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Swiss Woods B&B Inn, Lititz

Swiss Woods, an Oasis of Relaxation

It was the butterflies that commanded our attention as they flutter-danced around the gardens that first afternoon. Then we noticed honey bees sipping nectar-rich flowers and goldfinches feasting on coneflower seeds. The setting at Swiss Woods B&B Inn was an absolute pinnacle of peace -- just what Natalie and I needed during our stay in Lititz, PA, a charming little town that’s rich in history.Courtyard outside our bedroom door

We had travelled to Pennsylvania Dutch country in late August for Natalie's therapy at the Lancaster Spinal Health Center. Each day, during the center’s mid-day break, the inn provided a peaceful respite. It was here that Natalie, at 14, discovered a penchant for nature and wildlife photography as we strolled through the woodlands, meadows, and gardens. It was here that we slowed down, followed the sound of trickling water and discovered a pink water lily in a hidden pond.

Water lilly gracing a hidden pondPerhaps this is the vision that Werner and Debbie Mosimann had when they built their dream B&B. Today, the nature-laden haven, tucked away on 35 acres in the heart of Lancaster County, not only fulfills their own dreams, but also creates dreamlike memories for others. “A lot of our guests just want to just kick back and relax. They yearn for solitude and want to be pampered and feel special for a few days, like they’re on a country estate. We try to make that happen, and we love what we do,” Debbie said.

Cozy Quarters

Natalie and I settled into our quarters, the lovely San Bernadino room. All rooms have European themes and are named for a region in Switzerland. The comfy canopy bed is a replica from an English castle, and a built-in desk is graced with chip carvings, typically found in Switzerland.  French doors connect to a courtyard where herbs, crepe myrtle and black-eyed-Susan’s were in bloom. This is where I watched daybreak unfold each morning with a cup of coffee and homemade biscotti, followed by a sunrise hike on one of the B&B trails that takes in the serenity of Speedwell Forge Lake.San Bernadino Room

The Early Days

One afternoon, Debbie and I sat in the courtyard chatting about the inn’s early days as swallowtails flitted about. Baeri, the family’s lovable Bernese mountain dog, leaned against her and Sherlock the cat purred nearby as she talked about her Pennsylvania Dutch roots. She grew up in nearby East Petersburg where her family owns S. Clyde Weaver, a deli known for its smoked beef, cheese and baked goods. As a youngster helping out, she discovered the joy of baking, especially working with yeast and creating recipes -- an interest that led to a degree in home economics. While in high school and college, she spent summers in Germany which furthered her interest in foods. Werner grew up on a small farm in Schlatt, Switzerland where he felt a deep connection to nature and the land. His father was a beekeeper, and he, too, was intrigued by the amazing insects, their role in pollination, and the honey they produced. He also has an extensive knowledge of church history, especially when it comes to the Moravians who settled Lititz in 1756.

TSwallowtails sipping nectar-rich flowershe couple met in 1980 while volunteering for Operation Mobilization, an outreach mission. They spent a year on the same team in Vienna, Austria helping local pastors with Bible studies and support work. When Werner returned to school in Switzerland to study tropical engineering, she continued her mission in Austria.  A year later, he graduated just as her assignment ended. They came to the states, married, and planned to open a B&B someday – a cozy inn that celebrated both nature and fine cuisine.

In 1985, their dream began to take shape. With three pre-schoolers in tow, Mirjam, Esther and Lukas, they built a home on family farmland along the gentle rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Swiss Woods B&B Inn opened in July 1986 with five guest rooms, including a suite on the upper floor – all with private baths. “It was an interesting time. The B&B hype was just beginning and there were no formal rules. We were the 24th to open in the county. Private baths hadn’t caught on yet so there wasn’t much competition,” Debbie noted.

ADebbie at home in the kitchennother plus, the B&B is nestled in Amish country, making it a popular destination for heritage tourism. “Lancaster County is very conservative. We realized that people are fascinated with the area’s history and religion. We both grew up in a conservative church and have a solid understanding of the area which helps us explain the culture and nuances in an up-close, personal way,” she said.

