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Post Helen, Georgia: Bavaria in the Appalachians
Created by John Eipper on 02/25/21 2:53 PM

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Helen, Georgia: Bavaria in the Appalachians (David A. Westbrook, USA, 02/25/21 2:53 pm)

My thanks to Pat Mears (February 23rd) for an excellent post. As somebody who has spent a lot of time in both the West and Germany (my mother is German), I've long known about Winnetou. It is a bizarre, but sweet, phenomenon.

Something oddly similar, but running from east to west: Helen, Georgia, a little town in Appalachian foothills, was rebuilt as an ersatz Bavarian village. As a child, we used to visit near Christmas, among other things to get candles for trees, generally unavailable. My mother thought the whole thing was ridiculous, and loved it.

Decades later, I went on a social hike here in Colorado with a nature photographer of some renown, Bernard Nagy, originally from Austria. Many books on wildflowers, South Park, and so forth. I took him to the trailhead, between Leadville and Copper Mountain. We hiked together, and I watched him photograph. We talked, about kids, his time in Atlanta... It emerged that out he was one of the people who created the "alpine" village of Helen.

I've always fantasized that, locked away in some obscure valley, maybe west of Innsbruck, was a small "Southern" town. Sweet tea, moonshine, drag racing and football on Fridays, honky tonk and painted-on jeans, except when hanging from a limb over the creek, the works. (Would probably make a mint.)

JE comments:  Bert, you've added to my Bucket List:

The 2021 Visitor Guide to Helen, Georgia: Eat, Stay & Play (exploregeorgia.org)

We should assemble a list of pseudo-German towns in the US.  Three come to mind immediately, because I've visited them:  Fredericksburg, Texas; Hermann, Missouri; and our own Frankenmuth in Michigan.  These three all got their German identity the honest way:  with German settlers in the 19th century.  Helen artificially re-imagined itself as Bavarian starting in 1969.  Outside Las Vegas and the Epcot Center, are there any other faux European hamlets in the US?

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  • Solvang, California: Denmark of the West (Francisco Ramirez, USA 02/28/21 9:56 AM)
    John E asked about "faux" European hamlets in the US. How about Solvang in Southern California for the "Danish look"?

    Also for the film Sideways and the rise of Pinot Noir in the American wine market.

    JE comments:  Solvang (Danish for "sunny plain") fits the bill.  It was indeed founded by Danes, but the city consciously embraced the architecture in the late 1940s.

    How about the following for the WAIS Effect?  Eugenio Battaglia forwarded this 2017 article from Spain's La Vanguardia, "Little pieces of Europe in America," and Solvang is featured among other examples such as New Orleans, St Augustine (Florida), and Boston (?).  I don't get that one.  And Montpelier, Vermont?  It's the quintessential New England town, albeit with a name borrowed from the French.



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    • Bariloche, Argentina: Bavaria in the Andes (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 03/01/21 3:25 AM)
      A few decades ago I visited Bariloche, in the foothills of the Argentine Andes, a charmingly ersatz Bavarian village that had an influx of "Austrians" after WWII.

      I had a friendly conversation with an elderly shopkeeper (the emporium actually sold Lederhosen) with a thick German accent who told me that he had lived in Argentina since emigrating from "Austria" after the War. Upon asking how he liked living in Argentina, he leaned close and replied "Good country but there are too many Italians here."  I had the impression that he somehow blamed Italy for letting down his side in "Der Krieg."

      JE comments:  Hitler was Austrian but called himself German.  But as Tim Ashby shows, the opposite scenario became commonplace after the war.

      I've never been to Bariloche, the Aspen of Argentina--or St Moritz if you prefer.  I must be either too proletarian or not "Austrian" enough!  It was on a small island in the adjacent lake Nahuel Huapi that the Austrian (really) charlatan-"scientist" Ronald Richter promised to deliver a nuclear reactor to Juan Domingo Perón.  The facilities can still be visited today.

      I just learned that Richter inspired a full-blown opera, Richter, ópera documental de cámara.  I'd love to see it.


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      • Richter, Lysenko: A Pseudo-Science Hall of Fame? (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 03/02/21 3:23 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        To Timothy Ashby's interesting travelogue on the "Austrian" sanctuary of Bariloche, Argentina, John E appended a rich aside that opens worlds. John reminded of Ronald Richter, the 1950s scientific wonder of Argentina's Perón years, who was promising Perón that he could make miracles with nuclear fusion, but never quite did.

