Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Dinner in Helen Georgia…Plus Our Hotel

After our day of exploration and shopping in and around Helen Georgia, it was time for dinner.  We all like German food so we sought out a highly rated dining venue. 

Based on the combined total of 6,436 customer reviews on Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp…with overall ratings of 4.3, 4.5 and 4.0 respectively, we decided that we’d have dinner at the Bodensee Restaurant.  Located a little off Helen’s main street, Bodensee does offer free parking.  It should be noted that visitors to Helen will have a hard time finding free parking, especially during weekends and other high traffic times.

Bodensee is owned and operated by Chef Aurel Prodan and his wife Doina.  The chef attended culinary school in Romania, he and Doina worked in Romanian restaurants for several years and then they moved to Bavaria Germany where Aurel became a Master Chef.

We were promptly seated upon arrival, no wait needed as we were a bit off peak season and it was a weekday.  The dining room lacked the expected Germanic kitsch one frequently encounters in ethnic restaurants.

We decided to order a couple of appetizers and some German beer to begin our dining experience.  Our first appetizer was this giant pretzel…well it was a giant pretzel when it arrived but it was more than half gone by the time I remembered to take a photo. ($9.95) As for the beers, wimp that I am, mine was the lightest shown in the photo. 

That pretzel was very nice…far better than the usual one encounters in most bars and restaurants everywhere.

The second appetizer on the table was ‘Escargot Forestiere’…escargot served with mushrooms, garlic butter and garlic bread. ($10.90)

This offering was well received by Bill and Laurie…but Bonnie and I just don’t ‘do’ snails!

For my dinner, I chose the Wurst Sampler Platter.  It consisted of Knockwurst, Homemade Garlicwurst and Weisswurst. ($18.95) It normally comes with sauerkraut and German potato salad…but I skipped the potato salad.  The sausages and sauerkraut were very nice indeed.  I asked for a bit of German mustard on the side…

For Bonnie’s entrée, she chose the Fried Liver with fried potatoes and roasted onions. ($18.95) She loves fried liver and she hadn’t had it in a long time.  She was quite satisfied with her dinner.

Bill checked out the menu and decided to find out if the restaurant would modify a menu item for him.  Normally the Pork Hocks on the menu is an order for two ($35.95) but he asked if they could shrink it a bit and make it for one diner.  They complied and he was able to enjoy a meal that reminded him of a dinner that his mother used to make for the family.  His meal was served in this big frying pan…quite a sight.

Laurie wanted to order her favorite German entrée, Wiener (Veal) Schnitzel with Rahm sauce. ($21.95) She was disappointed when she was told that they didn’t have any veal on hand.  So she ordered the Pork Schnitzel with German potato salad as her side dish. ($15.80) She wasn’t crazy about her meal.

All in all, our group would have rated the food and our experience at Bodensee Restaurant as average.  Bill was raised on German cooking while Laurie and I experienced some amazing German cuisine during our almost 3 decades of living in the Chicago area.

FYI, Bodensee is German and it refers to Lake Constance…a series of lakes along the Rhine in Bavaria.  Lake Constance aka Bodensee is also sometimes referred to as the “Swabian Sea”.

The Bodensee Restaurant is located at 64 Munich Strasse in Helen Georgia.  Phone: 706-878-1026.  To learn more about this restaurant, just go to https://bodenseerestaurant.com/.  

While in Helen we stayed at the Hampton Inn which is located just a block or two off the town’s main street.  As you can see, even the Hampton Inn has an ‘Alpine’ appearance.  As previously noted, this architectural look is required as per Helen’s building codes.

Our rooms were on this side of the hotel…with balconies facing the Chattahoochee River.  Upon checking in we noted that the hotel was built on pilings with the lobby raised above the parking area that is under and next to the building.  

After dinner, we all wandered down to the river.   Laurie and Bonnie made themselves at home in one of the nice swings on the hotel’s property.

The Chattahoochee River pleasantly flows and ripples by the hotel property and a number of rental homes along its course.  It is very relaxing…

However, there is a reason why that rental home as well as the Hampton Inn are raised up on stilt/columns… Flooding in Helen is not uncommon with the most recent major flood hitting the town on August 17, 2021.  Just search for “Helen Georgia flooding” to see quite a few photos.  I noted other flooding that was documented in 2018 and 2016.  Elevating your property in Helen…especially along the river…is a wise decision.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, May 30, 2022

In Memoriam - My Dad

 This post is to honor and remember my father who died in action in Europe during World War II

This photo shows my father, S/Sgt. Ronald Allen Myers, leading a United States Army column near Riefensbeck Germany on April 14, 1945.  

