So we’d laid ourselves the challenge.. could we do Austin all in one day? Austin isn’t very far from San Antonio so we thought it could be possible…
To get to Austin we did a detour through the hill country that is north west of San Antonio and sort of west-ish from Austin. The hill country is the cutesy weekender type of area that is close to both San Antonio and Austin and so is chock full of antique stores, B+Bs, restaurants, crafty type shops.. I’m sure you get the drift. We didn’t have the time to do all the little country towns but we did do a stop at Fredricksburg, the largest of the cutesy hill country towns. It was settled by Germans back in the late 1800s so is full of bratwurst, beirgartens and in our case we found a bakery. All though it was labelled as “Alt Deutsche” it wasn’t really what I remember German bakeries to be like.. For starters no real coffee!! What the?!?! German’s would be devastated to find only percolated (and sitting for ever) black coffee awaiting them! Our morning tea was this enormous cream bun type of thing- it was so large we split it three ways and I still felt a little unwell after consuming.
Anyway, enough whinging about the Alt Deutsche bakehouse and back to the drive to Austin.. We didn’t do a lot of site seeing in Fredricksburg, we are on a tight timeline and we didn’t need to spend hours trawling through kitschy artisan type shops, but instead left town and stopped at the Texas Rangers memorial.
So Texas Rangers.. the only real thing I think of when I think Texas Ranger is either baseball or Chuck Norris. In fact they were founded as almost a vigilante group who were put in place as volunteers to keep “law and order” in the new settlements. Today, I think they are the state troopers.. those that investigate the more serious crimes (no traffic for these dudes). I personally didn’t do any of the Texas Rangers memorial, I spent my time wandering around the adjacent living museum of some old fort. The forts covered this part of Texas to protect the settlers after Texas joined the Union (against the raiding Indians). Not much to report but did get a nice walk in the sunshine. (It is blessedly warm in this part of Texas—so happy to be back enjoying summer weather)
Into Austin, and our first stop was at the Capitol building. The Capitol looks remarkably similar to Congress in Washington with the exception that the building is made of dusty pink bricks. Inside, even looked a bit similar! Left hand side of the rotunda was the Senate and right hand side the House of Reps. Biggest difference between our houses and the US ones… The Senate is green and the House of Reps red! J Otherwise pretty similar (even the same sounding bell calling them in to sit). We sat in on 10mins of the senate debate- the piece we saw was far more civilised than our question time- we either got them at a good time or the Texan Senate is much more polite!
Lunch next, and a quick stop to have a sandwich before heading to the Texas Musuem about five blocks from the Capitol. The Museum was definitely worth the visit. The ground floor was an exhibition on a ship wreck that they have pulled out of the Galveston harbour. The ship was sailed by La Salle when he was looking for places to settle French immigrants. After depositing the immigrants the ship was caught in a storm and sank. All the settlers ended up dying of either disease or by raiding Indians so hence very little French impact in Texas. The ship had been partially preserved in the mud so you can actually see the bottom of the hull, cannons from off ship, porcelain etc.. very well excavated out of the harbour.
Second floor was the floor I was most interested in, it covered the time of Spanish + Anglo settlement, through the revolution + after the civil war. First thing I really understood today is the fact that Texans are similar to Qlders… Texans are Texans first and Americans second. They have good reason to think like this. For starters they have a very different colonisation story to any other state. They fought their own revolution against the Mexican government + fought many battles against raiding Indian parties to found the state of Texas. They were a slave state and were on the losing side of the Civil war but no longer have the “issues” that are more evident in the other southern states. Texas is a prosperous state (largely thanks to Black Gold and Beef) and this is evident everywhere you go.
Interesting tid bit about Texas.. it was the largest cotton producing state prior to the civil war and had the least physical damage after the war (still lost a lot of money but didn’t have the mass devastation to crops/ buildings etc). I won’t recount the rest of the history of pre civil war Texas (I’ve already relayed most of it through other posts).. Post civil war, had the largest concentration of KKK members of any state until the state elected a female governor in the early 20th C who outlawed the KKK and introduced prohibition.. The combination of the two lead to the KKK becoming almost obsolete in this southern of southern states.
Oil + beef are the next biggest turning points in the history of Texas.. Although I will say that I still haven’t seen any oil derricks in Texas (New Mexico yes, Texas no!). With the real slump in cotton prices, local Texans changed their ranches from cotton producing to Beef producing and so the late 19th and early 20th C saw the rise of the cattle drive + cowboys.
We actually got kicked out of the museum at 5pm but our whirlwind Austin visit was not yet over.. Last must see stop in Austin is some live music + great food. Apparently Austin is famous for its live music and bars.. we did see plenty of bars but on a Monday night finding a bar open with live music wasn’t as easy as the guide book made out. We drove down South Congress Ave (according to my guide book filled with great shops, bars and restaurants) and we did find some good shops but struggled with the bars + food…. Next stop was to Rainey street. We had met a couple a few nights previously in San Antonio who had recommended Rainey St as a must see.. We weren’t disappointed. A small tree lined street filled with restaurants and bars. One in particular really seemed to hit the spot—a German sausage + beer house with a band playing. Huge turn out for a Monday night.. place was packed- we got to sit outside under the stars, enjoying bratwurst + beer… What more could you ask for?!
Thanks Austin for the whirl wind one day visit