Thoughts & Musings

So day before yesterday I stopped in a MASSIVE antiques store in Helen, GA (it took up all 3 floors of a huge home, described as Antebellum, and a modern extension — off to the right). What made this stop interesting, beyond the sheer size of their collection, was that at the front counter they had a large number of DVD copies of Disney’s Song of the South.

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When I said to the owner, a woman, that I didn’t think they HAD released it to DVD because of how controvertial it is, she told me that they imported them from the UK (where I guess they are released). Then I mentioned how Martin Luther King himself had asked Walt Disney (himself) NOT to make the film, and if he did to PLEASE NOT show “happy singing slaves” and how Disney had ignored him on all counts, but the movie had failed at the box office because by it’s release in 1946  it was already out of step with the times …

Then, an older guy, who had overheard my comments and who stated that he was a retired cop, started talking about how they’d changed the name of the road his police station in Texas was on to Martin Luther King Drive, and how offended the cops were that they’d done it… He went on to say that the racism (push back) had just escalated from there… it was a very “interesting” conversation that would never have happened in the North.

Now in retrospect I’m thinking on it and in fact the store had IMPORTED them, and it wasn’t just one copy, it was a lot of copies… i.e., Disney might not want to release them in the the U.S., but this store owner clearly believed that there was enough demand to support the extra cost.

Oh, and before I spotted the DvD I was bemused by a relatively large collection of Sambo dolls and figurines for sale — which is something else one sometimes sees sold in other countries but rarely in the US of A.

Nacoochee Mound & Sautee Nacoochee, GA

While the Indian mound is essentially a mildly offensive tourist trap, the tiny village of Sautee — just down the street — is in my opinion well worth the visit:

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Located in Georgia, just outside of Helena, there is this Indian mound that really impressed me, at least until I learned from online sources (such as Atlas Obscura) that it had already been excavated, and then replaced (and is therefore a replica rather than the original) — a fact that none of the signs at the location tell you … nor one shared with me by locals.

The area in which it sits could best be described as countrified yuppie. It’s all gift shops and locally made artesian soaps cheeses and art etc., none of whom I suppose have any motivation to tell the truth about historical mound their shops are adjacent to. Not only did the locals not share the actual facts with me, I was, I would argue, actively misled by them. I can’t remember if it was the saleswoman at the racist antiques store across the street (which sold Sambo dolls and ‘Song of the South‘ DVD’s) or one of the other locals business people who initially assured me that the mound was an Indian burial mound that had been kept in “almost pristine condition” in large part because of the gazebo that a local farmer had opted to place on the top, that kept him and future farmers from leveling it.

In fact, if you look closely and read the sign, and then go to this site, you’ll discover that the sign is mostly a pack of lies!!!! There is no evidence that DeSoto visited, and archeologists are fairly certain that the mound predates any Cherokee habitation of the area.

Consider for instance “legend” that is associated to the mound:

“The legend of the Nacoochee Indian Mound states that Indian lovers from opposing tribes are buried within the mound.  Sautee, a brave of the Chicksaw Tribe, and Nacoochee, the daughter of a Cherokee Chief fell immediately and hopelessly in love when a Chicksaw band stopped in Cherokee territory at a designated resting place.  The two lovers met in the night and ran away to nearby Yonah Mountain to spend a few idyllic days together.  When they later confronted Nacoochee’s father with the idea of creating peace between the two nations, Chief Wahoo ordered Sautee thrown from the high cliffs of Yonah Mountain while Nacoochee was forced to watch.  Almost immediately, Nacoochee broke away from her father’s restraining hands and leaped from the cliff to join her lover.  At the foot of the cliff, the lovers dragged their broken bodies together and locked in a final embrace and died there.  The Chief, overcome with remorse realized the greatness of love and buried the lovers, still locked in death, near the banks of the Chattahoochee River as a burial mound.”
source: Southernhighroads.org

Seems a bit TOO Romeo and Juliet for my tastes… that and the fact that the mound is listed on the National registry of historical places may, in actuality, have more to do with it’s having been located on the estate of L.C. Hardman, a former Georgia Governor, than anything else. … none of which I learned till I started researching the location for this blog post.