He had been shipped out to the European Theater to fight the Germans in January of that year.  He was KIA (killed in action) about 3 weeks later on May 6, 1945, while in combat with German forces near Pilsen Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic.  I was about 2 years and 10 months old at the time.  The War in Europe ended 2 days after he was killed... 

Thanks to all who have made the greatest sacrifice to protect us as well as those who continue to fight for our freedom...

God Bless America and Take Care

David Myers, aka Big Daddy Dave

Friday, May 27, 2022

Exploring Helen Georgia and Vicinity (#2)

…continuing with our visit to Helen Georgia as well as the nearby area.  Laurie and I were accompanied on this 3-day adventure by her sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill.

In addition to the Bavarian Village atmosphere, Helen is further graced or enhanced by the presence of the Chattahoochee River.  Popular restaurants occupy both banks of the river on either side of the bridge in the middle of town.  The view above is looking downriver.

The Chattahoochee River flows 430 miles south from the mountains of North Georgia to its junction with the Flint River… Those 2 rivers form the relatively short Apalachicola River which empties into the Gulf of Mexico.  The lower portion of the Chattahoochee River is navigable by river barge as far north as Columbus Georgia.  Below the mountainous area in the north, the river has been greatly modified by dams, reservoirs and locks.

Like most tourist focused towns, Helen is clean and colorful.  These attractive plantings around the downtown area really add to the novelty created by local residents and merchants.

Speaking of merchants, not only do shopping opportunities line the main street through town, but they even take form in groups of stores like those shown above.  The photos above were taken in the Helen Central Plaza.  Among others, shops here include a rock shop, Dutch imports, a boutique and an artisan’s market.  Many other shops are scattered all over the center of town…

This is Helen’s Arts and Heritage Center.  It is located adjacent to the Helen Central Plaza.  It features an art gallery and gift shop, art classes and a work shop and a town history museum.  To learn more, you can visit their website at https://www.helenarts.org/.

Taking a step back in time…before Helen became a faux Bavarian village and a huge tourist attraction, this photo shows what Helen looked like back in 1969…only 53 years ago.

In January 1969, 3 local businessmen met at a local restaurant.  They were trying to figure out if there wasn’t some way to spruce up downtown Helen to help the economy by attracting more tourists.  They contacted an artist named John Kollock…and he drew up sketches based on the town’s location in a mountain valley and his time in the army in Germany…specifically in Bavaria.   His sketches were well received and by the fall of that year, many of the town’s buildings had Bavarian facades.  The plan worked and the town grew into what it is today. 

Note: The Bavarian design, mandated through zoning ordinances back in 1969, requires that all structures remain true to the Bavarian design, even chain store or restaurant operations.

I really liked these horse sculptures near the center of Helen.  They are very lively and creative…a pleasure for passersby to view.

After looking around Helen for a bit, we decided to drive over to nearby Nacoochee Village.

Nacoochee Village is only a half mile south of Helen.  Our first stop was at Nacoochee Village Antiques.  About 50 dealers occupy over 7,000 square feet of space in the 1876 Martin House.  The home was built by John Martin, the original owner of the Nora Mill…more on that shortly.   This massive home also served as a boarding house/hotel/inn and it was later owned by the Hardman and Ivie families.

Our challenge was that unfortunately, we had no idea what to expect in Nacoochee…and we arrived shortly before everything began to close up for the day.  Note the second photo above.  We would have loved to spend an hour or more wandering through the many rooms jammed full of antiques and collectables.  However, there was so much to cover in such a short time, that we just made a quick pass through the building and gave up.

Once again, I managed to stay out of a group photo… It helps in that I take most of the photos and our little group is used to me taking these photos.  Laurie, Bill and Bonnie were standing on the porch of the Nacoochee Antique Mall/Martin House.  For more about this Antique Mall, go to https://www.facebook.com/NACOOCHEEANTIQUES/.

Nacoochee comes from the Cherokee pronunciation of the Creek word “Nakose”, which means ‘bear’.  According to legend, adjoining valleys were named for ill-fated lovers, the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ of the two warring Native American tribes.

Right across the street from the side of the Antique Mall, visitors will find the Nora Mill Granary.  Established by John Martin in 1876, this operational gristmill is situated beside the Chattahoochee River.  They still use the original 1,500 lb. French Burr Stones to mill a variety of corn and wheat based products.  An old-fashioned country store and gift shop is right next door.

Unfortunately, we were running out of time and our little group chose to check out the winery right next door to the antique mall.  Maybe the next time we’ll visit the Nora Mill.  Learn more and order products at the mill’s website: http://www.noramill.com/.

Habersham Vineyards and Winery were founded in 1983.  According to their website, this winery has produced some of the finest award winning Georgia wines.  Laurie and Bill decided to partake in a wine tasting before the Winery closed for the day. ($12.00 each for a flight of 5 wines)

Habersham Winery is an attractive space and, in addition to the tasting room, they also feature a gift shop with gourmet foods and specialty items from around the world.  They also carry imported cheeses and other necessary items that you might need to put together a picnic.  To learn more about this winery, go to https://habershamwinery.com/.

Even though shopping hours were over, we didn’t want to eat dinner too early so we continued to explore the Nacoochee Valley and the nearby area.  Just a little further down the road, we noted this mound with a gazebo on top.  The Nacoochee Mound is an archaeological site on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.  It is part of the Sautee Valley Historic District…which is adjacent to the Nacoochee Valley Historic District.

This and other area mounds were built somewhere from 1350 to 1600 by peoples of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture.  Evidence of related villages were found both east and west of the mound.  An archeological excavation revealed a total of 75 human burials with artifacts that support the dates listed.  The gazebo was installed on top of the mound in 1890 by a European-American landowner.

As it turned out, the Nacoochee Mound is connected to and is part of the Hardman Farm State Historic Site.  This historic site includes the mound with its gazebo, this spectacular 1870 Italianate mansion, a separate kitchen, horse barn, manager’s home, dairy barn and spring house.

The home was originally built by Captain James Nichols.  He also built the gazebo on the Nacoochee Mound.  Calvin Hunnicutt was the next owner but in 1903, he sold the property to Lamartine Griffin Hardman.  Hardman was a physician and politician who served 2 terms as the 65th Governor of Georgia.  The property remained in the family until it was donated to the state of Georgia in 1999. 

Of course, by the time we ran across this farm/state historic site, it was closed.  More to explore at another time… Check this historic site out at https://gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm.

We’d passed this pretty little church as we drove up and down the Sautee Valley.  I did some research on it and discovered that it has served members of both the Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church.  After reading several versions of the history of this church building, I must admit I was confused.  The founding of churches and the building of church buildings do not necessarily coincide.

Despite the signing on the front of the church, I’ve accepted the historic version that states that the Crescent Hill Baptist Church was completed in 1872 by Captain James Nichols…who built the Hardman farm.  The church was first known as the Nacoochee Presbyterian Church but it changed owners several times before becoming the Crescent Hill Baptist Church.  For more information, go to https://www.hrcga.org/church/crescent-hill-baptist/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Exploring and Dining – Helen Georgia (#1)

So, after a bit of sightseeing, some photos and a fair amount of shopping in Blue Ridge Georgia, our little family group was on its way to our overnight destination, Helen Georgia.  The plan was to have a light lunch, shop, shop some more, do some sightseeing and then have dinner.

I had a route all planned out…taking GA Hwy 60 to Hwy 180 to Hwy 348… Somewhere along the line I misinterpreted the map or missed a key junction.  We wandered all over the place but eventually found our way to Helen.  Given the beauty of the area we were driving through, there was plenty of eye-catching scenery, even with the cloudy hazy start to the day.

Have you ever tried to eat a light meal at a German restaurant?  It can be a challenge.  That was our goal.  I’d found Muller’s Café aka Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Café on Trip Advisor.  Muller’s Café is family owned and operated.  Executive chef/co-owner Zdenek Muller is a graduate of the Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management Institute in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

Muller’s Café had an overall score of 4.5 out of 5 whereas Yelp’s adherents gave it 4.0 out of 5.  I always check the number of Excellent/Very Good reviews on Trip Advisor to the number of Poor/Terrible reviews.  If the ratio of positive reviews to negative ones is 10 to 1, then a restaurant will hit my “consider for dining” list.

We decided to eat our lunch indoors although there is an outdoor dining patio available.  The dining room is a bit small but the tables were well spaced.  Our table was at the back of this photo…with Bill still standing and both Bonnie and Laurie already seated.  There were more tables in the dining area at the left of the picture.

When I don’t have a detailed receipt, I can usually match up my food photos with an on-line menu.  In this case, I didn’t see a match despite the fact that Muller’s menu includes lots of photos.  Fried cheese I’m sure served on a bed of greens with a dipping sauce on the side.  Who doesn’t like fried cheese!  Of course, if you’re lactose intolerant, this appetizer wouldn’t be for you…

We were trying to avoid a big lunch as we knew that dinner would be relatively hearty and very filling.  So we ordered this bratwurst appetizer. ($10.00) It came with a little sauerkraut, mustard and French bread.  The sausage was quite tasty.

