the distance between australia and germany spans thousands of miles over sea and land, with air travel taking up nearly a full day. but when you’re in the south australian capital of adelaide, germany is a mere 30-minute drive away along the southern eastern freeway and towards the green lung that is adelaide hills. amidst refreshing highland air and the rich colours of nature, a slice of bucolic charm presents itself in the form of hahndorf, the country’s oldest surviving german settlements that is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.
popular among locals seeking a weekend getaway and tourists curious about this european gem on the other side of the hemisphere, hahndorf attracts close to 1 million visitors each year. the town’s key attractions are concentrated along main street, where century-old elm and plane trees stand side-by-side with fachwerk buildings, one of the oldest architectural styles in central europe that was widespread in west germany.
these timber-framed buildings were once the private residences and small farmsteads of hahndorf’s first settlers, german lutherans who arrived here in 1838 on board a ship called zebra that was captained by dirk hahn. captain hahn helped the immigrants settle into their new lives and they, in turn, honoured him by naming the town hahndorf (hahn’s village).
the buildings have been carefully preserved and now house a variety of small businesses, eateries and pubs including many that uphold the town’s heritage by selling german specialties (birkenstocks sandals included) and cuisine. here’s a guide to soaking in the old-world charm of 19th-century europe in this living time capsule.
hahndorf academy 68 main street opens 10am-5pm daily; closed on christmas day and good friday http://hahndorfacademy.org.au
built as a school and taking on many incarnations later, including that of a maternity hospital, betting shop and dentist’s clinic, it was in 1960 that it was transformed into an art gallery and museum. while keeping to its original name, the academy is today a regional centre for arts and heritage. the art gallery is south australia’s largest and houses, among many masterpieces and temporary exhibitions, sketches of hahndorf by sir hans heysen. the famous landscape artist moved here with his wife in 1908 and produced a great number of drawings over a 14-year period, a selection of which he donated to the academy and now forms part of the permanent display. the german migration museum under the same roof re-enacts the lives of the town’s pioneering families, with rooms modelled after typical homes back in the day and are faithful to the last vintage detail.
st michael’s lutheran church corner of church street and balhannah road www.stmichaels.com.au
australia’s oldest surviving lutheran congregation was established under an old gum tree and worshipped there for a year until they built their first church, a mud-walled building with wooden shingles, in this very spot. as the congregation grew while the building became worn by time and the elements, a new building was erected in its place in 1859, where it still stands and serves. extensions were added over the years and some necessary changes put in place, but what has not changed is the church’s tradition of tolling the bell at noon for each year of a recently deceased member’s life on earth.
beerenberg farm mount barker road opens (shop) 9am-5pm daily; closed on christmas day
the paech were among the pioneering families of hahndorf, who built their farm on the eastern end of the town and grew traditional crops such as strawberries, corn and vegetables. over the years, beerenberg farm’s reputation for quality food produce has grown beyond hahndorf and even australia, and their brand is now widely available in various parts of the world. on their bestselling list are a variety of fruit jams, pickles, chutneys, honey and sauces. from october to april or may, you can pick your own strawberries fresh off the vines at their farm or breathe in the sweet scent at their rose gardens – the flowers are harvested for their rose petal jam.
misty hollow fantasy cave 56 main street
stuffed animals, magic tricks, streamers and twirlers that place the rainbow right at your fingertips are the delights that you greet you upon stepping into this mysterious-sounding store. no more than a toy shop at first look, the real attraction lies behind the store, in a fantasy world built over a stream. modelled after the village in wind in the willows, an audio reading of the well-loved book plays in the background to accompany your exploration of the colourful dioramas.
the german village shop 50 main street opens 9.30am-5.30pm daily
there’s no fantasy here but a good dose of traditional german artistry in the form of hand-carved cuckoo and grandfather clocks that are made in black forest. you’ll be mesmerised by the intricate wooden beauties that come with 12-year warranty each. an assortment of other german gift items makes up the rest of the store’s offerings, including hansel & gretel figurines, and local mementos that range from kitschy to tacky.
otto’s bakery 9 main street opens 7am-5.30pm, mon-fri; 8am-5.30pm, sat; 9am-5.30pm, sun
friendly service and a spacious dining area – you can also choose to sit on the verandah – makes this family-style cafe and bakery a popular stop for a light meal. german breads, rolls and biscuits are made fresh daily along with savoury pastries such as pies and quiches. but regulars will tell you that it’s their german cakes that are worth a road trip from the city. their vanilla slice constantly gets the thumbs up, with some even going as far as to hail it australia’s best. coming in a close second is the bienenstich, a melt-in-the-mouth concoction of almonds, honey and cream custard, while their oversized doughnuts grab your attention first and then your taste buds.
taste in hahndorf 35b main street opens 9am-6pm daily
sample and shop the finest local gourmet produce at this premium food store. get your fill of cheeses, fruit jams, honey, dried fruits and olive oils sourced from all over south australia that make great souvenirs for food-loving friends back home. make sure to leave room in your luggage for german sausages, a huge variety of which is available here, including jerky, salami and the mighty popular spicy mettwurst.
udder delights 91 a main street opens 9am-5pm daily www.udderdelights.com.au
opened in 1999, its funny – and punny – moniker belies just how seriously they take their cheese here. the factory is located a distance away in the town of lobethal and is not open to visitors, but their cheese cellar here welcomes dairy aficionados with a range of handmade goat’s and cow’s milk creations as well as a hot food menu featuring their most popular items, with suggested wine or beer pairings. they also serve high tea in their underground cellar.
chocolate @ no 5 5 mt barker road opens 10am-4pm, mon & thu; 9am-5pm, fri-sun & public holidays; closed tue-wed
it may not have the vaunted history or german lineage as most of its neighbours, but this chocolate lounge that’s housed in a rustic stone cottage didn’t take long to find its place among food enthusiasts visiting hahndorf. chocolatier sarina waterman draws inspirations from european chocolate artisans along with a variety of sources – including movies and books – to create her delicate cocoa delights using the finest and freshest butter, fruit purees and cream. their belgian waffles are a must-try, best paired with a mug of their velvety hot chocolate.
hahndorf sweets 54a main street opens 9.30am-5pm daily www.hahndorfsweets.com.au
step into this old-fashioned sweet store for a saccharine-filled blast from the past. occupying one of the oldest buildings in town (the quaint cottage was built in 1853) this is a treasure chest of sugary childhood memories. from colourful, patterned boiled candies to chocolate frogs and delectable homemade fudge, there is something to satiate every sweet tooth.
this article first appeared in crave/themalaymailonline on 9 nov 2014