I have to say that in retrospect, as someone who has deep personal connections to the Native American community, I felt a bit ‘ripped off’ by my experience at this location. On the upside, it’s not someplace I went out of my way to see, it just happened to be along the drive… but that said, some honesty would be appreciated! I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering this is located just outside of Helen, GA, (notable only for German architecture and restaurants — only one of which is any good — it is essentially a tourist trap aimed at anyone in search of a little touch of a Bavaria in the midst of the Appalachian foothills).

That said, directly adjacent is one of the actual gathering points (of which there were many) for the Trail of Tears… a forced relocation (that for those Native Americans not affluent enough to purchase transit devolved into an ultimately genocidal/ethnic cleansing) of the south eastern United states, during the administration of Andrew Jackson.

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That said, I did find one major “FIND” a bit further down Unicoi turnpike… first you’ll find a very cute “village/crossroads” (not more than few stores) of Sautee Nacoochee which includes the ridiculously picturesque Old Sautee’s Store and market,

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walking distance from which you’ll find the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, a museum for the Traditional pottery of the area, built as an annex to a converted historic school, which now serves as the Sautee Nacoochee Center, a gallery and visual arts center for local artists (and a lot of what they have for sale — and at affordable prices considering it’s original art…  are, at least in my opinion, really good)

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Helen, GA & Bondesee German Restaurant

Helen, Georgia, a tiny GA town with a local population of slightly over 500, is one very large tourist trap of a town aimed at locals of German extraction trying to reconnect to their ancestral roots, or anyone else in search of a little touch of a Bavaria in the midst of the Appalachian foothills. Not worth visiting unless you’re already in the area and looking German food.

Note: I took this trip BEFORE having set up my blog — although I had been intending to do it for months already, so I didn’t take anywhere as many pictures as I probably should have.

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I had been staying at my friend’s place in Dalton GA for a few weeks, with the intention of staying a full two months (I remember her saying “I have no idea WHAT you’re going to do here for all that time” — suffice it to say I proved her wrong), and this was near the top of her list of side trips I should consider. The drive there from Dalton was very pretty (as directed by my new car’s GPS device — which I have grown to LOVE, never had one before), and took me there via state highways (think two lane roads) that I would never have otherwise had the guts to take.