Bill ordered a couple of items just to sample a bit of the menu.  The first photo is of his Spätzle with Onions, Sauerkraut and Bacon. ($13.00) Bill thought that it was pretty good and enjoyed it. 

The second photo was his order of red cabbage.  Bill thought that it was too bland.  I sampled it and agreed with him.

I ordered the goulash soup and in my opinion, it fell flat.  It wasn’t as spicy/flavorful as I expected and it lacked enough ingredients to give it a bit of body.  One of my problems was that I was comparing it to the version served by our favorite German Deli in Chicago.  It didn’t measure up…

Laurie ordered a bowl of the Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup for the rest of her lunch.  It was very nice…

Other than that unidentified fried cheese appetizer, we didn’t really explore the cheese portion of the menu.  Entrée options include: Fried Mozzarella stuffed with Ham ($18.00); Fried French Brie stuffed with Ham (8 oz. $20.00/16 oz. $30.00); Fried Sharp Cheddar Cheese stuffed with Ham ($18.00), and; a Fried Cheese Kabab, with all 3 cheeses on a skewer. ($20.00).  As pictured on the menu, all of these entrees come with potatoes and a little salad on the plate.

To be fair, we didn’t really sample the menu enough to really ‘rate’ Muller’s Café.  In addition to appetizers and fried cheese options, this restaurant’s menu features 8 German Schnitzel and Pork Specialties, 3 Chicken Specialties and 4 Bread Dumpling Specialties, including one with roasted duck.  Check out their menu.  It provides a lot of pictures of the food.

Website: http://mullerscafe.com/home.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mullerscafe/.

Helen is a small faux Bavarian alpine tourist town in White County Georgia.  Located near the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains range on the Chattahoochee River, the town’s 2020 permanent population was 531…and that was actually up 77% from the 1920 census count.  Helen was platted in 1912 and it was named after the daughter of a lumber executive.

This mountainous area of North Georgia was once the home of the Cherokees.  The settlers and these Native Americans got along OK for some time but then came the Georgia Gold Rush in 1829.  Folks flocked into the area to strike it rich.  The Georgia gold rush followed the first significant gold rush in the USA, and that one took place in North Carolina.  The Cherokee were forced out of the area, made to march west along the infamous “Trail of Tears” to relocate in the area that is now the State of Oklahoma.

Looking up and down Helen’s Main Street, it is easy to see what the town is known as “Georgia’s Alpine Village”.  This former mining and then lumber town was slowly dying until it was resurrected as a re-creation of a traditional Bavarian village…only instead of being in the Alps, it is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain system.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of several mountain ranges within the Appalachians.

Of course, tourism is the major economic activity in Helen.  The town caters mostly to weekend visitors from the Atlanta area as well as motorcyclists who love riding the mountain roads in the area.

In the next post about our visit to Helen Georgia, we’ll explore the town as well as a bit of nearby Nacoochee Village.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, May 20, 2022

Off to Blue Ridge Georgia!

A few days after Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill arrived at our home for a visit, the four of us headed south for a quick exploration of parts of North Georgia and Southwestern North Carolina.

As usual, we took the back roads for their scenery value…plus of course…one never knows what we might encounter.  We headed south on TN Hwy 68, GA Hwy 60 and GA Hwy 2 until we arrived in Blue Ridge Georgia, our first planned stop on our mini-trip.

Of course I had to look for historic sites or buildings to photograph.  This is the Fannin County Courthouse.  This Neoclassical-Revival style structure was built in 1937 to replace the previous courthouse that had burned down a year earlier.   Built with Depression era monies from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (PWA), the project employed local unemployed workers.   It’s designer, William Augustus Edwards also designed 12 other courthouses in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. 

Back in 2004, this courthouse was replaced by a new structure that was built next door.  The building has been leased to the Blue Ridge Mountains Art Association.  The Association’s mission is to provide opportunities for artists and to aid the economic growth of the community.  To view this group’s calendar of exhibits and other events, you can just go to https://www.blueridgearts.net/uploads/6/1/5/0/6150183/2022_planning_schedule__website_.pdf.

When we parked in downtown Blue Ridge to take a look around, I spotted this great looking railway depot and I was immediately a happy camper.  Built by the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad in 1906, it served passengers on that line as well as its successors until 1951.  This depot replaced an earlier one that had burned down.

This photo shows what the Blue Ridge Depot looked like in the mid to late 1970's, more than 30 years after the last passengers boarded trains here.  As per the photos I looked at on the National Register of Historic Places website, the depot was in much worse shape just before it was listed in the Register in 1982.

