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PENNSYLVANIA , which, but for a small stretch on Lake Erie
is the only landlocked state in the northeast, was explored
by the Dutch in the early 1600s, settled by the Swedes forty
years later, and claimed by the British in 1664. Charles II
of England, who owed a debt to the Penn family, rid himself
of the potentially troublesome young William Penn , an enthusiastic
advocate of religious freedom, by granting him land in the colony
in 1682. Penn Jr. immediately established a "holy experiment"
of "brotherly" love and tolerance, naming the state
for his father and setting a good example by signing a peaceful
cohabitation treaty with the Native Americans. Most of the early
agricultural settlers were religious refugees: Quakers like
Penn himself, Mennonites from Germany and Switzerland, to be
joined later by Irish Catholics during the potato famines of
the nineteenth century..
"The keystone state" was crucial in the development
of the US. Politicians and thinkers like Benjamin Franklin congregated
in Philadelphia - home of both the Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution - and were prominent in articulating the
ideas behind the Revolution. Later, the battle in Gettysburg,
south Pennsylvania - best remembered for Abraham Lincoln's immortal
Gettysburg Address - marked a turning point in the Civil War.
Pennsylvania was also vital industrially: Pittsburgh, in the
west, was the world's leading steel producer in the nineteenth
century, and nearly all the nation's anthracite coal is still
The two great urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh
, both lively and vibrant tourist destinations, are at opposite
ends of the state. The three hundred miles between them, though
predominantly agricultural, are topographically diverse. There
are over one hundred state parks, with green rolling countryside
in the east, brooding forests in the west, and in the northeast,
the rivers, lakes and valleys of the Poconos. Lancaster County
, home to traditional Amish farmers, and the Gettysburg battlefield
both heave with busloads of day-trippers, while the Hershey
chocolate factory, minutes away from Harrisburg , the capital,
draws thousands of cocoa-loving visitors each year.
Although to appreciate the less-populated stretches of Pennsylvania
you really need a car , public transportation is adequate if
you organize your trip carefully. Both I-76 (the Pennsylvania
Turnpike) and I-80 sweep all the way across to Ohio, nearly
five hundred miles east to west. US-30 (the Lincoln Highway)
also runs east-west between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, past
Lancaster City, York and Gettysburg, while the prettiest north-south
route is US-15, from Maryland to New York State, which follows
the Susquehanna River for about fifty miles.
Amtrak crosses daily from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, stopping
at Lancaster City, Harrisburg and other smaller towns. Greyhound
covers all the major cities and some small towns not served
by rail, but its routes can be circuitous; check arrival times
when buying your ticket, especially if you need to make a connection.
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