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Bed Check: Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The Bavarian Inn's guest chalets overlook the Potomac. The view indoors isn't bad, either: a gas fireplace.
The Bavarian Inn's guest chalets overlook the Potomac. The view indoors isn't bad, either: a gas fireplace. (Zofia Smardz/The Washington Post)

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By Zofia Smardz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 4, 2010

Many moons ago, I honeymooned at the Bavarian Inn. No, not a romantic chalet in the mountains of southern Germany (sigh), but an ersatz Alpine hostelry in the countryside just a skip and a jump from Washington. Still, seeing as I'm a genuine Germanophile -- German major in college, lived and worked in Deutschland -- you might think I'd have been delighted at the idea of a Teutonic-tinged getaway for our post-wedding revels.

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Ah, but in those days I was a wannabe urban sophisticate. I would have preferred an elegant weekend at the Willard Hotel. Instead my husband had booked two nights in a West Virginia nowheresville, where I pictured dirndl-clad waitresses taking dinner orders in a country twang. Probably with oompah music playing in the background. Ach du lieber, I thought, how kitschy is that?

Well, not as kitschy as my using the phrase "ach du lieber." In fact, not very kitschy at all. Kitsch, I found, is one German import that's not much in evidence at the Asam family's gracious if geographically confused lodge on the Potomac River in no-longer-so-nowheresville Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Our memories of that honeymoon stay at the privately run inn were fuzzy -- did the room have a fireplace? -- but warm, so when our anniversary rolled around this year, we headed back for a refresher.

I did remember the long curving drive up to the big stone house -- a.k.a. Grey Stone Mansion -- at the heart of the inn's 12 acres. Nothing Bavarian about it; the air is all English country manor. But turn toward the river, and there they are: the little half-timber, nine-room guest chalets hunkering on a little hill like transplants from "Heidi." Okay, maybe you think those painted panels of mountain scenes and wildflowers skirt the edge of kitsch, but me, I love that stuff. Makes me nostalgic. As did the slightly Disneyesque, gabled and turreted Schwarzwald Haus next door (not there on our original stay) that accommodates 30 more guest rooms. Now that looks like a Bavarian inn.

Bavaria, however, stops at the door. Inside, our room was all sleek and classical -- not a doily or a tchotchke in sight -- and calming creamy colors. It was long and deep, with a luxurious king-size bed and a large sitting area with a cushy sofa and chair and -- yes, a fireplace! Okay, a gas one, but still. We're fire people, and we'll take a hiss if we can't get a crackle. The huge bathroom had two sinks (there was a third out in the entryway), a shower and a whirlpool tub.

The room was so inviting, I would have been happy to just hang out in it (especially since I was still slightly dragging from the dregs of the flu). But the free WiFi kept stalling out on my husband, so we headed up to the manor for drinks before dinner. In the Rathskeller pub in the basement, the piano player in the corner crooned old standards. No oompah!

Nor was there any in the formal restaurant (much expanded) upstairs, although yep, the waitresses wear dirndls. And ours definitely had a twang. But that's all the better to remind us that we'd left the big city behind. (Which nowadays, I'm just delighted to do, go figure.) My husband was irritated that the waitress forgot the second glass of wine he'd ordered, but when she brought it out with the bill . . . and apologized . . . and comped it . . . and said he could take it back to the room . . . . Guess what? He forgave her.

We walked down the garden steps to our chalet, and as soon as we got into the room, we switched on the gas fire. I went out onto the balcony for a moment to gaze at the river, silent and glistening in the winter moonlight. When I stepped back inside, the flames were flickering and my husband was sipping his Merlot on the couch, wearing one of the big terry-cloth robes from the closet. The words of a woman at a nearby table at dinner floated into my head: "The room is so nice, I can't wait to get back to it."

My sentiments precisely.


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