Entries in Frankenmuth (1)


Breaking and Entering 


One of my quirky ideas of fun is to visit seasonal towns off season. I seem to get a thrill visiting New England in March when the leaves are just budding, Paris in foggy November and 120 degree Las Vegas in July.  The lack of people and going against the grain has always given me a thrill.

Michigan living provides a lot of opportunities to fuel my weird desire. As with many northern states, Michigan is proud to boast two seasons: Summer from June through August and the other: Fal-ter-ing, lasting from September through May.  Temperatures can vary anywhere between minus twenty and seventy. My favorite part of Faltering is the early part when the leaves are bursting with reds and yellow, followed closely by the holiday part, thirdly is the part when it snows on the fresh green grass and flowers.


One cold January afternoon, I decided it would be fun to drive up to Frankenmuth, a small tourist town in mid Michigan. It was about one degree outside, so since it was still above zero, I thought “why not”?  It would be a perfect chance to see the city without all the hustle and bustle of the summertime chaos. Frankemuth does it’s best to impersonate a quaint German village. The waitresses in the restaurants wear those cute little plaid German outfits, while men are garbed with lederhosen. The town has three claims to fame. The first is Bronner’s Christmas Village-an enormous holiday store that resembles the North Pole on steroids and offers everything from traditional Christmas tree lights to the troublesome statue of Santa praying over the baby Jesus. The second and third “not to be missed” stops are Zehnder’s and The Bavarian Inn. Both of theses are eating establishments specializing in family style dining. What this really means is if someone were to crave an upscale red-necked fried chicken dinner complete with a side dish of creamed cholesterol followed by a dessert of angio-plasty,-a la mode, either of these restaurants would be sure to satisfy their taste buds.


After convincing my friend Ed that it would be fun, by promising him that after we survived the hour and a half drive on an extremely icy freeway, we’d have a blast visiting the local pubs, we were on our way. “I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into that chicken” I said as I had a death-grip on my steering wheel and hardly being able to see through the frosty windshield. “I can almost taste the mashed potatoes and gravy right now”.  Ed just replied with a “you’re going too fast, slow down” and finally “why did I let you talk me into this?”


Three hours later we pulled into historic Frankenmuth. I decided we didn’t need to make reservations. Who else goes to Frankenmuth on a frigid Sunday in January? Our first conquest was to find a place to sleep for the evening. “I’m sure someone will have openings” I reassured Ed as we passed our fifth hotel with a sign saying “Closed for the Season”, some even giving the all assuring “See you in May”.

We were rapidly approaching the end of the city limits, and I was starting to abandon hope. It was one thing when the hotels were shut down, but another when all the bars had red glowing “closed” signs in their windows.  I finally admitted that maybe risking our lives to drive to this  Deutchland wanna-be town was not my brightest idea. As I was looking for a place to turn around to head back to the now pitch black, icy highway, I saw the word “vacancy” flashing in red neon. “See” I said, “not only is something opened, it looks charming”.  It was a small, quaint hotel done in the typical Bavarian style-white stucco with brown wooden cross beams. There was only one car in the parking lot, probably the night manager’s, but at least it was open.

We parked the car, grabbed our overnight bags and proceeded to go inside. As I reached the door, I gently tried to pull it open. LOCKED. The lights were on so I was certain someone was inside. I kept pulling on the door thinking that maybe it would magically open on the tenth or eleventh try. Ed, in the meantime, rang the doorbell under a sign that I missed instructing visitors after five to ring for service. After a minute or two, a large, big- boned German women (at least I think she was a women), answered the door. “Vailcum”, she mumbled. It was a good thing I remembered certain German words from the semester I took of German in the eighth grade.  “That means welcome” I interpreted for Ed. He just looked at me with that “shut up” look that I often get. “You vant a room?” Helga asked. Thinking, it was funny, I replied with “Vell, yes, ve do, ve are very very cold and vould like a varm room”. Helga must have picked up on the look Ed just gave me, because she suddenly had the same ‘say another word and you’re dead” glare.

I decided Helga was not in the mood for my attempt at German humor, so I just proceeded to check in. “You vill be in Room Ny-en”, she said. I desperately wanted to inform her that the number nine only has one syllable, but I chose to leave that comment in my head.  She grabbed our bags and escorted us to our chamber.  It was not the fanciest room I’ve ever been in, but it would work, it was clean, had a television and heat.

After putting my things away, and freshening up, it was time for a cocktail.  We put on our parkas and ventured out to the frozen tundra of mid-Michigan to search for the local watering hole. Luck must have been on our side, because we didn’t even have to drive. Across the street was a charming pub, with the same décor as the rest of Frankenmuth, called Das Bar.

