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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Frankenstorm and Frankenmuth

Stormy weather stalked New York on Sunday 28th October as if to hail the arrival of a real life Halloween. I’m told that American teenagers delight in smashing pumpkins at this time of year. In New York this year I'm not sure they had the chance, as natural forces claimed the land and all of its possessions.

Reservoir View -  New York in the Fall

Not that you would have known this had you been at brunch in New York on Saturday. Everyone and his mother (as they say here, when they mean ‘the world and his wife’) was out celebrating the falling leaves and hailing the arrival of hat, coat and boot season. I would have expected more drama around the weather predictions than the murmurings of an impending super storm rustling around brunch tables like scattered dry leaves.

Prosecco-fuelled and dazed, I realised it was probably time to evacuate if I had any chance of flying home to England from Detroit the following week. Luckily I made it onto a Saturday Detroit-bound flight, and found myself in the familiar surroundings of the Westin Southfield once again. And while there are blips in the service as with any hotel, the beds and showers really are heavenly and the comfort of a hotel room that looks (now) like home, is something, even if I wouldn’t exactly picture it when clicking my ruby slippers together.

My local subway station during the storm. No downtown trains, then.

And here endeth my personal experience with Frankenstorm…So Sunday in Michigan…what to do?

75 miles north of Southfield is a small German town, settled originally in 1845, sometimes known as little Bavaria, but actually called Frankenmuth. No link this time with Mary Shelley. The city is named “Franken” for Franconia (in Bavaria) and “Mut” for courage. Like me, the original settlers arrived from New York – but travelled not by Delta’s *best* fleet but canals and the Great Lakes, on a mission to preach Lutheran Christianity to the Native American tribes.

The road to Frankenmuth

Although I visited the city museum (a bargain at $2) it is clear that Frankenmuth has morphed into another kind of experience – one largely geared towards a combination of the German and Native American traditions I will summarise as: cheese, beer, fudge and moccasins.

Haus of Cheese

I have never seen so many essential major food groups with their own shops – taffy twirling in the window, fudge fresh onto the marble slap and cheeses of all kinds (even chocolate cheese!). To stay in Frankenmuth is to play Russian roulette with the cholesterol gods. And I wouldn’t wager too many would come out unscathed!

Fudge Kitchen

After sampling some (alright all) of the above food groups and walking around the city, I made my way back to the outskirts for the one last stop I knew I really had to make: Bronner’s Christmas Store – “The largest Christmas store in the world”. Now this I had to see.

Would this make you feel welcomed at the Bavarian Inn? Hmmm.

And no, I was not disappointed. The stuff of the Grinch’s nightmares (and probably of many atheists) Bronner’s is Christmas what Disney World is to saccharin childhood cartoons: larger than life and frankly terrifying in some cases! I’ve captured a few choice pictures. I wisely decided not to open my wallet in the Christmas store, lest $1m later I emerged with a larger than life sized Wise Man and about 4 baubles costing $30 apiece.

Bronner's. Possibly the most terrifying Christmas store in the world. Ever.

So, departure from the storm was departure from reality for a while. Frankenstorm - I'm glad I escaped. Frankenmuth, I hope to see you again.

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