        The comment glows because Richter rounds out a genre, consisting of pseudo-science as a supposed tool for authoritarian paradise, in hopes of leaping over mere reality into a validating promised land.

        Lenin's euphoria about electrification creating the worker's paradise was not exactly pseudo-scientific, but captures the delusional aspect. More on-point were "race science" in Nazism and the people's (fake) agricultural genetics pushed by Stalin via Lysenkoism. I think WAIS may also have discussed some examples from Mao's China. Richter in Argentina implies that the genre may be wide. Any other nominations for the Trofim Lysenko Authoritarian Pseudo-Science Hall Of Fame?

        (And a belated thanks for that evocative review of Wild West mythology from Patrick Mears. Lots of resonance in that genre, too. John E has an echo in his Michigan backyard, pairing Pat's discussion of the Olympian Apache-Buddy Winnetou in German page-turners with Tonto--since the word "kimosabe" got lifted by the radio gnomes in about the 1930s from the name of a Michigan summer camp.)

        JE comments:  "Pseudo-science as tool for authoritarian paradise":  Gary, this distills the phenomenon to its basic elements.  We must populate your Hall of Fame.  Lysenko was probably the most nefarious of all, or at least the deadliest, as his agricultural mandates killed millions in famines in the USSR and later China, which copied his methods.  One wonders why the authorities never once asked for a "pilot" project to validate his agricultural theories.

        To this list we should add the "scientists" and engineers who promised the Germans a miracle weapon or two to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

        Kamp Kee-Mo Sah-Bee on Mullett Lake in Northern (Lower) Michigan closed around 1940.  Until today I was unaware of its existence or its connection to the Lone Ranger.  Few remote regions can claim two iconic etymologies:  note the emergence of the "Mullett" hairdo in the late 1980s, with its trademark "business in the front and party in the back."

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  • Baden on the Caribbean: Colonia Tovar, Venezuela (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 03/09/21 4:26 PM)
    Recent WAIS postings about cities of foreign origin, especially German ones, in some countries, have reminded me of Colonia Tovar in Venezuela. 

    This city was founded by German settlers in 1843, by 340 emigrants from the state of Baden.  It presently has 21,600 inhabitants. Colonia Tovar is nestled in the mountains near Caracas at 2200 mt altitude, with a moderate tropical climate. This immigration was promoted by the Venezuelan government, under the advice of Alexander von Humboldt, to develop agriculture in the country. 

    Because of their relative isolation in the mountains, they preserved much of their culture over the generations,  the architectural style,  the kaisersthul; their language, originally the Badish that today has been transformed into Alemannisch or Aleman coloniero;  their clothing, food and festivals.  Among the first settlers there were not only farmers, but also scientists, writers and painters who contributed significantly to the cultural progress of the country. 

    This small city had great significance in the 19th century, being one of the first for the transit of German migrations through Latin America. With respect to that, I also remember visiting in Brazil another city founded by German immigrants, who have also preserved their culture and traditions.  In fact I learned that there were many other similar cities in that country, which arose at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, especially in the south of the country, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul, agricultural and mining areas, with names as suggestive as Wegner, Blumenau, Fraiburgo, Novo Hamburg, Westfalia, Teutona, Sevach and Alfredo Wegner, and many others with German names. 

    The reasons for these migrations and settlements were apparently different from the Venezuelan.  In the first place the industrialization of Germany ruined many peasants and craftsmen, who had to look for places to survive and found those opportunities in Brazil. Second, because the German government of the time promoted emigration to develop new markets and promote German culture. I suppose it is something similar to what modern China intends to do with its New Silk Road strategy.

    JE comments:  Fascinating!  That the various German states would encourage the emigration of its citizens seems counterintuitive, but it seems to have been a common tactic in the 19th century.  Besides spreading German culture and markets, emigration was more likely an escape valve for overpopulation.

    Come to think of it, Eipper lore has it that our ancestors came from the Stuttgart region (Baden).  We might well have ended up in Colonia Tovar! 

    How about another coincidence?  Colonia Tovar has a "twin" city in the US:  Helen, Georgia.  Here's Bert Westbrook's post from a fortnight ago:


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