Posthotel balcony provides even more room for
relaxation with a view.
is a trip. Nestled against the far side of the Cascade
mountains just a few hours east of Seattle, this little
town does an impression of a Bavarian village with all its
might. The beer flows freely and the music is oompah;
buildings are decorated with wooden beams, family crests
and gingerbread trim (or their trompe l’oeil versions).
The HeidleBurger boasts “Best Burgers in Town,” and
even the 76 station, Starbucks and Howard Johnson’s are
in on the illusion, their corporate identities trumped,
for once, by a civic thematic mission.
town center is entirely committed — several square
blocks of signs in gothic fonts bearing names such as
“Das Sweet Shoppe.” There’s candy and candles, hats
and tchotchkes; you can get your photo taken in a dirndl
with an accordion in your arms, or ride in a carriage
hauled by a horse round and round. There’s a museum
devoted solely to nutcrackers. Leavenworth is deeply weird
and alarmingly adorable, and people love it.
shouldn’t those who settled here, coming from far away
in Germany back in the day, celebrate — and cash in on
— their heritage? But while that might seem the likely
backstory, Leavenworth is an even more American success
story than that: It was just a regular logging town
struggling to survive in the 1960s when the idea of a
tourism-friendly makeover was fabricated. As
leavenworth.org puts it, “To say the change worked is
like saying you can taste a hint of cabbage in kraut.”
philosopher Theodor Adorno would’ve had a field day with
Leavenworth — the distant Bavaria re-created entirely
for prosperity’s sake, where the people of the region
get an artificially foreign break, with plenty of
“spurious and illusory activities” to divert them. He
called the phenomenon “the culture industry” and
it’s here in spades — and, as he noted, consumed
heartily, yet “not quite believed in.” The charm is
beyond-Disneyland ridiculous, and everyone goes all-in on
for excellent people-watching. Take an outdoor table at
Icicle Brewing Company on a sunny autumnal afternoon, and
see the visitors stroll by, happy in their new Tyrolean
felt headgear (regular size or comically tiny and attached
to a headband). Across the way, it’s selfies galore with
the hops harvest-festival mural on Starbucks’ rear; a
couple women pretend to hold the reins of the painted
horses, and from here, with a beer, it looks
tourists must also be fed. Try Argonaut for coffee and
snacks; South for Mexican food (sources say to get the
poblano sauce on a burrito); and Good Mood Food for just
that. For a fancier (read: pricier) dinner, Watershed
makes very good farm-to-table comfort food (the meatloaf,
huge and delicious, costs $32), while Mana is there for
the upscale vegan crowd (at $85 for eight courses).
you don’t have to actually move — whatever uber-German-style
pub you’re in will have pretzels, sausages and the like.
The name of one might ring a bell to some: Rhein Haus.
Leavenworth’s latest addition fits so seamlessly here
— pretty, pale pinewood; steins and antlers and
snowshoes everywhere — you’d never guess its Bavarian
artifice is a meta-import, just opened in August. The
first installation is on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, and
Tacoma and Denver also have locations.
menu meets all the hungry drinker/hiker/snowboarder
expectations: the town’s best pretzel; a prodigious
bratwurst; rich, slightly smoky goulash with big chunks of
beef. Fat, extra-crispy fries love the curry ketchup, but
the platter-sized pork schnitzel’s thin sauce needed
more lemon, capers and/or shallot (avoid inundation by
ordering it on the side, and pass the salt and pepper).
has a sense of humor: a stuffed wildcat in repose sports
the Tyrolean tourist hat (and manages to look debonair),
while staffers wear T-shirts printed with
folk-costume-tops rather than the real thing.
blocks away, Leavenworth’s other new development does a
different kind of imitation. Posthotel is castlelike —
six stories built into the hillside overlooking the
Wenatchee River — but it exercises restraint with its
cream-colored and flagstone exterior. Inside, too, it’s
tasteful and soothing, with a faint lavender-herbal scent
in the air, and only a modicum of antlers. Posthotel staff
wear the classiest possible version of traditional German
country attire, while most of the guests pad around the
place in slippers and soft, white robes.
just like a Euro-style sanitarium, and yes, it’s weird
at first, but not for long. Quiet pervades, and no
children are allowed; every bed is king-sized, with a soft
bank of pillows, and every room has a gas fireplace and
enormous marble tub. But why would you soak there when the
spa awaits? A gentleman will kindly orient you, intoning
the words “hydrotherapy” and “reflexology” over
the four special foot-soaking pools, invoking the name of
Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest who founded the
naturopathic movement, promulgating the idea that frigid
plunges into the Danube cured his tuberculosis.
Posthotel’s capacious, vaulted-ceilinged spa, you may
partake of two lovely wood-paneled saunas, one extra hot.
There are two steam rooms, too, one offering the
opportunity to recline on a contoured marble bed, like a
body on a slab in a healthful mausoleum filled with a
thick, humid, tranquilizing cloud. A shower with settings
such as “Arctic Mist” will buffet you and, just as you
look up, dump a deluge from above. Padded lounge chairs,
wearing their own terry-cloth cozies, are incapable of
anything but a fairly steep recline. An infinity pool,
flowing from indoors to out, has underwater bubbling
chaise-beds to tickle you all over. The view — mountain
crags, distant forests, circling hawks, the river with
regular people taking the air along it — is fabulous.
Should you grow weary, back inside, there is a nap room
with individual waterbeds.
swaddled “wellness” currently costs $385 per night on
weekends (going up to $435 in 2019). Skiers will doubtless
swoop in after days on nearby Stevens Pass slopes, but one
must commit to vigorous consumption of leisure to get the
most of Posthotel. The price of admission is almost
all-inclusive: the spa (treatments extra); use of fancy
Public (not “public”) bikes; a gorgeous mini-golf
course (windmill-free); all-day coffee, tea and fruit;
beautiful breakfast and lunch buffets (the former with
eggs and sausages to order, the latter with a choice of
soups); and a nightly eight o’clock dessert extravaganza
(perhaps with a chocolate fountain).
couple German-cheese-and-cold-cut sandwiches secured at
lunch — the robes have big pockets — plus a huge,
juicy front-desk pear become supper? The distinct sense at
Posthotel is that if it contributes to your temporary
sense of wellness, no one’s going to stop you. Maybe
that bike ride around Leavenworth earlier was just enough.
2, Leavenworth; 509-888-1568; rhleavenworth.com
St., Leavenworth; 509-548-7678; posthotelleavenworth.com