Sure, it felt like I had driven a long way from Seattle. But when I stepped out of the car in Leavenworth, about two hours east of The Sound on US-2, I could swear I had somehow ended up in Germany.
Now, I know that the Bavarian theme, on which the town has been constructed, is a gimmick, meant to draw tourists. But “gimmick” seems too harsh a word, because it’s been done so well.
Leavenworth’s Commercial Street begs to be walked at a leisurely pace. During my visit in August, plenty of people were taking advantage of the clear, warm weather — in a town that looks like the inside of a snow globe for most of the year. Once I finally found a parking spot, I strolled for a few minutes, determined to find a soft pretzel. I did, and it was authentic, not the kind you get at the mall.
In the middle of everything, there’s a tall Maypole, which serves as the central figure for the town’s many festivals, including Maifest in May. It gets decorated for the celebrations, but the rest of the year, it’s a bilingual reminder of the town’s faux German roots.
[tmt_info =””]Leavenworth began its transition into a Bavarian town in 1962, four years after a local business owner couple visited Solvang, California — a similarly themed town.[/tmt_info]
The streets aren’t only crowded with people, they’re also filled with flowers. Maybe it was especially amazing to me, since flowers like this don’t grow in my native Florida.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to explore the town. I had to finish my long loop through the Cascades, and get back to Seattle by dusk. US-2 provides a direct route, but in late afternoon the sun was in my eyes, blinding me to much of the beauty of this curvy route through one valley after another.
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive through Leavenworth, then west on US 2 to Skykomish: