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Pennsylvania – In the Cradle of Democracy

Pennsylvania is by many regarded to be the cradle of the American democracy. Indeed, with Philadelphia as one of the two most important metropolis in the colonial and revolutionary era as well as the Early Republic, the state, which had been founded by William Penn as an “Holy Experiment” of religious freedom, was the cultural and political center for many decades. Today, Pennsylvania gives testimony for its rich and important past. Few other states on the East Coast combine a wide array of great historic sites, including the pre-modern lifestyle one can witness in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a beautiful nature, as well as one of the great cities on the East Coast, featuring some of the greatest cultural treasures in the US.

The state of Pennsylvania reaches from the Atlantic shore to the Great Lakes. Its area, though, some 46,000 square miles, makes it one of the smaller states. Population-wise, the 12 million Pennsylvanians make the state the number 6 of the 50 states. Pennsylvania was the second state to enter Union ranks, on December 12, 1787. The altitudes in the state range from sea level at the Delaware River, separating Pennsylvania from her eastern neighbor New Jersey, up until 3,213 feet on Mount Davis, the highest peak in the state. Philadelphia (the name derives from the Greek words for “Brotherly Love”) is the largest city and metropolitan area. The city itself is home to almost 1.5 million people, the metropolitan area is inhabited by almost 6 million. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s other great city, also ranks among the Top 20 US metropolitan area. The majority of Pennsylvania residents, some 53 %, are Roman-Catholic, a number testifying for the large Scottish-Irish and German immigration, especially in the 19th century.


The City of Brotherly Love was founded by the colony’s proprietor and name giver William Penn in 1683, as the center of what he called his “Holy Experiment.” Penn, a member of the long-persecuted Quakers, wanted his colony to become a haven of religious toleration. During the revolution, Philadelphia hosted the Continental Congress. In the old Pennsylvania State House, today’s Independence Hall, both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed.

Independence Hall and the neighboring Liberty Bell are two of the most popular historical sites in the city, symbolizing Philadelphia’s important contribution to the US past. The famous bell with the long crack was originally located in the Pennsylvania State House. Modern-day Philadelphia is one of the great cultural centers on the East Coast. The world-famous Museum of Art was popularized by not only its great collection of Impressionist and Modern Art but maybe even more by the movie “Rocky” (in which Sylvester Stallone famously dashes up the Art Museum’s front stairs). The Philadelphia Orchestra, playing in the giant Kimmel Center, is one of the “Big Five” US orchestras – a visit to one of their concerts is a must for all music-lovers. For those who want to escape the city for a while, the recently-developed Schuylkill River Trail follows the river northbound through beautiful woods and national parks.

The Poconos

Located in the northeastern region of the state, the Pocono Mountains are among Pennsylvania's most beautiful natural parts. The area is becoming especially popular as a weekend and holiday refuge for stressed-out New York City slickers who are looking for a idyllic and peaceful surrounding. One of the nicest corners bears witness even in its name: Lake Harmony, in the White Haven area, invites for numerous whitewater and other sports activities. Other peaceful lakes include Arrowhead Lake, and Lakes Ariel and Wallenpaupack.

Mount Pocono is located in Monroe County, some 67 miles northeast of Newark, New Jersey. Extensive woods and winding paths and roads on the surrounding hills make the area an ideal target for hikers. The nature is especially magnificent in the Indian Summers. Accomodation in the area ranges from romantic cottages to more luxurious vacation homes.

Lancaster County

Lancaster County is the heart of the so-called “Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” Here, the Amish and other Mennonite groups live a life without the inventions and changes brought about by the industrial revolution. Visitors can take horse buggy tours, visit Amish shops and farms and get to know their anachronistic lifestyle, which is centered around the family, the ethnic and religious group. Originally not from Holland, as the name might suggest, but from the German Palatinate region, the Amish are an indispensable part of rural Pennsylvania and are valued as the best carpenters and farmers in the region. Their home-grown and independently-produced products are a culinary delight. For those who are willing to experience the Amish way of life longer, various accommodation like cozy bed & breakfast places are provided throughout Lancaster County.

Valley Forge

Valley Forge in Eastern Pennsylvania was the site of the winter headquarters of the American (Continental) Army during the winter of 1777/78, when Philadelphia was occupied by the British. In the National Historical Park, visitors can learn everything there is to know about the valley’s place in history. On top of that, Valley Forge has some of the most astounding natural beauty in Pennsylvania. On the 3,500 acres of the park, numerous streams, among them the large Schuylkill River, and creeks are flowing through green pastures, meadows, and forests. The area is a wildlife oasis; the white-tailed deer are among the most famous animal species existing here.


Site of what many call the most important battle during the Civil War, which was won by the Union army on July 1-3, 1863, Gettysburg today displays thousands of monuments and statues commemorating the battle and the victims from the North and the South, who died for their respective cause. Visitors can take battlefield tours along the hundreds of cannons (there are both original and replica cannons) that indicate the former frontlines, or climb Little Round Top and imagine the tenacious “20th Maine”, who bravely defended the left flanks of the Union army here. In Gettysburg, you can witness history behind every stone.

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