We would have never thought we would experience so much while driving up from Cape Cod to Vermont. Our idea was to just have a day for the four of us. This would allow us to give some afterthought to our stay on the Cape and to getting ready for our next encounter in Vermont. We would be staying there with a dear friend of our larger Wagner family in her house near Greensboro.
Leaving the Cape and Massachusetts
Shortly after leaving Wellfleet, we stop at the “Land Ho!” in Orleans for lunch, but not for any lunch. We meet David Fyfe, one of my first clients at my newly established firm in 2013, together with British friends of his, who kindly invites us all. David and I have kept in touch and met last in Berlin shortly before I took off on this tour. I have always very much appreciated this contact and am thankful, that David engaged me back then upon a referral from my old law firm in Berlin.
We then hop into our big black Ford Expedition and leave the Cape with the direction of Lebanon in New Hampshire at the border to Vermont. We intend to spend the night at the nearby Shaker Farm in Enfield.
Leaving the Cape is already a bit annoying as traffic is picking up, but as we get near Boston, I am about to call it a day. Traffic is dense, aggressive, and terribly slow. I start to growl at my poor wife next to me why we ever left the West of the country to come here, to New England, which seems so tiny and narrow in comparison and so not laid back in this moment. At the same time, I start a discussion about what it is going to feel like when we come back to Berlin and whether we will be able to pick up our daily routine there and so on and so forth. After all, we only have another three weeks ahead of us and can sense that our big journey is slowly coming to an end.
Entering New Hampshire
I am getting all gloomy and weary, my spirits hanging low, when slowly, traffic starts to fade out, the landscape starts to become more diverse with a wider view and sky, there is a natural tranquility around us all of the sudden. We have entered the green lands of New Hampshire, having left congested Massachusetts behind us.
The sun is setting as we arrive in Lebanon, where the local Farmer’s Market is about to close up while a band is still playing Reggae music, and have dinner at the “Three Tomatoes”, and Italian place with fabulous Pizza and crisp Italian white wine served in the typical Italian chicken shaped pitcher. For a short moment, we feel as if we were at my grandmother’s summer house on the Lake of Garda, and the atmosphere here is just as laid back.
It is something about these little US towns “in the middle of nowhere”. They have something independent and truly charming about them. As does our B&B – the “Shaker Farm” – in nearby Enfield. Our host Joe Gasparyk welcomes us when we arrive in a cloud of garlic late at night and shows us to our cozy room where I pass out amidst my children.
The next morning, we have a lovely breakfast served by Joe’s wife Cathy. They moved up here from New Jersey over a decade ago, bought the old Shaker farm, renovated it from head to toe and turned it into a very special Bed & Breakfast, where every detail has been dealt with over time with lots of love, devotion and patience.
Learning about the Shakers
Cathy and Joe tell us about the religious congregation of the so-called Shakers, aka United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, who lived in the area for approximately 150 years and of whom I had never heard before. Following our hosts’ recommendation, we learn more about them in the nearby Shaker Museum over the next couple of hours. Not believing in cohabitation between men and women, but taking families and individual adults and children into their very industrious and productive communities known especially for their woodworking skills, the Shakers were basically a celibate religious group, there motto being:
Hands to Work, Hearts to God.
Although they have more or less vanished over the centuries – with allegedly two remaining Shakers living somewhere in Maine – their heritage is held up high in the community of Enfield, and the former Shaker village, now a Museum, appears as one of the center of activity for many a volunteer. In the main house, which is fully restored, you can even spend the night in “Shaker style” rooms which have something like a Scandinavian touch. We enjoy it here, having discovered this unexpected site that offers much room for contemplation, not only indoors but also in the nearby gardens where we pick some blueberries to bring to our next host.
Before getting there though, we have a little pilgrimage to take care of in the South East of Vermont, in a little town called Barnard to be more precise. One of our favorite German authors, Carl Zuckmayer and his wife Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer, who had to flee from Nazi-Germany in the 1930s, eventually spent most of the 1940s here, holding out as farmers in the “Backwoods Farm” where they kept poultry and goats as a source of income.
From both their memoires of this time – Carl Zuckmayer’s “Als wär’s ein Stück von mir” and Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer’s “Die Farm in den grünen Bergen” – I assume that they must have just been amazingly strong and optimistic artists of life to get through this time, before they eventually returned to Europe after World War II, settling down in Switzerland, where they both died in the last century. Alas, we do not find much that commemorates their living here. We meet an older lady in the Barnard general store who tells us that an old lady lives in the Backwoods Farm now, apparently also German, but that she would rather not be bothered by any visitors.
And then from Barnard, we head further into the Green Mountains of Vermont, given its name for that very reason by its French discoverer, Samuel de Champlain, in the very early 17th century, to reunite with an old friend of our larger family, in her summer house near a small town called Greensboro, where we will spend a couple of days.