Auf geht’s! During our “Fabric of America” adventure, we stopped in south-central Texas to spend time exploring some historically German cities in the region and in Texas Hill Country.
One of the towns we spent a few hours in was New Braunfels, Texas. This place reeks of German history and heritage, and I personally have a familial connection to it.
When I was a kid, my grandparents on my mom’s side used to spend their winters in New Braunfels. (Well, my grandmother and my step-grandfather, but that’s splitting hairs since he’s the only grandfather I ever knew.)
While I don’t remember a lot about our short time there, I do remember how they took us to a beer hall or ballroom or something and we all had to do the chicken dance, and there was all kinds of German music playing and whatnot.
My grandparents were stylish as hell. I mean, their names were Vi and Herb, for Pete’s sake. Think about those names, and think about the 70s and 80s, and you pretty much get the idea of how awesome they were.
So anyway, we were staying in San Marcos, courtesy of the fine folks at Red Roof Inn, and we used that as a base for several days to dig into some Germany history.
Most people who actually know of New Braunfels know it for its famous Schlitterbahn water park and slide. We didn’t bother with that, as we had German on our mind.
While we unfortunately found that a lot of the German culture in south-central Texas is fading – read some of our other posts here – we were delighted to hit New Braunfels and find that it’s still more or less itself.
It’s not German, but it has plenty of German cultural history everywhere you look, and hasn’t become dreadfully kitschy like the town of Fredericksburg.
New Braunfels is growing fast and is starting to sprawl quite a bit, but this is no surprise given that it’s located directly between the metropolises of Austin and San Antonio.
The downtown core is relatively intact and we were able to walk around, pointing out all the little pieces of German history here and there.
We also stumbled across this sign, which made our day given our penchant for drinking that sweet nectar of the gods.
You know we went for the cure. And we saw that even the newspaper keeps a little bit of its German heritage.
Strolling around, we also ran into this little guy. According to the owner, he was half dingo. Half dingo! But really, who knows. He was cute as a button and we were happy to get sucked into giving him all of our attention for a while.
It was also nice to see the old train depot in town. I really wish train travel were more of a ‘thing’ in the U.S., but that’s another story and another argument for another time. We were glad to see it was kept up and intact, regardless of our feelings about transportation in America.
We eventually made our way around town and gravitated to Naegelin’s Bakery. In operation since 1868, it claims to be the oldest bakery in Texas.
Whether or not that’s true, the fare they serve is some of the best in the business. We chatted with the staff for a while, and bought plenty of strudel and other pastries – way more than we’d ever need – before heading out of town.
After strolling some more, we hopped in the car and made our way over to the old beer hall and festival grounds.
I have no idea if this is where my grandparents took us – it feels a lot bigger than what I remember – but it still brought back some fond memories, regardless of whether or not we were at the wrong place.
This is one of the areas where the world-renowned Wurstfest takes place every year, and tens of thousands of people come out to celebrate German heritage. Well, they probably, mostly come out to celebrate gluttony in all its fantastic forms: food, music, dancing, and of course, beer.
And that was that! While we didn’t spend a great deal of time in New Braunfels and definitely didn’t see it all, we loved seeking out little corners of German history here and there, and of course stopping in for some delicious baked treats.
If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, it’s worth a visit. Even more so if you’re there in the fall, when Wurstfest explodes into a cacophony of German party time.
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Have you ever been to New Braunfels? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!