I was really conflicted about visiting Lancaster County. On the one hand, I'd never before had the opportunity to visit an Amish area, and I was fascinated and intrigued. On the other hand, I was painfully conscious that what we were going to see was some people's everyday life - and moreso, that they were people who were trying, against the tide of modern civilization, to disconnect. Turning up to gawk at their way of life, as if they were living museum exhibits, felt awkward if not plain wrong.
Needless to say, we went anyway, but I was more shy than usual about getting the camera out. At least with a long lens, perhaps across a field, a photograph felt less like an invasion of privacy.
I'm really glad we had chance to visit. We started out with a museum of Mennonite and Amish history - Mennonites being a branch of Christianity which split from the Amish tradition and embraces more of the modern world, and which is also prevalent in Lancaster. We'd never even heard of their church before.
The signs warned drivers that we were sharing the road with Amish buggies, and they were indeed a common sight, with sturdy horses trotting along the streets. Amish women were often to be seen walking at the side of the road, and boys sometimes raced past on push-along scooters. Road names were bilingual in English and Pennsylvania Dutch (a form of German that I could almost follow in writing, though not in speech). One evening, we stopped for a cheap pizza buffet at a local chain restaurant, and were surprised to see Amish youngsters out for dinner - enjoying all-you-can-eat pizza while dressed in their simple, traditional clothes.
The most impressive sight was the farmland, with its horse-drawn machinery. It was hay-baling season when we visited, and we saw teetering hay-stacked, horse-drawn carriages on fields and roads alike.
But perhaps the most surprising element of the day was seeing a couple of camels, grazing in the middle of Amish farmland: