Filed under: Ohio | Tags: biblewalk, mansfield, matsos, reformatory, richland carrousel park
Where else can you ride a merry-go-round, go to jail, and then repent for your sins? Nothing embodies a day of good vs. evil like the town of Mansfield.
The lower part of Mansfield is full of empty warehouses and factories, and on a Sunday, it looks like a ghost town. But sit on a bench in the main square and enjoy the discordant circus tunes cranking out of the Richland Carrousel Park. The 52 figurines were hand-carved locally at Carrousel Works and features the kinds of animals one would only ride in fairy tales – an ostrich, a giraffe, and my favorite – a horse with a mermaid’s tail.
Our main goal for Mansfield was to tour the notorious Mansfield Reformatory. Once a Civil War army post, the fortress-like structure is most famous for being the movie set for Shawshank Redemption, as well as the video sets for Godsmack, Lil Wayne and Marilyn Manson. Our star-struck tour guide gave us a sanitized, Hollywood version of prison history, and we left there learning very little about the people who once inhabited those cell blocks.
Our group was too large, and any time we stopped to take photos, two crabby volunteers who clearly found it annoying that we were taking pictures of peeling paint and broken toilets, told us to keep moving. But the light piercing through the cracked windows was so amazing, that enduring the kindergarten treatment was worth it.
Up the road from the prison is Biblewalk, Ohio’s ‘only wax museum’ as if every state has a hundred of them. The five of us were psyched to see how kitschy this place would be, but as soon as we walked into the lobby and heard the tinny church music piping through the museum gift shop, a sudden skepticism washed over us. Despite our fears, we paid our $5 and followed a man over to the building next door to see the “Blood of the Christian Martyrs” tour.
The man led us into a pitch dark room. He flicked on the lights and explained the only rule – no cameras (of course) — then pressed a button on a wall and left. There were 13 dioramas, each narrated by a disembodied voice coming somewhere out of the wall. I thought about taking pictures anyhow, but something stopped me. I felt as if something were watching me and it sure wasn’t Him.
By this time we were worn-out from listening about Godsmack videos and Christian martyr deaths. And hungry. We drove around for over an hour, trying to find a place that was open on a Sunday during Memorial Day weekend.
Dan found a beer pub in Wooster via the GPS that sounded fine, but it ended up closed. We walked towards the town center and I spotted a pizza joint. “We’re eating there, ” I said, tired of driving around. “It could be the most hideous meal ever or it could be the most awesome food we’ve eaten on this trip.”
Matsos is awesome. It’s like walking into your grandmother’s dining room, dark wood and photographs and long tables of families sharing plates. The menu is an extensive mix of Greek and pizza specialties. Jeff and I shared a mozzarella and egg pizza, and Bill ordered the famous spaghetti pizza.
It is what it sounds like – pizza with spaghetti baked right on it. Mr. Matsos explained to our table that when his son was younger, he was sick one day and wanted something special to eat. So Mr. Matsos made him a pizza with hot dogs, a pizza with cheese and the now-famous spaghetti pie. “I called different cities all over the world,” he said. “No one serves spaghetti pizza anywhere but here.”
We finished our meal with bowls of Neapolitan ice cream, courtesy of Mr. Matsos, who also sent us on our drive home with free coffee and iced tea. I left that place sated and happy, wishing it were closer to Pittsburgh.
“It’s because of your pretty camera,” Beth said. “He thinks we’re from the media.”
Of course. The camera. Travelers finding pieces of home away from home.
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