December 24, 2005

Old Salem

A highlight of our Carolinas trip was visiting Old Salem a couple days ago. The website really doesn't do it justice. Old Salem is a remarkable history learning experience (and I use "experience" advisedly).

We began at the new visitor center, a modern building decked with "Old Salem" in massive type. I immediately wondered, "Who funded all this?" Because the new center, as well as the town, is in excellent condition, and not cheap.

Salem was the central town of a Wachovia, a tract of land owned by the Moravians. It's hard to determine just how active the contemporary Moravian church is, and to what extent they pay for Old Salem... in the same way that Mormons clearly shell out a lot of dough to provide for the upkeep of Nauvoo.

Though I was a bit hesitant to pay the $21 entry fee, it was totally worth it. We spent about 5 hours walking around the historic town, visiting with costumed interpreters who helped us understand what life was like back then.

A few of the buildings provided a distinctly Moravian flavor -- the African-American church (and its graveyard), the Single Brothers House (where men lived after the age of 14, until they were married), the Tavern... These were all influenced by the practice of the Church. Much of the town, though -- the trades, the doctor/apothecary -- were simply generic old timey.

One thing that didn't come across as strongly as it should have is the degree to which the church *controlled* the town. Like Amana, Salem was managed by a set of church elders who pretty much determined everything. Competition was not allowed (so you didn't have more than one shoemaker, or more than one silversmith). Decisions were made by the elders, and the decisions they couldn't make were decided by lot, which supposedly provided God's decision on the matter. The overbearing-ness of the church is alluded to, but not really directly addressed.

To Stacy's delight, Salem is also the home of the original "small town big thing" -- the Coffee Pot.

Don't bother with sandwiches at the shop above the bakery. If we were to go back, we'd make time to eat at the tavern. And the gift shops were essentially filled with crap. But I guess that's nothing new.

Sadly, I wasn't the best photographic chronicler, so I didn't end up with many pictures. There's a good collection from various folks on Flickr.

Posted by peterme at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

More notes on the Carolinas

When last I wrote, we were heading to James Island, just south of Charleston. We began in Folly Beach, which was pretty much shut down for the Winter. We still got a nice beach walk in...

And we had happy hour drinks at a local watering hole. Which, in South Carolina, is amusing, because they can only pour hard alcohol out of those little bottles. Your manly sports bar bartender looks pretty wimpy trying to mix a drink with these.

We then headed to Bowen's Island for oysters. Bowen's Island is something of a local legend, and had been written up that week in the local paper.

Bowen's Island is definitely an eating experience. As you drive out on Bowen's Island Road, a sign alerts you that you are heading beyond what the county maintains, so the last half mile or so is on gravel. You pull up by what looks like a shack, and find your way inside.

Though serving all manner of faire, what you're coming for are oysters. There are two ways to order oysters -- for $12 you can get a cafeteria tray covered with them, or for $19 you get all you can eat, literally shoveled pile after pile on your table, which happens to be covered in newspaper.

We weren't sure if we wanted to gorge solely on oysters, so we settled for the $12 option, along with a plate of shrimp.

Sitting down, you are presented your shucking knives sitting on your towels (no napkins here!),

and your bucket for shells

(This is after we've had a few)

You look around, where every surface is covered with writing

and then you're served your tray heaped with oysters. This is different than your typical served oyster -- these are not pristine creatures served in their solitary shells. Shells are clumped together, and the majority of oysters are teeny little things.

And then you start eating...

Which you do until you're done.

Out back, you can enjoy the funky aroma of the shell pile

After dinner, we headed to the James Island Holiday Festival of Lights. You pay your $10, and drive around see some very pretty electric light creations, and then get out and have yourself a marshmallow roast!

It was truly a lot of fun, and the kind of thing I wish we had in the Bay Area!

Our next day, we went on an architectural walking tour, that was pretty good. We then headed on, first to Columbia, South Carolina, where there was absolutely nothing to do, and so we continued to Charlotte, where we had a nice meal at Alexander Michaels, a loud drink at Therapy, and then settled in for the night.

That's enough for now... next up, Old Salem!

Posted by peterme at 08:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


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