20 Jun Little Bavaria in Michigan, USA
The invitation to Michigan
I am not a fan of making strict travel itineraries. Often they simply turn out to be too long, too short, too expensive or just inconvenient. I decided to go with the flow on this USA trip. As fate would have it, I got an invitation to ride along to Michigan.
Thanks to my new host Jerry I am able to work and live at a reasonable price for the time being. The retired school principal kindly made his finished basement available to me for free. I had my own bathroom and kitchen area. On top of that, he gave me great advice and information about the local area, excursions and my continued itinerary.
To me, this is not only proof of the great hospitality here but also that GEO Arbitrage can work even in high-wage countries like the United States. Given a bit of luck and time, of course and the flexibility to go with the flow instead of following a strict travel route.
On Interstate 75 to Michigan
The forever long ride on I75 to Michigan really put into perspective the incredible size of this country. Based on the climate, it lead me from the Caribbean to Northern Central Europe. June in Florida means steadily increasing humidity and very warm temperatures in contrast to Michigan with its mild late spring – early summer weather.
I noticed that driving up north is far more “orderly”. People don’t pass on the right as much and there seem to be harsher speeding laws. This is particularly hard for Germans since the speed limit here is around 75 mph = 120kmh. It can be tempting to hit the pedal when it’s nice and open on the road.
However, the police are well camouflaged and before you know you see them in the review mirror with a laser in hand. And of yourse i dont want to end like the so called Germany Boy and get catched by a wannabe Chuck Norris…
Therefore: Relax, turn on the cruise control and that’s it. We arrived after 24 hours.
Bay City was founded in 1837 and used to be famous for its large scale wood processing. Based on this, many shipyards were built and the city gained recognition far beyond the borders of Michigan for building excellent wooden boats. This ended in the 1970 resulting in a lowered economy and land prices being below the national average here.
The great appeal this city has to its inhabitants is probably due to its geographical location.
It is situated directly on Lake Huron, a massive lake with an area 100 times larger than Lake Constance, which is the lake near my home city and europes third biggest lake. In other words: An area of 60,000 square kilometers or the equivalent of 20% of the size of Germany. Lake Huron borders Canada and is one of the Great Lakes.
Bay City has another appealing attraction:
The historic neighborhood of Center Avenue
Here, I found a historic town that developed over time around 1900. This neighborhood used to be “the place to be” if you wanted to be amidst the Jet Set back then.
These houses have been restored to their original condition, here a few examples:
These houses are like jewels but there are also some in unrestored ones. There is an association that cares about the history and promotes the restoration of these houses. You can find more info, pictures and contact information on the Center Avenue Neighborhood Association website.
Perhaps it is this mixture of old and new, restored and unrestored that gave me the impression that there is a broad-based middle class in Bay City. On one hand there are run-down houses and on the other hand overly done villas.
If you have had enough of American history then you should look just a little south of Bay City. There you can find German clichés in the best (or worst) way:
Also known as “Little Bavaria”, the village of Frankenmuth has 5,000 inhabitants. It was founded in 1845 by Frankish settlers and is now one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations with 3 million visitors annually.
Understandably so. The Franks and their descendants have built massive wooden bridges, a brewery and a Bavarian boat all modelled after German architecture. A detailed list and a lot more info are available on the Frankenmuth website.
The German thing is serious business around here for hotels, restaurants and food stores.
There is authentic Bavarian clothing, draft beer from the Hofbräuhaus and apple strudel made in a real Backstube = bakery with traditional ingridients. And that means something, because the most “bread” in the US would is processed with loads of preservatives and has never seen real bakermans hands. If you are sombody who consumes bread on a daily basis, try the bread of Zehnder in Frankenmuth.
You will also find superior quality American food like 14 year aged cheddar from Wisconsin. Or handmade fresh fudge = caramel candies with chocolate, fruit or nuts and in many more flavors.
Bay City and Frankenmuth are definitely a good destination for tourists seeking to see historic homes and who want to endulge in good food. Otherwise, I don’t really have a conclusion about Michigan as my visit here was far too short.
Fact is: There is something I like about the Northern US. I can’t quite put my finger on it but maybe I have more to say in my next article: Tomorrow I am heading north, for the first time in my own car. I will head closer to the North American Forests and towards the Canadian border.