Tag Archives: Georgia

Germany in Georgia

My 48th State – Georgia

Changing planes at the Atlanta Airport did not count, I decided. Nor did the half day drive between Alabama and Chattanooga Tennesee that I wrote about previously. That was a great drive, but not an overnight.  If I wanted to check off Georgia as a state I had visited, I needed to see some unique Georgia sites and spend at least one night.

No seashore, islands, plantations, or even the bustling city of Atlanta on this trip, but instead, a scenic byway through the mountains of northern Georgia and a pretend German town, Helen, Georgia. The northeast corner of Georgia in the Blue Ridge Mountains, boasts some beautiful scenery. Particularly approached as we did coming down on byways from North Carolina.

Now I’m keeping track of U.S. theme towns that think they are in some other country. I’ve visited some. I have  been to the  charming Leavenworth Washington and the delightful Fredericksburg Texas, two towns that are wannabe German. But you could also visit Hermann Missouri , Frankenmuth Michigan, or the Amana Colonies in Iowa. In my home county of Holmes in Ohio, there’s a Berlin (pronunciation BER-lin after World War I), but its theme is Amish rather than just German.

In California, we stopped off in lovely Solvang, that  pretends it is Danish. I haven’t been to the other Scandinavian town I’ve read about–New Sweden, Maine. I also have not visited Lindsborg Kansas, that calls itself Little Sweden USA.

Downtown Helen Georgia

In Helen, we stayed at one of the lodgings that had been made  to echo Bavaria. (Even the Motel 6 and the Wendy’s look Bavarian instead of mid-century American.) We opted for a corny Heidi Inn, a non-chain place where we could have taken a room in the windmill tower.

Heidi Motel, Helen Georgia

Since we didn’t have long enough hair to let down a la Rapunzel, however, we settled for a ground level room.

Heidi Hotel front, Helen Georgia

Now, I realize that these pictures make the town and the motel look rather appealing, but pictures can be deceiving. I did not link to the motel, because I cannot recommend it. Only a few places that we entered looked like they were making an effort to be spruced up and present a truly Bavarian air.  Most of the town looked shopworn and beat down by the recession.  We were disappointed by everything except the cheerful and helpful server in the restaurant where we had dinner.

Our experience no doubt was colored by a very different impression of Leavenworth Washington, where everything seems to be newly painted and spruced up.

With the exception of motels and some of the restaurants, you have to pay $5.00 flat to park anywhere in town (for two minutes or the whole day).  Even if you are just planning to pop into a souvenir shop, it will cost you $5.00. It irritated us so much that we did not spend any time shopping. Their loss.  For a tourist town, and one that was pretty empty, that seems like a pretty poor policy. There is free parking on top of a very steep hill at a city park, and the town is fairly small, so if you are staying the night and are hearty, you can leave your car at a motel and walk around.

Fortunately, our breakfast the next morning at Hofer’s Bakery -Konditorei nearly made up for the rest of our experience. (And they had ample free parking)  My breakfast of various German-style sausages and other meats took me back to our trip from Munich to Austria through the heart of Bavaria. The decor was authentic. A terrific mural shows the whole process of a loaf of bread from wheat field to bakery shelf. they even had grocery shelves devoted to German items. I just noticed that you can buy their baked goods on line, so if you’re homesick for Germany, take a look.

All in all, my advice is to enjoy the scenic northeastern corner of Georgia, drive through Helen and make a stop at Hofer’s, but do not plan on stopping long.

Clearly, my visit to my 48th state was a mixed experience and there is much more to the state than the tiny corners that we drove through. If you want to see backroads Georgia, as I mentioned in my article on Alabama, the Lookout Mountain Parkway takes you to the fantastic state park, Cloudland. I was so impressed that if I get back to Georgia, I will definitely explore more state parks.

Highlands of Alabama

Alabama. My 46th state. When I was in high school and college, I refused to join my family in trips to the South. I disapproved of racial discrimination. I was repelled by the segregationist confrontations on the steps of schoolhouse. I was, with all the misguided certainty of youth, blind to complexity. So deep-South States were among the last I visited. I did get to Mississippi as a side trip from New Orleans, but this week I spent time in Alabama for the first time.

