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VERMONT comes closer than any New England state to realising
the quintessential image of small-town Yankee America, with
its white churches and red barns, covered bridges and clapboard
houses, snowy woods and maple syrup. No city manages a population
of more than forty thousand (only Burlington comes close) and
the chief tourist attraction is Ben and Jerry's ice-cream factory
in Waterbury. Though rural, the landscape is not all that agricultural,
as much is covered by mountainous forests (the state's name
comes from the French vert mont , or green mountain). The people
who choose to live here are a mix of hippies and diehard conservatives
working together to preserve their environment and lamenting
the arrival of yet more ski resorts. One striking feature of
Vermont is the absence of billboards, but the cutesy "country
stores" which seem to grace every other crossroads can
This was the last area of New England to be settled, early
in the eighteenth century, with French explorers working their
way down from Canada, and American colonists beginning to spread
north. Even as that rivalry died down, another developed between
settlers from New Hampshire and those from New York. The wealthy
New York merchants who built fine homes along the Connecticut
River valley thought of themselves as the "River Gods,"
but the hardy settlers of the lakes and mountains to the west
had little time for their patrician ways. Their leader, the
now-legendary Ethan Allen , formed his Green Mountain Boys in
1770, proclaiming that "the gods of the hills are not the
gods of the valley." During the Revolutionary War, this
all-but-autonomous force captured Fort Ticonderoga from the
British and helped to win the decisive Battle of Bennington.
By 1777, Vermont was an independent republic, with the first
constitution in the world explicitly forbidding slavery and
granting universal (male) suffrage, but once its boundaries
with New York were agreed on, it joined the Union in 1791. Curiously,
the two seminal figures of the Mormon religion were both born
in Vermont shortly thereafter - Joseph Smith in 1805, and his
lieutenant and successor Brigham Young in 1801.
With the occasional exception, such as the extraordinary assortment
of Americana at the Shelburne Museum near Burlington, there
are few specific goals for tourists. Visitors come in great
numbers during two well-defined seasons: to see the fall foliage
in the first two weeks of October, and to ski in the depths
of winter, when the resorts of Killington , and Stowe further
north (home of The Sound of Music 's Trapp family), spring into
life. For the rest of the year, you might just as well explore
any of the state's minor roads that take your fancy, confident
that some picturesque village will be around the next corner.
There are far too many to list; we've had to leave out such
prime examples as Peru, Grafton and Middlebury . Further information
can be picked up from the official Welcome Center on each interstate
as it enters Vermont.
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