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For most of the trip I was pretty much alone on the roads, which is both restful and a tad terrifying — when you have no idea where you are. In retrospect (looking at a maps attached to my images) I know now that my GPS took me all along the Richard B Russell Scenic Highway  (which is a National Forest Scenic Byway) up over some nearby foothills, through the Chattahoochee National Forest, and and into the valley where the town of Helen is located.
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View from GA state road 348
The trip took me about two hours and like I said, I was instinctively ‘lost’ but trusting my new GPS system to know where we were going for most of the way …   According to the folks who drove up on their motorcycle (see above image) at this location we are still about 8 miles away from Helen GA.
From a business development perspective what makes Helen interesting is that once they realized that their local industry had failed, rather than kicking a dead horse, they opted for something completely different; taking advantage of their location adjacent to a National Forest they decided instead to become a tourist destination town. Per Wikipedia: “Formerly a logging town that was in decline, the city resurrected itself by becoming a replica of a Bavarian alpine town, in the Appalachians instead of the Alps. This design is mandated through zoning first adopted in 1969, so that the classic south-German style is present on every building, even on the small number of national franchisees present (such as Huddle House and Wendy’s).”
When I arrived I was hungry with a capitol H, having not eaten anything that morning other than a cup of coffee. So, my very first stop was at the first decent looking German restaurant I could find Hofbrauhaus Resturant in the picture at the top of this blog, which at the time also had decent YELP reviews…  BLECH. I had one of my favorite childhood dishes, Weiner schnitzel!! As a kid I was one of those incredibly picky eaters who was 10 lb underweight and could drive my mom crazy by going for a full day on three french fries and a glass of chocolate milk. One summer we were in Austria following my dad around as he presented academic papers at conferences, and my mom had discovered I would actually eat Weiner schnitzel, so the first priority was checking if a restaurant served that, and THEN was there anything else on the menu for the rest of the family. So I know my Weiner schnitzel (which I am said to say I can no longer eat because my penchant for everything fried has resulted – I was diagnosed two months after this trip — in liver disease); and to be bluntly honest I was mightily unimpressed with how this restaurant prepared it … as in, “I drove TWO hours for THIS?”
That said, the place DOES have a good view of the river…
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The next thing I did upon arriving was, using just my phone phone and the various apps I had on it, I tried to find a decent place to spend the night. There were NOT as many choices as I would have hoped (I have since gotten much more skilled at delving those depths from my iPhone), and at that time I had not yet installed the Airbnb.com app into my iPhone (I was still using a iPhone 4s then, which was already four years old, had VERY limited memory and was starting to slow down from old age), so I was forced to limit my search to national chains — I now know better. I ended up with a room at the Hampton Inn, and since the hotel was half empty I was able to convince the staff to upgrade me to a room with a balcony overlooking the Chattahoochee river for no extra fee.
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Once I found out the name of said river I couldn’t help myself, I started singing the Alan Jackson tune, “Way down yonder on the Chatahochee never knew how much that muddy water meant to me…” incessantly. However, looking at the picture, and based on how all the buildings near the river are either on 8 foot stilts or behind equally high restraining walls, I am guessing it floods fairly often.
After having checked in I went to walk around and discovered that this town closes down way early, and from the looks of it most stores don‘t open till noon. Only two stores still open at 5:30 were both owned by what I am guessing are a man and a woman who were both Indian (India) and I am betting are man and wife– work ethic anyone? The whole town looked like it could be part of the German exhibit at Disney-world’s Epcot, the next day when I walked around I discovered that most of the shops have at least one German style hat with a feather in it … only done on the cheap, so that it kind of reminded me of Old Town in Orlando, which I had just lived next door to for about four months, only sans the amusement park rides and haunted houses, etc.

Other than that there were a handful of interesting shops, like this one place that had it’s own hive to produce it’s own honey… but not much otherwise

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Why yes, our honey is Fresh! @Betty’s Country Store

Upon checking in, I had told the staff member there how unhappy I had been with the food at the Hofbrauhaus and could he make a better suggestion for my Dinner. He suggested The Bondesee, saying their were the only place in town with an actual chef from Germany, and that it was the place all the locals in town preferred.

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And now, after having eaten there… Wow!!! I STRONGLY suggest Bondesee German Restaurant to anyone in the general vicinity of Helen GA.

Walking in the 12 cats who seem to believe that the front entrance of the restaurant is their home (so that the covered patio area which they seem to have taken over stinks of cat urine) would NOT normally have been a good sign, nor would my conversation with the grumpy owner when I swung by there at around 6pm … had it NOT been for the recommendation of a local those two things would have sent me scurrying elsewhere…

However, after having now eaten there, the chef is apparently a man after my own heart in that he seems to believe that there’s no such thing as too much garlic. Seriously, I don’t think The Stinking Rose (a San Francisco institution) serves less garlic… I was in garlic heaven. The butter for the bread was amazing enough to eat without the bread, and the mushroom appetizer came in a cream and garlic sauce that was divine (I had it as a side for my Weiner schnitzel because ALL the sides were carbs (I opted for the Spätzle) … and the portion sizes for me (a single) were more than enough for two people.

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The German beer looked dark and a bit scary, but it was very smooth and went really well with the food. Oh, and the OH SO GAY — to the point where he was a caricature of gayness — waiter just CARDED me!!! Talk about how to make a 51 year old woman happy. He looked genuinely shocked to see we were the same age.