The Marietta and North Georgia Railroad came to Blue Ridge in 1890.  It was on the railroad’s route from Atlanta Georgia to Knoxville Tennessee.  The railroad brought about an influx of visitors to the area’s mineral springs and helped local businesses flourish.  The advent of the railroad in Blue Ridge also caused the county seat to be moved here in 1895.  In 1890, the town’s population was 264 but by 1900, it had risen to 1,184.  Many of the new residents at that latter date were employed by the railroad shops that were built here.

The train pictured above is operated by the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.  A subsidiary of the Georgia Northeastern Railroad, the scenic train began operations in 1998.  The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway follows the former Marietta and North Georgia Railroad line north to Copperhill Tennessee.  Georgia Northeastern also operates freight service on the same line.

Trains operated by the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway generally run from late March until the last weekend in December.  However, the number of days these trains operate does vary during this period, peaking in the summer and also during the fall season when the leaves along the route become rather spectacular. 

FYI: For railroad fans, the Georgia Northeastern Railroad (GNRR) is a Class III short line railroad that is based in Marietta Georgia.  The company owns about 72 miles of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad’s famous “Hook and Eye” line between Marietta and Ellijay Georgia.

I love the clever use and/or reuse of old and unused objects.  That is why I truly appreciate the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s new uses for this former Louisville and Nashville Railroad caboose and a boxcar.

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is located at 241 Depot Street in Blue Ridge Georgia.  Phone: 877-413-8724.  To learn more about riding the rails with the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, just go to https://brscenic.com/.

As the Laurie, Bonnie and Bill were shopping, I was wandering around the streets seeing what I could see and taking photos.  This building is located right across from the railway depot at 260 West Main Street.  It was built in 1926 and given the name of a restaurant that used to occupy the space, which was “The Vault of Blue Ridge”, I’m guessing that the structure began life as a bank. 

The current occupant of this handsome building is also a restaurant.  ‘The General Ledger’ offers a fairly sophisticated menu with quite a bit of variety.  Given their interesting menu, if we’d been in Blue Ridge at meal time, we would have given The General Ledger a try.  You can check it out at https://www.generalledgerblueridge.com/.

As I’d mentioned, the rest of our group were frequenting just about any store that was open along Main Street.  This was one of the more interesting stores that I checked out.  Located at 709 East Main Street, the Owl’s Nest of Blue Ridge offers a wide variety of items and unusual goods.

This creative and a bit spooky metallic creation did grab my attention.  It would be quite a conversation piece as a table in someone’s home.  It looks like this toothy skeleton is ready to take a bite out of the next shopper!

The Owl’s Nest of Blue Ridge is open every day from 10 am until 5 pm.  Phone: 7906-946-6378.  You can check out this store on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Gift-Shop/Owls-Nest-of-Blue-Ridge-115971348534733/.

Of course, the Owl’s Nest wasn’t the only store our little group invaded.  I just didn’t take any other ‘shopping’ photos.  This was the only exception in Blue Ridge…with Bill headed for the checkout counter.  The sisters were still shopping at the back of the store.  We did contribute a little cash to the local economy…

The two photos above are views up and down East Main Street in Blue Ridge.  West Main Street runs parallel to East Main Street with the railroad tracks running right down the middle of town.

As of the 2020 census the town had a population of 1,253, down from 1,718 in 1950.  As I’d mentioned before, Blue Ridge is the County Seat for Fannin County Georgia.  While Blue Ridge’s population has declined, the county itself has shown a major increase.  In 1952 the population was 15,192 but as of 2019, it had 26,188 residents.

The county was founded in 1854 and was named in honor of James Walker Fannin, a war hero, but also a slave trader, who was murdered in March of 1836 following the Battle of Coleto in the War for Texas Independence.  He’d surrendered the 400 men that he commanded to Mexican General Jose Urrea, whose forces had surrounded the Texans.  About a week after surrendering, Fannin and virtually all of his men were executed.   

I saw several signs and trout images like these around town during our visit.  Apparently the Blue Ridge Trout and Outdoor Adventures Festival is a big deal hereabouts.  Activities include casting, paddling, hiking, climbing, riding, axe throwing, outdoor art, and live music as well as craft beer and food.  Professional local outfitters and fishing guides, food vendors, gem mining, outdoor art for sale…and other activities are offered during this annual event.  To learn more you can go to https://www.blueridgemountains.com/events/blue-ridge-trout-and-outdoor-adventures-festival/.

Next stop, Helen Georgia!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave