The Danish word “Hygge” has taken the internet by storm lately. The German equivalent is “Gemutlichkeit”. Although the English language is a descriptive language, the words hygge and gemutlichkeit cannot be fully translated into English. Loosely translated they mean cozy, a state of well-being or contentment, or to live life as an art form. However, in their native languages, it encapsulates much more. It’s a feeling recognized when you feel it but very difficult to describe. You may feel it snuggled next to a loved one in front of a glowing fire while a snowstorm brews outdoors or making cookies with little ones, or just in quiet, unexpectedly perfect moments. It’s always an amazing experience to find that feeling while traveling. I wanted to find a town to explore with some Inns and B&B’s that helped bring that feeling to others who love to travel. We found the perfect place and my friend Tami & I got ready for another road trip!
We traveled to a small town in Washington called Leavenworth. At one time this little town was a lumber community and eventually became the headquarters for the Great Northern Railway in the early 1900’s. When the railroad relocated its headquarters to Wenatchee, the small town, then called Icicle Flats, experienced a devastating blow to their economy. In the 1960’s, at a town meeting, it was decided to turn the town into a Bavarian themed town.
Several Bavarian type festivals were instated and the town became known as Leavenworth. This little town looks like a set for a Hallmark Christmas movie!
Imagine with me, walking down a cobblestone sidewalk past endless shops and bakeries. The smells entice you to explore each bakery or chocolatier. There are also several German restaurants waiting for you to step into a different culture. Every once in awhile a horse-drawn carriage/sleigh rolls past, reminding you of a different time. It is difficult not to experience hygge there, or gemutlichkeit as it is called in the German language. Christmas lights are strung at each shop, tree and of course, the town gazebo. The Christmas lights are on continuously from the day after Thanksgiving until March.
When planning for our accommodations in this darling little town, we decided we wanted to experience two different Bed & Breakfasts so that we could compare something in the middle of the city and all of its’ celebration to something more remote and mountainous.
Our first stop was at The Scandinavian Escape located just minutes outside of town in a mountainous area. We drove up a small little lane and then saw a lit lantern hanging by a hand carved, wooden sign that said Scandinavian Escape. It looked like a Bavarian lodge. The upper floor had a lovely balcony. All of the lights shining through large picture windows welcomed us immediately. Before we could even retrieve our luggage from the trunk, we were greeted by a lovely woman, named Linny. She hugged us and welcomed us warmly to her home. Walking in, we knew this would be a fun stop. As we entered by a heavy wooden door, I noticed a wooden latch in place of a knob or lock. She and her husband, Vern had a roaring fire going in the fireplace and white dripping candles nearly everywhere we looked. We were given a tour of our room and the little library/coffee room for our use. Down on the first floor deck, there was a hot tub at the base of some very “Alps” looking mountains and the stars were incredible! We could come and go at our leisure as we had a separate entrance from our room. There are only three rooms, but they are all uniquely beautiful! They feature hand carved and tole painted beds, birch tree canopies, and one very luxurious suite complete with its own sitting area. The other two rooms are small but absolutely brimming with charm and share the library and morning coffee station. There were many touches from Norwegian cultures that we found interesting. At each new nook, we kept saying how much our husbands would love it! Each morning was spent with warm mugs of goodness and our favorite books. Time at Scandinavian Escape slows down and allows for a very relaxing respite. Another trip with our husbands is a must!
Our next stop was at Pension Anna. This small, 16 room hotel is located in the heart of Leavenworth. As with every other building in the town, its’ architecture and interiors followed the Bavarian theme. Everywhere the eye would land, it would be rewarded with another colorful antique. Laurie at the front desk had finished most of her work for the day and was gracious enough to take us on a tour of the rooms yet unoccupied. All but two of the suites are in one building. There are common rooms to enjoy a book or explore the different antique finds. Once we toured that building, we were shown into a building that used to be a Catholic chapel and has now been transformed into two lovely suites. Complete with the gothic style windows and antiques of their own, it was enchanting. The largest suite also includes an upstairs with two twin beds for a family with children. The balcony looks down into the main space and the double doors leading into the master bedroom. All of which, make you feel like royalty.In the morning, guests are invited down to their lovely dining room where everyone is served a traditional Bavarian breakfast. This consists of homemade breads and coffee cakes, cold cuts, a variety of cheeses with hot mustard, fruit, granola, yogurt, and an egg boiled however you like. There was also coffee and a variety of teas and juices. This was a beautiful place to stay in the middle of all the town happenings. Pension Anna was recently purchased by Erika and Martin Szuster, who are making even more improvements to the already beautiful property. A wonderfully authentic Alpine experience, and all without a passport!
Perhaps the state of Hygge can be rather elusive, but then again, maybe you just have to be in the right place!
IF YOU GO:
Please call ahead to Scandinavian Escape as they have recently moved from B&B to Airbnb. The only difference is that breakfast is no longer a part of the nightly price. They will on occasion serve breakfast for and extra $50 a couple. While it is a marvelous breakfast, I didn’t feel it was worth that price. This was THE ONLY thing we were not 100% thrilled with. When I visit again, I will just visit a bakery for breakfast and enjoy the breathtaking beauty and gracious hosts at Scandinavian Escape.
For a quick meal on the go in Leavenworth, visit Munchen House. They serve the traditional Bratwursts with a mustard bar featuring more varieties of mustard than I was aware existed. They also serve hot, homemade sauerkraut and a cucumber relish that is delish! All of this is served at outside tables that all feature either a tabletop fire or outdoor heaters to keep you toasty while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.We went to Pavz for a fondue of lovely cheesiness. It was large enough for us to split and so we had room to also split a piece of their very decadent chocolate cake. It was quite a splurge and worth every calorie!For a taste of Bavarian Chocolate that is made fresh every morning, visit Schocolat, located in the back of a boutique called Ganz Klasse on Front Street. You won’t wasn’t to miss this!The Gingerbread Factory is also located along Front Street as most things are. This is a delightful bakery! Try their Raspberry Scone, complete with the warmed Raspberry Butter sauce. Divine!The drive along the Wenatchee River to the Alps Candy Store is worth going! It is only 10 minutes, if that outside of town and it is a gorgeous drive and a prime spot on their bridge to photograph the natural beauty there. The candy store is very interesting as it has a whole backroom filled with novelty sodas. They also feature their homemade fudge and rows of different flavored taffy.
If you love to shop, Leavenworth Front Street boutiques are an excellent place for some retail therapy!
There are several festivals throughout the year, find a current schedule at Leavenworth.org. If you want to see the Christmas lights, the best time to go would be AFTER Christmas. They keep the lights up from the day after Thanksgiving into March and the little town can experience 55,000 visitors a day on festival days. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the given website, call the Chamber of Commerce at 1(509)548-5807, they are very helpful.