A significant concentration (about 17%) of North America's Amish population lives in northern Indiana, but learning something about this religious sect isn't easy. The Amish generally keep themselves removed from the "English," as outsiders are called. Their practice of avoiding modern conveniences such as automobiles and electricity adds to their isolation. Most ask not to be photographed.
You'll find lots of Amish-made quilts and handcrafted wood furniture items for sale in the area, located about 130 mi/210 km north of Indianapolis, but to make your visit something beyond a shopping extravaganza, you should seek out the handful of interpretive sites that have been established.
Begin with a visit to the Elkhart County Visitors Center in Elkhart, where you can pick up a map of the 90-mi/145-km Amish Heritage Trail or borrow an audiotape or compact disc that describes the sites along the way. Among the thoroughfares it describes is Highway 16 between Shipshewana and Middlebury, where you are sure to see buggies and Amish on bicycles.
Amish Acres in Nappanee is an Amish farm that offers buggy rides, a tour of the farmhouse and other buildings, and opportunities to view crafts in the making. The farm is on the National Register of Historic Places. http://www.amishacres.com.
Delicious food is a hallmark of Amish Country. Try rivel soup, sugar cookies, fried biscuits, and chicken and noodles. Visit the Honeyville General Store in nearby Topeka—you'll find that all the shoes are black and the appliances don't plug in.
If you are hunting for antiques, Shipshewana has a weekly auction and flea market that draws shoppers from around the Great Lakes. The flea market runs Tuesday and Wednesday from May to October. The auction is held Wednesday year-round (http://www.shipshewana.com). Plan, also, to visit Menno-Hof, a cultural center where you will learn about the Amish lifestyle.
Nature lovers will want to stop at the Gene Stratton Porter State Historic Site on Sylvan Lake, near Rome City. It houses original furnishings, memorabilia and photographs of this author of nature books and popular novels, including Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost. http://www.genestrattonporter.net.
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