Debbie took me back to those early years when she balanced the needs of three youngsters with the get-away expectations of guests. “We thought we’d start out slow so Werner took a fullltime position at a greenhouse. But we were 80 percent full that July. With three small children, we weren’t prepared for that. Breakfast was served in the living room, and our whole living quarters was open to guests. It’s not something I would recommend,” she said with a smile.
They got involved with the Mennonite Central Committee that offers six-month training opportunities for students in poor countries. They were blessed with girls from Zimbabwe, Paraguay and other countries. She said, “We couldn’t have done without them. They became part of our family, and a few of the girls still keep in contact.” Before long, Werner left the greenhouse to help with the kids and spend more time on the inn’s landscaping projects. “When our fourth child, Jason, was born in 1988, we were fully booked. I remember Werner calling me at the hospital and asking me to walk him through the egg-sausage soufflé,” she recalled. It was time to look for full-time help; Erma Weaver, a great cook, came on board to assist in the kitchen and overlook housekeeping. “We’d be hard pressed to keep the inn running without Erma. And when guests return, they really look forward to seeing her,” Debbie expressed.The common room with sandstone fireplace

The couple also felt it was time to separate their home from the inn. “We were raising a family … the kids were practicing violin. It wasn’t the peaceful environment we envisioned for our guests,” she said. In 1989 they added a huge common room where a celebration of their roots -- the nostalgia, history and culture -- is reflected in the décor, such as a hanging array of colorful fringed bells (treicheln) typically worn by cattle in the Alpine meadows. The magnificent sandstone fireplace is the “heart of the inn," according to Debbie who noted that “fire draws people in.”  The walnut mantel was hand hewn by her father from a log he kept in the barn for years. “He wanted to save it for a special occasion,” she said. The room is surrounded by windows, bringing each season into the cozy setting. The new addition also included a separate kitchen and another upper-level suite with a Jacuzzi. A small kitchen near the inn’s gift shop is available for guests who want to fix themselves a snack or pack a picnic.

As the children got older, they took on various responsibilities. Debbie said, “The B&B opened more doors for them than we realized at the time. They learned to be good employees, working hard and well, and they learned to converse with people from all over the world."

Peaceful Haven

When I first read about Swiss Woods, it painted a picture of pure relaxation -- a place to linger over a novel, nap in one of their hammocks and feast on the gourmet treats available in the evening. But the B&B offers so much more. It’s a great location for nature enthusiasts to renew their spirit with wooded walking trails, wildlife, picnic nooks, numerous gardens and a lush landscape. For guests who enjoy biking through the Amish farmland, Werner has several scenic tours mapped out. “The bikes fit in with the slower-paced life here. It’s a nice way to travel the back roads and see the rolling countryside. And we have so many lovely covered bridges in the area,” Debbie saidSnow Geese

Swiss Woods is also a bird lover’s paradise, especially during the spring and fall migration when Snow Geese, Tundra Swans and other waterfowl can been seen on Speedwell Forge Lake and also at the nearby Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve. Last year, around 80,000 Snow Geese and thousands of ducks and swans were seen at the preserve. Also, more than 280 bird species have been spotted in the area, including eastern bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, indigo buntings, osprey, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers and bald eagles. At night, it’s not unusual to see a colony of Great Blue Heron on the southern edge of the inn's lake.

Hiking Trails

Baeri watching me head down the trailEach morning, I hit the trails shortly after sunrise when the mist was still clinging to the meadow grass and the scent of pine mingled with wild honeysuckle. Sometimes I’d meet Baeri who’d lean on me for a bit of affection, but he never followed along. The first time I descended the trail, I didn’t realize how far into the valley I’d walked until going back up.  A hearty breakfast sounded pretty good about then. Next visit, I’d like to follow the path that goes around Speedwell Forge Lake and back to the inn – a 45 minute hike. The trail also links to several points on the 61-mile Conestoga Trail System, onto Horseshoe Trail and into the Appalachians. And the nearby wildlife preserve has 20 miles of hiking trails.

Culinary Delights

 I arrived back at the B&B in time to watch Natalie wipe the sleep from her eyes. We’d get ready for the day and head to the common room for breakfast, a three-course culinary journey crafted with homegrown and local produce. “It’s the breakfasts that bring guests back,” Debbie said. “People aren’t kind to themselves with breakfast. They don’t put any energy into it. So they’re almost stunned with what we serve.” Stunning would certainly describe the French toast served one morning -- thick wedges covered in toasted almonds and stuffed with cream cheese and marmalade, which we smothered in homemade syrup. A slice of  pork-rich scrapple, a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, was also served along with fresh peaches and an assortment of scrumptious muffins. Another memorable breakfast for me was the eggs Florentine enhanced with fresh spinach and leeks, and banana bread along with a fruit plate with huge chunks of watermelon. Natalie, somewhat of a banana bread afficciano, said Debbie’s recipe is the best she’s had.   French toast with homemade syrup

Many of her recipes are inspired by foods she was introduced to while in Germany and Austria. She said, “I’ve always had a curiosity about food; there’s always something to learn. I started collecting recipes and the older ladies in backwater towns shared their family secrets with me.” Many of her recipes can be found on the Bed and Breakfast Foodies site where she’s featured among other innkeepers known as “Eight Broads in a Kitchen.”

