A Pennsylvania Dutch Fourth of July


I had an interesting Independence Day celebration here in south eastern Pennsylvania, the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch cultural region. The Pennsylvania Dutch were immigrants from Switzerland, Germany, and the Czech Republic who settled this area in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were seeking religious freedom, as many American immigrants. Over 300 years later, Pennsylvanians still affiliate with this culture, but most has been lost through the generations of American life and modern influences.

I attended the Kutztown Folk Festival, a celebration of values of these settlers. The Pennsylvanian Dutch are still evident today in the Amish settlements here, as well as private church affiliated universities like Moravian College. At the fair there were many old fashioned crafts, livestock shows, and a quilting competition. We stopped at an Amish farm (wheat field shown above) and bought some corn and tomatoes.

The Lehigh Valley Historical Society has done a good job in preserving the sites and promoting the teaching of history. It is amazing to think that this region was once on the frontier of America. The farmhouse below is from 1756 and is typical of the early frontier Pennsylvanian Dutch farms.

The Troxell-Steckel Farmhouse – 1756 – Ironton Rail Trail

It is nice that people recognize their heritage and remember the historical roots of America. With modern American culture, so much is homogenized that most US cities and towns are indistinguishable from each other. There is a lightly distinctive feeling of uniqueness here and the rolling hills of corn and wheat, the Mennonite horse carriages and the beautiful stone farm houses bring back memories of the first American settlers. It was a good way to spend birthday number 237 of the United States of America. Here in Pennsylvania, so close to many sites (Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Philadelphia) that played an important role in forming our nation.


My Take on Amsterdam and the Dutch


After spending a few days in Amsterdam I have some impressions of the city and the Netherlands in general. My son Owen asked me, “Do they speak Hamster in Hamsterdam?”

The biggest impression upon me was the number of bicycles! They were everywhere. At every bus or train station hundreds were parked and as you can see from above, they were also parked in front of buildings and streets. Everyone rode bikes, from grandmothers, to school children. I guess with over 16 million people squeezed in such a small area, bikes are an efficient manner of moving around. I rented a bike and rode for hours both Friday and Saturday evening. They literally have bike paths on every road and canal in Amsterdam.

The Dutch did display that famous tolerant temperament. They were friendly and were willing to help me when I got lost. I was surprised to see a large Islamic population as well as many blacks from Surinam. The canals and old buildings were absolutely stunning. The Dutch themselves look Scandanavian with a British flavor. They are very tall and light skinned. There are beautiful views almost everywhere one looks. I did see a bit of the tourist “red light” district and some of the famous cafes and prostitutes in the window. That part turned me off. I heard that in the warmer months there are many more tourists, although I did see and hear quite a few American college kids around the city.

I would like to go back again solely for the biking! I would like to go on a longer bike ride between cities with my family. I would also like to visit the International Court of Justice in the Hague. I also learned the official name of the country is the Netherlands. Holland is the name of two provinces, not the entire country. It was difficult to take good pictures as I was biking around and the light was not great. 


The Amstel River At Night
The Amstel River At Night