Alabama Welcome
Sign at Alabama Alabama Welcome Center to prove I made it to my 46th state.

We drove from Atlanta airport into the northeastern corner of a ‘Bama quite different than your usual image of Southern coastline, swamps and plantations. Few people not from the South venture into northern Alabama. Friends on Facebook urged me to head for the NW corner, but we chose alluring NE because we were on the way to Chattanooga.

This is the mountainous part of the state, rich with canyons and outdoor activity, like the Little River National Preserve,  largest canyon system in the Eastern United States.


Little River Gorge and Falls
The Little River National Preserve in Alabama. Photo by Kenneth R. Badertscher

It also seems to be a retreat for the wealthy with gorgeous houses huddling in deep woods.

We stayed with our ‘unchained’ theme, and spent the night in a historic cabin at DeSoto State Park. Built in the 30s by young men working for the government CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), the “Rustic Cabins” are anything but rustic. All wood, with rocking chairs on front and back porches, they have been more recently modernized with such things as king sized beds, A/C and WiFi.

DeSoto State Park rustic cabin. Alabama.
DeSoto State Park rustic cabin. Alabama.
DeSoto State Park
Relaxing on the back porch of the DeSoto State Park historic cabin. Photo by Kenneth R Badertscher.

Our cabin, number 7, called ‘rustic’, cost the same as the plain Jane motel units near the lodge–under $90. The main lodge was also a CCC project. You can get meals there, but the atmosphere outscored the food.

The CCC was key to development of DeSoto Park, and the park has a small museum dedicated to them. The explorer Hernando DeSoto actually wandered all the way up from Florida into Alabama and neighboring States. A small contingent of his party camped at DeSoto falls, and today campers and explorers enjoy the same scenery as the Spanish adventurers.

DeSoto Falls
Falls below dam at DeSoto Falls. Explorer DeSoto’s men camped here while exploring the area. Photo by Kenneth R Badertscher

After spending Sunday night at the park, we reluctantly moved on and discovered more scenic delights along the way. Following instructions for the Lookout Mountain Byway, we stopped and walked around the funky town of Mentone.

Metone, Alabama
Art Gallery in funky old town Mentone, Alabama

We had been driving along the brow, a new term to us, but a valuable label for real estate as gorgeous houses perched on the brow with views that don’t quit til they’ve crossed several states. In Mentone we saw that view at Brow State Park.

Mentone Alabama
Mentone Alabama, The Brow City Park View that goes on forever

Crossing back into Georgia, we almost missed the next scenic stop. The Lookout Byway explanation says “as you turn on Rt 89, you won’t want to miss Cloudland Canyon.” After much backing and forthing, we finally got there. And it was more than worth the struggle.

Cloudland State Park, Georgia
Map of Cloudland Canyon State Park of Georgia

(Note: get food and gas up before starting on this byway. Restaurants or grocery stores are almost non existent.)

Cloudland is a mecca for hikers, but is also a great place for a picnic. I had a delicious pulled pork sandwich piled high with coleslaw from a rare market/eatery just a mile or so before the entrance to the park.

We walked a short way along the canyon edge with that fabulous brow view as a bonus.

Cloudland Canyon Georgia
Cloudland Canyon State Park rim walk
Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia
Views from Canyon Rim Walk in Cloudland Canyon State Park

I happily report that the highlands of Alabama can surprise and delight. It took looking past the most popular southern seashore, plantations, and the Civil Rights Trail to see this unexpected corner of Alabama and it’s adjoining corner of Georgia. I just followed my own advice and followed the Appalachian Highways Scenic Byway and the Lookout Mountain Parkway, and checked out state parks--DeSoto in Alabama and Canyonlands in Georgia.

American South Road Trip With Music

Travel Music

Destination: American South

Albums: Camilla, Wellspring, Twilight by Caroline Herring


Caroline Herring knows the American South, its heart and soul, its history and landscapes. The stories which rise from this deep knowledge of her native ground are what she draws on the create her music.

The name of her album Camilla is  also the name of a small town in Georgia. Continue reading American South Road Trip With Music