite and speaks Pennsylvania German. This also surprises Mary.
Mary: "If I can say something in German?” "
Tourist: "Can you talk German?"
Mary: "" Yes! How do you look? "
Tourist: "I didn't understand it". "
"" Tourists in Pennsylvania speak German not often. But Ohio even has a television show that teaches American kids the basics of Pennsylvania German. "
"Mondaag, Dinnschdaag ..."
But not only Mennonites and Amish emigrated to Ohio. In the 50s there was another wave of German immigration. Many Swiss also came here. Their American descendants try to keep the ancient culture alive. Much to the delight of tourists. In Cleveland, for example, there is an Oktoberfest every year. The Americans claim: the biggest after Munich.
Many people of German origin use these festivals to meet other German emigrants, including Renate Bayer. She came to the USA with her parents when she was 6 years old. At the Oktoberfest she can finally speak German again.
"You actually do it every year. And there are the German dances. And a lot to eat and drink. Just like in Germany. And the Schuhplattler and a lot of fun. It has a bit of American flair. It is mainly the food. There you have sauerkraut and bratwurst. Lots of bratwurst. White bratwurst, brown bratwurst and the heart cookies, the pretzel. They do what they mean, what the Americans like to have. "
German food is very popular in America. Especially in Ohio. Mennonites and Amish founded the restaurant and hotel chain "Der Dutchman" here. Every American knows that Dutchman has German food.
"Yes! It should actually be called German. The German man.
The Dutchman is wrong and misleading. What is meant is not the Dutch, but the German. And above all the German cuisine.
This mistake came about because some people no longer speak German as well as they think they do. Not even the Pennsylvania German. So I'm not at all surprised that something wrong came out of it. "
Vicki van Natta is the media manager of "der Dutchman". She is a little embarrassed that the name is wrong. But it doesn't have to be. The Germans almost always pronounce the word "Amish" incorrectly.
The food is definitely original German.
"We have chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, sauerkraut, roasts here. Everything that people in Germany have liked to eat."
And Amish Country has made another delicacy famous far beyond the borders of Ohio: Swiss cheese. There are cheese factories that supposedly produce better Tilsiter than the Swiss themselves.
Visitors have the opportunity to watch the cheese being made. Or in the manufacture of cowbells and cuckoo clocks. But these shops are no longer an insider tip. This is completely different with the Amish cattle auctions.
Every Thursday the Amish come to the cattle auction in Kidron and on Saturdays to the horse auction in Mount Hope.
As far as the eye can see, the horses are tied up in front of the buggies in the parking lots. In the auction halls you can see hundreds, sometimes thousands, of men with straw hats. Because the Amish only wear black hats to church or to festivities.
The auctions are mostly a family event. Father, mother, children, grandma, grandpa, aunts and cousins. Everyone is coming.
The Amish also come to Kidron to go shopping. Because there are Lehmans here. The largest shop - in all of America - with products by and for Amish.
Founded by Jay Lehman. His family is also Mennonite. Because the Amish are not allowed to trade themselves from which they could get rich. Glenda Lehman explains the business idea.
"My family and the Amish have an agreement. They make furniture, baskets or patchwork for us and we sell them. The Amish don't want daily contact with their customers. They don't want to market their products in catalogs or on the Internet . We do that for them. They stay at home, with their families and produce exactly as much as they need to live. "
"Here we have a stool that turns into a ladder with a flick of the wrist. I once asked the Amish who makes it: Can't you make more of it for us? They are in great demand. And he said:" All I want is enough money to feed me and my family. No more. "They don't want to get rich. They want to live their lives, their faith. And above all, they want to stay among themselves. They feel most comfortable in their family."
Glenda Lehman is the founder's daughter. Her father is now over 80 and still works in his shop. There is almost nothing here that is not there. Just everything without an electric drive. Microwaves, freezers, heating stoves, popcorn kettles, waffle irons, washing machines. And since the Amish refuse light, loads of candles, oil lamps and torches. There are regular demonstrations in the shop. The Amish then demonstrate how they weave baskets by candlelight, make furniture without machines, and sew clothes without buttons or zippers.
"Here we have dresses that Amish women wear when they go to church or to go shopping. It's a wedding dress. It's light blue. The modern Amish are allowed to wear light blue wedding dresses. The Black Troopers wear dark blue.
They get married when they are around 20. The weddings are not arranged. "
Anyone watching here may think the Amish are backward.
But if tomorrow all machines stop, the power grid collapses and the computers crash, the Amish will just carry on as before.
"The very first thing we sold here was a hand-operated spin dryer. My father primarily wanted to make and sell things for the Amish. That was more than 50 years ago. Then it turned out that Americans of different faiths were also very hot on this Hand-operated spin dryer. At that time, my father made the decision: no matter how the world changes, I sell well-tried, handcrafted, regionally manufactured products. And while technology prevailed everywhere else, we became the largest supplier of devices that get by without electricity. "
But the world in Amish Country has also stood still.
And people come here from all over the world to experience just that.
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