Travel: Art, History and Quiet Contemplation Make Southern Indiana Town Worth a Visit | Lifestyles – Travel
At first glance, Ferdinand, Indiana, with a population of just over 2,000, seems like a place to go elsewhere. To the south is Santa’s Town, home to the Holiday World amusement park and Splashin’ Safari. To the north is Jasper, the German-centric city and seat of Dubois County with its prosperous plaza. It’s home to the Astra, a 1936 movie theater brought back to its former glory after a $1.7 million renovation, a historic courthouse and, stretching along the Patoka River, a restored early grain mill. from the 1800s with a nearby train depot, also recreated from the olden days, where vintage cars from the Spirit of Jasper make frequent tourist trips.
Between these attractions are a series of villages and small towns, each with a Catholic church sitting on a hill and a tavern serving good southern Indiana and German food. Some of the taverns and all the towns are over 100 years old.
Among them is Ferdinand, who has a variety of sites worth visiting. Soup-N-Such Bistro, known for its great sandwiches and soups and utterly decadent desserts, is housed in the former Swiss Chalet/Craftsman style home of Dr. Aloysius “Alois” Wollenmann. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it was built in 1903
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The 7,640-acre Ferdinand State Forest on Lake Ferdinand offers rowboat and canoe rentals, hiking trails, wilderness camping, and a swimming beach. For indoor accommodations, the Queen Anne-style Harvest Moon Suites date back to 1906.
Downtown shopping options, while understandably limited, include the very cute Tin Lizzie’s Home Decor & Gifts and the Antique Emporium. To eat, I always stop at Fleig’s Café. Don’t be fooled by the exterior; this is the place for serious southern cuisine with a German accent – fried chicken, fried chicken livers, German fried potatoes (here they are called German fries), mashed potatoes and gravy, brats , sauerkraut, neck bones (and no, I’ve never ordered any of these and I’m not sure what they are), pork chop sandwiches, and noodles. Everything is homemade.
Off Main Street (which I know of is the only street with a stop light), Traditional Arts Today is a non-profit organization whose mission is to create connections by providing traditional artists with a place to exhibit and sell their art. There are currently over 80 artists, mostly from Dubois County and the surrounding area, whose high quality work is on display. There is a unique variety of items including hand woven rugs, scarves, throws and shawls, jewelry made from salvaged treasures, paintings, sculptures, handmade soaps with hand knit washcloths handmade or crocheted, photographs, handmade children‘s clothing, baby quilts, wall art and wooden trays.
Other items include chocolates, teas and coffees as well as cards, candles including energy candles, soaps, tea towels and even – and this is distinctive – battery-operated cardinal lanterns with cardinals in them. stained glass. Described as the perfect funeral gift, they are made by artist Lynn Holland and are based on the belief that visits from red bird cardinals represent deceased loved ones trying to contact us.
Class offerings change but include soap making, basket weaving, decorating Ukrainian eggs, chicken scratch embroidery on handmade aprons, weaving chenille scarves, mug mats and tea towels. The aim of the courses is not only to return home with a finished product but also to have learned how to make a traditional and practical work of art.
Situated in the former Georgian-Italian home of Peter Muller, a successful Ferdinand businessman who is said to have been Ferdinand’s first car owner, the lovingly restored red brick building with decorative wrought iron was built in 1865. It is one of 41 places of interest on Ferdinand’s self-guided walking/driving tour map which can be found at visitduboiscounty.com/plan-your-visit/ferdinand-historical-walking-tour. Think about it. A city of 2000 and 41 historical places.
But as charming as all that is, what sets Ferdinand apart from almost all other charming towns in Indiana is the Immaculate Conception Monastery.
When I first saw the monastery, also called the castle on the hill, I thought I had somehow been transported through a time portal to 18th century Europe. Set on almost 200 acres and situated on a hill above the town, the monastery was built in 1866 and was at one time totally self-sufficient, with its own orchards, farm and cows for meat and milk. In the early to mid-1900s, there was even a small plane and an airstrip.
The description of the castle is apt as there are turrets, towers, parapets and lots of beautiful stained glass windows. The architectural style is Byzantine-Romanesque with notable features like an 87-foot-high domed church. One of the largest communities of Benedictine Sisters in this country, it was founded by four nuns from the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga in Eichstaett, Bavaria. They came here to educate the many German Catholic immigrants drawn to southern Indiana because of its dense forests and rolling hills that reminded them of home.
The cows, plane and dairy are gone now. But the sisters continue to be enterprising and now have in place – and don’t be surprised by that because we’re talking about the area’s German heritage and that means beer – St. Benedict’s Brew Works, considered the only brewery American craft. based on a female religious community. Here, one can enjoy a glass of cleverly named craft beers such as Raising Lazarus IPA, Sanctimonious Stout, St. Mary Red and Dark Souls. Open for a few years now, St. Benedict’s Brew Works has become so popular that they have also opened brew rooms in Rockport, a historic town on the Ohio River, and nearby Jasper.
The monastery gift shop is also a growing business. Needing a bigger space, they moved from the monastery itself close to the brewery towards the back. The gift shop offers, of course, religious items such as nativity scenes, angels, handmade Benedictine book beads, rosaries, decorative crosses, and offers hand-woven Swedish towels and clothing made by the sisters. . Not only can you purchase these items at the gift shop and online through their website, but the sisters’ handwork is also available on Amazon. Seriously.
There’s a bakery on site and, using cookie tins brought across the ocean by the original sisters, the gift shop is known for its cookies – including shortbread, gingerbread cookies, buttermint with chocolate, the springerles and their recently introduced mint julep biscuits. But they didn’t stop there. You can shop their bourbon-soaked fruitcakes, soup mixes, and more. The Hildegarde Biscuit (named after one of the original sisters) and the Hildegarde Crunch Mix have both been deemed certified Indiana Artisan. A great honor indeed.
Open to visitors, there are tours of the interior, paths that lead to the gardens where, in a small part, the ingredients used in some of the biscuits grow, a cave dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a labyrinth based on that of Chartres, France.
Think about it. Craft beer, homemade cookies, gardens and religious contemplation. And down the hill and across the street, fried chicken and German fries.