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LA: Mirrors: Big Fun In Little Bavaria: Alpine Village Without Tears

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  • LA: Mirrors: Big Fun In Little Bavaria: Alpine Village Without Tears

    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!