Das Bar was really cute. It had two pool tables, three dart boards and a long wooden shelf stocked with a full line of libations. We settled in by drinking our fair share of das seven and seven’s and playing a couple games of das billiards. An hour later, the crowd of four was dwindling and we found we were the only two left. “Let’s see what else is going on in town” Ed said. It seemed like a good idea, after-all, the night was still young and we were feeling no pain.

As we walked the crunchy, icy sidewalks through downtown Frankenmuth, we hardly noticed that our extremities were beginning to freeze. We felt just fine as we searched for another pub that stayed open past the hour of Nyen o’clock. As we continued to search for the next happening place, I was starting to get cold.

“Nnnnnot, mmmuch, happpennning” I shivered out. “NNNNo, mayyybee, wwweee shshshshould hhhead bbbacck to the hohotel”, Ed said through chattering teeth.

Then we saw it. At first, I thought it was a mirage.  Before our eyes was a cozy, inviting cottage-looking store. All the lights were one and I could see a fireplace through the windows and smoke billowing out of the chimney. We both ran as fast as our leg-sicle’s let us. I didn’t care if this store sold exercise equipment, I was going to act like I was interested in their items until my eyeballs thawed out. “Brrrr”, I announced as I entered the warm environment. We stomped our icy feet on the willkommen mat, took off our hats and gloves, wiped our fogged glasses off with our scarves and began our act of being “interested” in what they sold so our bodies could regain conscienceness.

“They have really nice things, maybe you can find your sister a birthday present”, I  said. It was a high-end home accessory store. The displays were really unique. They had it set up like a home. “It must be an interior design store” I said.  “You’re right”, Ed replied, “because nothing has prices on them”. “You must have to order them”, I said, acting like I knew how Interior Design Studio’s worked.  We continued browsing around when a sharply dressed sales women approached us to see if we would like some assistance. I told her we were “just looking”. I was certain she worked on commission, so I assured her we would find her if we needed to purchase something. She gave me a look like I was crazy and walked away. I know we didn’t fit the bill of the average shopper in this store, but she didn’t have to be rude, I thought. We were the only two in the store and I was pretty sure they wanted us to buy something because less than a minute later, another sales person, this time a preppy looking gentleman in his fifties approached us and asked if we needed some help. He didn’t ask us in the “can I please help you” sort of way, it was more like “you look like you really need help”.  Again, I told him we were just looking around. I was starting to get peeved. This was before Pretty Woman, but I felt like Julia Roberts did in that scene when the clerks wouldn’t wait on her because she looked “different”.


They offered a wide selection of gift items, some my taste, and some not.

I noticed a curio cabinet in the corner that housed various little German knick knacks. As I walked over to get a closer look, I noticed another department, this one resembling a dining room. It had a large rectangular dining table, an antique china cabinet and a tea- cart in the corner. It looked very homey. The employees must have been celebrating someone’s birthday because they were all gathered around the dining table and big birthday cake was in the center. “No wonder they looked at us so strangely” I thought, “the store must be closed and they stayed open after hours to celebrate a birthday”. Immediately embarrassed, I told Ed my suspicions and that we should probably go. Ignoring me, he was looking at the picture frames. “This would be a great gift for my sister for her birthday”, he said. “Do you think they would let me purchase it or do you think I’ll have to order it?” he asked. I looked closer at the frame. It was really pretty, and keeping with the uniqueness of the shop, instead of a stock photo of a model inside, it had a picture of a familiar looking husband and wife in front of Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn”.  Then I noticed the other frames, they all had familiar faces inside them. Upon closer inspection, I realized the reason the people looked so familiar was because I had just met two of them and saw the others were sitting around the dining table. At that moment I noticed something disturbing, the sofa was slightly worn, the lamp shades were crooked and in the corner sat an old television.  I suddenly realized why this lovely store resembled a home. BECAUSE IT WAS A HOME! We had just broken into someone’s house! The two sales people who were stalking us were talking on the phone in the corner and looking at us. I heard them give their address to the other party, which I’m pretty certain was Frankenmuth’s finest.



Once I realized that we were seconds away from being arrested-again, this time for breaking and entering, I went into survivor mode. I knew we had to get out of there quick. Hoping not to a create a panic, I said in as quiet of voice as possible and without moving my lips, “We- have- to -leave –now.” It was obvious that Ed was still clueless that we were about to be thrown into the big house, because he insisted that he wanted to stay because it was the only open store in town and it was below zero outside. “You don’t understand”, I said, with a bit more volume, “THIS IS NOT A STORE, WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEONE’S LIVING ROOM AND WE HAVE TO RUN-FAST!!!!”


Ed quickly put down the purple paperweight that he thought would make a great gift and the two of us ran out the nearest exit laughing and didn't stop until we reached the safety of Das Hotel. 


We decided to wait until Monday morning to do anymore shopping.