Thursday, March 17, 2011

Haben Sie gehört das Deutsche Band?

We are always on the lookout for cool places to go, interesting people to meet, neat projects to undertake and good food to eat.  We keep our finger on the pulse of the public and our ear to the ground. Which, as the old saying goes, leaves us in a rather vulnerable position.  Sometimes we get so caught up in what's "out there," we forget to look in our own back yard.  Inspired by some vintage snapshots passed on to us by our friend Lauren at Wearing History, we developed a sudden craving for pretzels, schnitzel mit noodles and crisp Apfelstrudel.

They're trying to tell us something.
Deutschland's answer to Brenda Lee
Germans doing what Germans do best - sharing.
We needed a quick fix of German goodness.  We could have stayed home and just watched the footage of JFK's declaration, "Ich bin ein Berliner," but we wanted a more immersive experience.  Thus, we explored, and now feature for your enjoyment, our neighborhood treasure and well-known, if shamefully under-visited, Orange County landmark, Old World Village.

Old World was designed as a roadside attraction by German immigrant, Josef Bischof.  After settling in Huntington Beach, he began his faithful recreation of a small Bavarian town.  Opened in 1978, the village center is home to a grocery (complete with a butcher/deli counter, a bakery and a wide assortment of European delicacies), an active church (open regularly for worship services and weddings), a motel, a banquet hall, retail shops, restaurants, a salon, a bar and even apartments for rent.

Old World features a perpetually-spinning, life-size diorama of Bavarian dancers frozen in that most traditional of all German folk dances, "Ich sehe London, Ich sehe France."

An example of the available living spaces at Old World.
As soon as those plants grow long enough, the current
residents will be able to climb down and escape.
The Rathskeller is Huntington Beach's
oldest-operating, subterranean, German-themed bar.
Old World is home to an odd assemblage of retail storefronts that, nine times out of ten, are closed. Visiting on a weekday, Old World is a veritable ghost town.  Even on the weekends, seeing another human being is a rarity and, aside from the occasional German patron quickly making their way from their Mercedes to the Market, one would quickly assume that this place is deserted.  Unfortunately, it sits in the long and looming shadow cast by the overgrown, ultra-modern retail center across the street and rumors of demolition are constantly swirling.  Sometimes, the creepy desolation works in its favor, however, and we pretend to be Jeremy and Jemima from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang just waiting for the Child Catcher to prance around the corner.

Old World used to be a bustling attraction.  In fact, it was once a ground zero for Orange County's punk scene.  Shows were a regular occurrence but episodes of underage drinking and violence eliminated all activities of that nature.  Several shop owners have tried to bring about a renaissance to Old World's flagging economy.  Scuda, a vintage clothing store, made an admirable attempt at attracting a younger demographic, but the foot traffic of OW was too weak and the lure of Long Beach's famed 4th Street just too strong.  Once a year, during September and October, the sleepy little village comes alive with Oktoberfest Celebrations.  Festivities include beer drinking, folk dancing and Dachshund Races!!!

Fritz getting psyched up for the big race!

Who chosen diese hosen?

Woodland creatures abound.  Clearly, not
everyone is as interested to meet Bambi as I. 

Mary never passes up the opportunity to play Snow White.

A perpetuating myth is that Old World is headquarters for a
neo-Nazi movement.  Obviously, everyone is welcome at Old World.
Our favorite stop is the market, where fresh-baked treats are to be had a uber-reasonable prices.

Haben Sie ein bienenstich?

Which wurst is worst?
The obligatory light fixture.  The illustration of the drunk rat is awesome!

If you are ever in Huntington Beach, our advice is to skip overcrowded, under-clothed Main Street and head up Beach Boulevard to Old World Village.

Old World Village
7561 Center Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA


Mr. TIny


    I have never even heard of this place! I want to go see Dachshund races!

  2. WOW, I wish I'd known about this place when I lived in L.A. ! Love your dress too, it fits the atmosphere perfectly. I hope they don't tear down this piece of history, it's so lovely.

    Chicago is definitely not short in German restaurants but we don't have anything this kitsch.

  3. I totally remember that punk scene - or at least an alternative one. Old World and Kingdom of the Dancing Stallions near Knotts Berry Farm were favorites. Old World was one of the few places the under-18 crowds could get into. In the early eighties, I used to have my Dad drop me off down the street - so, my punk friends, wouldn't know a fifteen year old had a parent? LOL. What wonderful memories.

  4. I got my first pair of Birkenstocks at Old World! Oh the good old days. You should def. go there on a family night during Oktoberfest, it's a lot more tame and you get more of the lovely German folk/polka music and the possibility of seeing the twin acrobats...they have to be in their 80's by now. I found this picture of them . So MUCH FUN!