A History Lesson

Werner often joins guests at breakfast for coffee and a chat. When asked, he’ll talk about the thriving beehives he keeps in the nearby meadow, a hobby that often interests guests, especially since the decline of the honeybee population. He’s also happy to talk about his homeland. One morning after bringing Natalie to therapy, I returned to the inn for a cup of coffee and found him engaged in a delightful conversation about the vibrant Alpine cowbells that grace the common room.

He also has an extensive knowledge of church history and is quite passionate when talking about the Moravian Brethren. He took me back to the 14th century when the Moravians were being persecuted in ancient Bohemia and then on to Count Zinzendorf, the leader who organized the modern day Moravian Church and founded Lititz. (Read more about the Moravian history on this site under Destinations/Lititz, PA)

The lovely gardens

During our visit, Werner spent most of his time in the gardens which flower nearly year around, beginning with the winter snowdrops. Then his yellow sea of daffodils bloom followed by a riot of colorful summer and autumn flowers. While pruning summer’s last hurrah, Werner took time to answer questWerner pruning summer's last hurrahions about the unsung critters among the flowers. When I shared my intrigue with the insect world, he gently lifted a milkweed leaf to expose a caterpillar munching on the pod. Pointing out the wild chives, he said. “You’ll find a whole entomology lesson over there.” He talked about the pollen-dusted honeybees buzzing nearby and how nature provides so many lessons in life.

Like his father, Werner finds real joy in beekeeping. He tends nine hives that are housed in colorful boxes just a stone’s throw from the B&B and looks forward to spinning honey each autumn. He’s quick to commend the female “worker” bees that take care of the colony’s brood and make sure the hive runs smoothly. But the male “drones” fell short of his praise. “Their only responsibility is to mate with the queen. Otherwise, “They’re like stammtisch,” he said, referring to the laid-back pub regulars who play “jass,” a Swiss card game, all day.

The meadow at dusk

One evening, after a courtyard picnic of sandwiches and fruit, Natalie and I walked across the meadow and out to the hives with Sherlock at our heels. The honeybee colony had settled in for the night, cuddling against their colorful home. We didn’t get close enough to impose on their quiet time, but Natalie zoomed in with the camera and snapped a few pictures. Then, she turned her attention to a rabbit that had nothing better to do than pose for her and a stray cat that was determined to upstage Sherlock’s presence. She stopped for a few more shots – a heart-shaped cluster of white blossoms, a patch of black-eyed Susans, and a yellow-orange sunset bursting through the trees. I was amazed with her riveted attention to nature. We headed back to the inn/s common room where evening treats wait for guests. this night, it was scrumptious chocolate-chunk cookies and divine coconut-lime triangles. Honeybee hives in the meadow

Back in the room, the night sounds came to life outside our door -- a cacophony of crickets, wood frogs, and occasional wolf howls from a nearby sanctuary. I tucked myself into a cup of tea with Natalie as she finished her homework in the guest "business" room which is equipped with computers. Natalie's heart blossoms

Travel Trends

Since opening the B&B, Werner and Debbie have seen many changes in the travel industry, especially with the social web trends. Prospective guests no longer rely on picture-filled guidebooks or the Internet, according to Debbie.  “It’s important to have a live presence today; they need to feel our pulse through Facebook and Twitter." Also, through social networking, they stay tuned to the latest travel trends.  Ecotourism, nature-based and cultural heritage destinations, relaxing/gourmet getaways and vacations that enhance a sense of well being have become increasingly popular the past few years.

SThese black-eyed Susans caught Natalie's attention.wiss Woods has it all. After Natalie's long days of therapy, the inn gave her a relaxing haven that let her creative spirit dance through the lens of a camera, and it gave me a chance to connect with her through nature. It’s no wonder that I often dream myself back to the timeless tranquility of these woods, tracing the steps that take me to a heart-shaped cluster of blossoms along a wooded path, the black-eyed-Susans, a fiery sunset, and the echo of memorires dancing on the magic carpet of the heart. For us, it was the ultimate escape! 

 For more information on Swiss Woods B&B Inn, call (800) 594-8018 or visit their website at www.swisswoods.com. Also, check out www.bedandbreakfastfoodie.com to see B&B recipes from "8 Broads in the Kitchen."





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