Experiencing German heritage in Frankenmuth is more than finding yourself in a town where people openly wear lederhosen and dirndls, or walking along streets with German names like Gunzenhausen, Hubinger St. and Haas.
It’s more than admiring Bavarian architecture around every bend or sinking your teeth into authentic German schnitzel and streusel.
It’s more, even, than recognizing that Frankenmuth has a sister city, Gunzenhausen, Germany, or that Frankenmuth is home to St. Lorenz Lutheran Church that was created in 1845 by 15 German settlers, the first colonists to this land.
The German heritage that’s alive and thriving in Frankenmuth is all of the above, and then some!
Willkommen to Gemütlichkeit
What’s experienced throughout Frankenmuth is a feeling, and something hard to describe. It’s the very fabric of the city, woven into every detail, that’s known as “Gemütlichkeit”.
“Gemütlichkeit translates to hospitality,” says Judy Zehnder Keller, president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge, “but the spirit of Gemütlichkeit encompasses all of the joy and vivaciousness of our German heritage and what German hospitality is really all about.”
When people raise their glasses and share in a “Prost”, the German word for “Cheers”, or take time to slow down and savor a meal together, the camaraderie, community, and happiness is all Gemütlichkeit, or authentic German hospitality and the rich German heritage that people experience while in Frankenmuth.
Exchange Culture with Gunzenhausen
In January of 1962, Frankenmuth extended an invitation to the community of Gunzenhausen, Germany to become sister cities, a relationship of more than 50 years and one of the longest in the world. “Our heritage and traditions really come to life through interacting with our sister city,” Keller says.
Dan Haubenstricker, chair of the Sister City Committee and co-chair of the St. Lorenz Heritage Committee, says two Frankenmuth High School students travel to Gunzenhausen each summer as part of a sponsored foreign exchange program. Tour groups also travel every five years to Gunzenhausen; the 60th Anniversary trip will take place in 2022.
“Our relationship adds a richness and a broader perspective on both German and American culture,” Haubensticker says. “You appreciate and understand more through experiencing and sharing each others’ traditions.”
Haubenstricker also makes note of the Gunzenhausen Platz Fountain that graces Main Street of Frankenmuth. Built in 2012 in celebration and commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Frankenmuth’s relationship with its sister city, nearly 100 Gunzenhausen residents came for the dedication.
Experience St. Lorenz
Offering a German worship service the second Sunday of each month, St. Lorenz Lutheran Church is the first structure that the earliest settlers built 175 years ago. Today, while the building looks much different, you’ll still find inside its storied walls and stained glass windows record books dating back to 1845 that detail the voyage and mission of the original 15 settlers behind present-day Frankenmuth.
Originally built as a combination church-school-parsonage log cabin, Haubenstricker says, “The congregation was the community.”
Visitors are welcome to tour St. Lorenz church and the Church Museum, home to German language tombstones, two church bells brought over by the earliest settlers, and the log cabin replica of the original building that was the first church in Frankenmuth.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN GERMAN HERITAGE
Sipping a craft brew at The Frankenmuth Brewery
Staying at the Bavarian Inn Lodge
Standing in awe at The Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel Tower
Sipping a craft brew at The Frankenmuth Brewery? The establishment holds a beer cellar from the original settlers of Frankenmuth.
Staying at the Bavarian Inn Lodge? It’s home to guest rooms named after the first 15 settlers who came to Frankenmuth in 1845, plus the second group of ninety settlers that arrived in 1846.
Whether you’re dining on authentic german sausage or homemade schnitzel, pretzels or Prinzregententorte (Bavarian cake), or you’re making a wish at the Gunzenhausen Platz Fountain or standing in awe at The Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel Tower -- a 35-bell carillon clock imported from Germany with daily figurine movement depicting the legend of the Pied Piper of Hameln -- you’re sure to experience authentic German heritage and Gemütlichkeit while in Michigan’s Little Bavaria of Frankenmuth.