Michigan’s Little Bavaria: Frankenmuth’s Historical and Contemporary Impact

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can't name at least one German celebrity, be it model Heidi Klum or any number of world-class soccer players. If you’re in the Wolverine State, though, you don’t have to go to Europe to experience a slice of German culture.

Down in Saginaw County, in a town that over 5,000 people call home, you can step into what is very much a piece of Germany. Affectionately labeled “Little Bavaria,” the city of Frankenmuth may be a bit touristy, but it’s quintessentially German and has been since its settlement in 1845. You won’t spot tennis star Boris Becker there, but to this day, it’s still offering a slice of Germany to the people of the US.

German influences continue in Michigan to this day

Naturally, German is a top-choice section language for many Europeans. But with the presence of Frankenmuth, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that German lessons are also popular in Michigan. Of course, the ability to pick your price, tutor, and lesson times for live chat teaching makes learning German easier and streamlined, but the inspiration is clearly being powered by “Little Bavaria,” the fun to be had there, and the language’s use in the city.

As noted, Frankenmuth itself has around 5,000 residents, but over 34,000 people in Michigan speak the German language at home. Of course, there are more people of German ancestry and origin than those who live in Frankenmuth, but it speaks to the strong presence of the language. “Little Bavaria” gives many reasons to try German, with it being loaded with quintessentially German activities.

Without a doubt, the World Expo of Beer and its very own Frankenmuth Oktoberfest festival are among the most novel German experiences. With these comes a myriad of classic German cuisine and music, which always makes for an enjoyable time and one that’s very different from what you might find in the other US, or even Michigan, cities. There’s even a balloon festival on Memorial Day.

How a piece of Germany ended up in Michigan

Germany’s ties to this small part of Michigan go back centuries. While not going as far back as the period depicted in the Netflix’s hit show Barbaren, you need to go back to 1845. In the spring, settlers left Germany, docked in New York, traveled to Detroit, and arrived in what would be Frankenmuth in Saginaw in the summer.

As you may find out if you were to visit the Frankenmuth museum, settlers intended to convert Native Americans to their religion, but the Lutheran group wasn’t given much of a chance to do so. A few years after the Germans arrived and erected a church, the Native Americans moved away. Frankenmuth remained loyal to Bavaria, used German as their language of choice, and welcomed compatriots until the 1940s.

Frankenmuth is still a distinctly German city, with a few other German settlements around to bolster the German contingency further. As a result, anyone in Michigan can enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of Bavaria simply by going down to Saginaw County.