This trip was my second to the city of Philadelphia. My first was on a college tour now more than half a decade ago, visiting a certain, world-renowned university in the city. That time, I didn't get to see or get a feel for much of this city of brotherly love. As an interesting side note, the name of Philadelphia comes from the two Greek terms of 'phileo' - to love, and 'adelphos' - brother.
I mostly meandered around the city's historical district on this particular trip, and as Philly is only an hour and a half from New York, I'll definitely be back to see some of the museums soon enough.
To begin, a trip to Independence Hall, where the site of the first White House still remains on the grounds.
The preserved foundations of the first president's house:
A view of the lawn and park of Independence Hall, where the Liberty Bell once rang from its very top. The bell is now on display in a separate museum to its right.
Today, the Liberty Bell hangs inside a visitor's center which provides a historical overview of the era in which the bell rose to prominence, as well as what the bell symbolizes.
Finally greeted by the illustrious bell in question, with its prominent crack down the middle.
The back of Independence Hall, the site where both the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence were debated and adopted. It was also the seat of the first Us Congress as well as House of Representatives. The city of Philadelphia served as the United States' first capitol for a decade, after which it moved to New York City for a number of years before finally settling in Washington D.C.
A side-view of the Hall and a copy of the Declaration of Independence (right).
The seat of the first US House of Representatives.
And upstairs, the seat of the first Congress, a much smaller room due to the much smaller amount of states that were a part the US back then.
A brief interlude in the historical tour for some lunch. This being Philly, I could not leave without attempting an authentic Philly Cheese-steak first. Campo's Deli came recommended for serving up hoagies in the old city, so I stopped by the decades old eatery for a try.
Ordering their original cheese-steak with mushrooms, onions, peppers (everything), the flavor did not disappoint. Though I wasn't in the city long enough to give the other famed cheese-steak outlets a try, this one was certainly moist and flavorful enough to warrant an affinity for the famous sandwich.
After lunch, a brief stop at Carpenter's Hall, site of the first meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774. Today, it is still owned by the Carpenter's Company of Philadelphia, the oldest craft guild in modern day history.
A short distance away is the original home of the man synonymous with the city of Philadelphia and much of America's history: Benjamin Franklin. The first Post-Master General of the United States, an outline of his original home has been constructed in the court-yard surrounded by the first Post-Office of the country. To its left, a museum dedicated to this famed inventor and statesman.
The very first United States Post Office, front and back.
Elfreth's Alley, also known as America's oldest residential street, dates back to 1702. If you look closely, notice the American flag at the front of the alley only has a limited number of stars, due to the limited number of states that existed when the United States first became incorporated. Today, there are still houses for sale within the alley, due to the number of tourists it attracts however, the verdict is still out on whether it still remains the coveted residential street it was centuries ago.
A panoramic view of the sizable Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The top of the 'Rocky' steps is also a great place to see the city-scape laid out before you. In the center of the roundabout, a statue of George Washington, who carried out his two terms of presidency in the city of Philadelphia, the nation's first capital.
Don't forget to grab a pretzel on your way out, Philadelphia is known for their figure 8 pretzels that (typically) have no salt on top. They're known to be extra soft, and eaten with mustard. Philly Pretzel Factory churns out these dough-y specialties, though locals swear by their own favorites dating back decades.
Next stop, Amish Country in the nearby town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These are people who choose to live within a traditional sect of the Christian faith that do not use technology and live an ascetic lifestyle, rejecting pride and practicing humility. They seek to maintain a degree of separation between themselves and the modern world, and often live among communities scattered the US and Canada.
Upon first arrival, we were escorted onto horse drawn carriages for a brief tour of the country-side. Many Amish farm as a way to sustain living, and still use horse-drawn tractors and traditional methods to cultivate their land.
In Pennsylvania, wheat, various berries, potatoes, and a wide range of agricultural products are grown from the land to help the Amish sustain their way of life. Typically, those of the faith do not have social security or any type of social insurance.
My first time hearing of the Amish was upon learning about Rumspringa, a rite of passage for Amish teens around the age of 16 allowing them to experience the real world. Loosely translated as 'running around,' it is during this period that an Amish teen can decide for him or herself if they want to stay within the faith, and become formally baptized into the religion thereafter. The belief limits dress, use of modern technology, alcohol and use of other substances, and Amish children are typically home schooled after the 8th grade. Perhaps both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, over 90% of teens choose to remain and marry within the faith after experiencing the upsides and perils of the modern world.
As a primary mode of transportation, the Amish still typically use a horse and buggy. It's completely normal to see an Amish family click-clucking to a nearby gathering or on a family outing in this town.
In Lancaster, PA, the Amish community live among those who are not of the same religion. As such, one can distinguish an Amish household typically by the clothesline and garments hung out to dry outside of any dwelling, as a rejection of electricity prevents the use of dryers.
Many Amish also have a barn or grain silo attach or located near their house. They also do not subscribe to any specific place of worship, such as a church in many other denominations of Christianity. Typically, meetings are held in a rotating schedule at various residences of those in the faith, on a weekly basis.
All in all, an idyllic ride through the Amish countryside. A worthwhile experience if one happens to be in the area. Of note are the children who sell homemade baked goods to the carriages coming through their farm. The hand crafted pretzels (right) are some of the best I've ever tasted, better than any made among millions in a factory.
The nearby Intercourse, Pennsylvania is a picturesque small town located in the heart of Amish Country. Yes, that really is the name.
The town center features a shopping and food area known as the Kitchen Kettle. Though my first instinct is to dismiss the little square as a typical tourist trap, I couldn't resist buying into the various (delicious) foods they had on offer, all homemade, all organic.
Two of my favorite stores were the cheese and sausage shop and the jam / other preservatives outlet. Both offer endless samples of their products. Jam and Relish offers a sweet pineapple salsa and homemade tortilla chips that are to die for.
Of note at Aged and Cured is the smoked gouda and sweet sausage.
Attempting to get away from the hustle and bustle of where all the tourists were gathered, I wandered off to a small pretzel store run by the Amish locals known as Immergut. Known for their hand rolled soft pretzels, a Philly-region specialty, definitely often for an original with their cheese sauce or one dipped liberally in cinnamon sugar if you're craving a sweet-bite.
An adorable hand crafted cigar store I happened upon in my exploration of the small town.
Strolling back to Kitchen Kettle 'village' (really a cluster of small shops that sell various souvenirs for eager tourists including wine, candles, and mostly food), I rounded out my 'dinner' here with a scoop of ice-cream and some kettle corn to take back. The ice-cream was mostly unremarkable albeit being homemade, but the kettle-corn was a delicate balance of sweet, salty, and light that makes for a solid gift choice for any hungry friends and/or family.
Though I tried to exercise restraint, in the end I still couldn't resist bringing back a grocery bag's worth of goodies from this little market place. All in all, a very solid day spend exploring historical Philadelphia and the Amish way of life, with some good food in tow.