Summer diaries Part 2: Blue Ridge and Helen in Georgia


Having not even really started my road trip around the world, I already needed to adjust my plans. Rather than going to Nashville as planned, I ended up going only a short trip to the mountains, to Blue Ridge and Helen in the north of Georgia. I had hard time convincing myself to go to Nashville given the prospect of rain. I was pretty lucky because in Helen there was some meet up of VW fans with their German cars, which, together with the German-ish style of Helen, created a pretty interesting and unusual sight. So my first stop of my “intercontinental road trip” visiting locations in the US, Japan, Singapore, Germany, and Portugal (read more here) was one of my favorite locations in Atltanta, Castleberry Hill. I then continued to Blue Ridge and Helen.

Castleberry Hill, Atlanta, GA:

What I like about Castleberry Hill is the relaxed artsy atmosphere with a variety of surprises around each corner and an interesting mix of industrial/urban flair, art galleries, pubs, cafés, music shops, and colorful houses. Here is what wikipedia has to say:

Castleberry Hill is a neighborhood in central Atlanta, Georgia located adjacent to and southwest of the Central Business District. It is a federally recognizedhistoric district since 1985 and became a City of Atlanta Landmark District in 2006. A designated ‘landmark’ district’ helps preserve the neighborhood from overzealous developers.[citation needed]

Since 2000, the area has experienced an influx of residents and new businesses. The area, which is made up predominantly of Walker, Nelson and Peters Streets is home to a growing number of small art galleries, restaurants, and loft residences. The area also offers pristine local shopping, grocery, such as Boxcar Grocer, and spa services, like iwi Fresh. Other notable area eateries include No Mas! Cantina, a spacious Mexican-themed restaurant, bar and fine home furnishings establishment, often used as a point of reference. Castleberry Hill residents gather at local watering holes, such as Elliott Street Pub and Bottle Rocket. The crowd is normally a mix of AUC students and recent grads, residents, downtown workers, and attendees of downtown events (Philips Arena and theGeorgia Dome are located nearby.)

Castleberry Hill is home to both the Second Friday Art Stroll and Flux Night.

Blue Ridge, GA:

Blue Ridge is about 1.5 hours away from Atlanta by car and more on the touristy side. It is conveniently located to provide access to the Blue Ridge Mountains. From wikipedia:

Blue Ridge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia. With key water features, such as Lake Blue Ridge and the Toccoa River, as well as being surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail, the area draws tourists and outdoorsmen from all over the United States and abroad.

Outdoor activities include fishing, kayaking, boating, tubing, swimming, hiking, camping and blueberry picking, to name a few. The downtown area of the city is populated with several shops and antique stores. The tracks for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway bisect the downtown, with the Scenic Railway itself operating out of the town’s historic 100 year old depot. The downtown area also serves as host for several seasonal festivals.


Helen, GA:

From Blue Ridge I took one of the scenic drives to finally return via Helen. Unfortunately I rained most of the time so that I stepped out of the car only once. It (somewhat) stopped to rain when I arrived in Helen. Here is what Wikipedia says about Helen:

Formerly a logging town that was in decline, the city resurrected itself by becoming a replica of a Bavarian alpine town, in the Appalachians instead of the Alps. This design is mandated through zoning first adopted in 1969, so that the classic south-German style is present on every building, even the small number of national franchisees present (such as Huddle House and Wendy’s). Because of this, tourism is the main industry in Helen, catering mostly to weekend visitors from the Atlanta area and also, motorcyclists, who enjoy riding the beautiful roads of the Helen and its surrounding areas during all seasons. Helen is extremely crowded in late October, when autumn leaves typically peak. It also hosts its own Oktoberfest during September, October and November. There are many events and festivals throughout the year. One of the most well-known is the annual hot-air balloon race, which is held the first weekend in June each year.

While Helen is claimed to be of classic south-German style this is not completely true – trust me, I know: I am German. However, it is not that far off. The main issue probably stems from a too aggressive copying of these elements and a recombination that is “unstable”. There is one particular location with the bridge in Helen (see below) that reminded me quite a bit of Nürnberg. This weekend Helen was also the venue of the SoWo 2013 (German) Volkswagen Import Car Show which considerably added to the atmosphere: the city was full with German cars, German number plates, and various adaptations and uses of the German “Umlaute” such as, ü, ä, ö as you can for example see in the very first shot above.

Inman Park, Atlanta, GA:

And one final one from Inman Park…

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