"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

A Bavarian comes home

By on November 27, 2018 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Kim and Barbara Washburn: “Bavaria West” became their driving inspiration and a motto of life for them.

By Barbara Washburn

Being a Bavarian native from Germany, I had never heard about the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, until I had a long layover while part of an airline crew.

A crewmember suggested all of us cram into a rental car and go spend a few hours in a small Bavarian-like town nestled in the Cascade Mountains.

She was sure this would bring back memories for me. Well, it did; memories of a past that would lead into a new bright future.

The car trip came during a winter day and the town of Leavenworth was all brightened up for the holidays. It was filled with tourists from all over the world.

I enjoyed my evening in the small village, which indeed resembled some mountain towns back home. I remember feeling the fresh mountain air on my skin and the sense of Christmas, reminding me of growing up in the hills leading up to the gigantic mountain ranges of Bavaria and Austria.

Back then, in 1994, I was not familiar with the history of Leavenworth but I felt almost privileged being a native of the European regions; marveling about how someone in the Pacific Northwest must have been left with an impression of my home and decided to give birth by replicating it and turning it into a thriving, yet cozy mountain village.

Two years later I was married to my husband Kim, a former Missouri farmer’s son, who was raised by some of his ancestors being German and Swiss. We were living on the west side of Washington then. I took him on a road trip to Leavenworth and found that he enjoyed it even more than I had.

The years went by and the small town kept calling us back. Even while being based in Chicago for seven years, we caught ourselves talking to friends about the amazing small mountain village. We were also surprised how many people of the Midwest had heard of it, or even visited it.

Our family is a household of the two mixed cultures; the American-Bavarian way, of life as we joked about it.

My Facebook had always described me as a “True Bav-merican.”

Caramels made from an Old World recipe: “Delicious and fattening.”

Another part of our household culture is that every year during the Christmas holiday seasons, we dug out our Old World family caramel recipe and made hundreds of caramel candies to hand out as gifts to friends and neighbors.

They became an annual demand; folks suggested we should get licensed and sell them. (Who knew that one day we would be selling them in stores in and around Leavenworth?)

More years passed, our daughter graduated from high school, and made plans to attend Washington State University in Pullman. And for my husband and I, there was still this captivation with Leavenworth. It sounded so good to get away from the never-ending west side traffic, grey skies and heavy rains.

Over the years we had met many business owners and made great acquaintances in Leavenworth. This was very easy to do. Everyone has always been so welcoming, accommodating and pleasurable.

I wondered if it was all the sunshine that put people in such good disposition.

On one occasion, while visiting my relatives in the German Alps, we called a new friend here. He asked us how the weather was in Bavaria, and then said, “The sun is shining here in Bavaria West…”

Little did he know at that time, the catchphrase “Bavaria West” would become our driving inspiration, and later our business name of our vacation rental, and now our official caramels, and a motto of life for us.

We had stayed at Leavenworth bed and breakfasts, cabins and vacation rentals and learned about the ins and outs of the business.

One of the local vendors commented to me that it would be a fun anecdote to be a business owner in Leavenworth who is actually from Bavaria. His statement added more fuel to our fire, for the idea of a new launch and revamping of our life, looking ahead to retirement years.

My husband and I had both owned small businesses before we met. We knew that if we would want to start such an adventure in Leavenworth during our retirement years, it would have to stay just that, small. Preferably something he and I could manage and most certainly a business in our own home, to be able to oversee the operation and particulars.

We began to look for properties and homes on the market with the idea of renting out a studio apartment to vacationers, people like we had been all those years.

In October 2016, on our daughter’s 18th birthday and her high school senior year, we made an offer on a home in Leavenworth with a breath taking view.

And here we are! Bavaria West went from a little slogan to become our reality.

Now, in our second season of selling our Bavaria West Caramels in various stores around Leavenworth, we truly feel like we are a big part of this community.

We are sharing this centuries old recipe, which is very therapeutic for us to make; bringing back blissful hours of family memories. We are also making many happy new memories for people who have come to stay with us.

I guess, in a way, I moved back home.

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