By Siran Babayan

LA Weekly, CA
Oct 6 2005

In a culturally crowded city like L.A., where Little Armenia cohabits
with Thai Town in East Hollywood, and the Byzantine-Latino Quarter is
just a stone's throw from Koreatown in Pico-Union, the existence of a
neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood is hardly unusual. Except, perhaps,
when that home away from home is made to look like a 365-day-a-year,
Bavarian-themed ski lodge right off the 110 freeway.

In 1968, German transplants Hans and Teri Rotter brought back a bit
of old Deutschland into sunny Torrance (home of the German American
League!) when they built Alpine Village (833 W. Torrance Blvd.,
Torrance, 310-327-4384), making it not only another expatriate
enclave but one of L.A.'s kookiest virtual tourist destinations
for locals. This "Little City From the Alps," as with most Little
Anywheres, is an idyllic version of the mother country, like winter
in a snow globe or spring carved out of a cuckoo clock that's all
kitsch and fantasy. More than 20 shops sell such tchotchkes as
lederhosen, brindles and glazed steins, while the Alpine Market
offers all foods European and beyond, from frozen Polish pierogi
to Moroccan sardines. And, if getting hitched in a Vegas drive-thru
doesn't feel quaint and cozy enough for you, there's a chapel located
on-site. Now that we're in the midst of Oktoberfest (the Mutter of
all SoCal celebrations), the beer garden becomes the sight and sound
of oompah-pah brass bands, bratwurst platters and the village's own
brewed hofbrau that flows like the Rhine. You'd have to be hammered
to do that inexplicably popular "chicken dance," in which drunken
revelers in floppy soccer-fan hats flap their arms to polka songs.

But while Alpine Village is that yearly autumn trip for most people,
there's also a dance floor full of retirees at the Alpine Village
Inn for whom this place is the senior Studio 54. Serving classier
Mitteleuropean fare like schnitzel, veal and goulash, the two-level
restaurant - look for the giant bust of Beethoven - has three bars and
will no doubt be the place to shout "G*****oal!" at the big-screen TV
come next year's World Cup. And, to be sure, there's simply nothing
more entertaining than watching elderly couples cha-cha, foxtrot and
waltz to whatever song sounds like the Muzak version of "Guantanamera,"
"Lady of Spain" or "Volare." Just study the way the couples pivot
and turn and dip like they're on a bad ballroom-dancing TV special,
only minus the costumes and nuclear-orange tans. Or the way the fan
lady fans herself as if she were a Spanish seņora, gliding along the
dance floor while stray kids fleeing the 75th-birthday tables get
caught under her feet. Get out of the way!

Not in front of the fan lady!