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Fredericksburg, Texas - a bit of Bavaria in the heart of Texas Hill Country

Get the German Experience in the Heart of the Southwest

by Neilia Sherman

German cuisine in Fredericksburg, Texas

When you think of Texas, German culture is not what comes to mind, but somehow the people of Fredericksburg have managed to combine both German and Texan influences into a town with a delightfully unique atmosphere right in the heart of Texas Hill Country.

Fredericksburg, originally named after Prince Frederick of Prussia, was settled by German immigrants who came to America in search of their own land. This particular area was chosen by the surveying party because of the abundance of water, stone and timber in the region. When the first 160 settlers arrived, the town was precisely laid out just like the German villages along the Rhine. Each settler got one town lot and ten acres of farmland nearby.

What makes Fredericksburg particularly interesting is the commitment that residents have made to preserving and sharing their unique history and culture. In the middle of the town is the Pioneer Museum Complex, a collection of buildings and artifacts that is well worth checking out to gain a sense of the area's history.

Church and community were so important that each family built one or two room structures that came to known as Sunday Houses, so that when they came to town for church, they would have somewhere to rest and partake of a meal (rather than always expecting their relatives to put them up). Farmers drove as many as 20 miles to town and used these miniature homes for weekends and religious holidays . Eventually it became easier to get to town and the Sunday Houses were no longer used for that purpose. Today there are preserved Sunday Houses throughout the town and one of the oldest, the Weber House, stands in the Pioneer complex.

Fredericksburg, Texas restaurant

Fredericksburg has an unusually wide main street, thanks to the pre-planning by the original settlers, and it is a street that is a lot of fun to browse due to the numerous specialty shops, boutiques and stores that sell Texas souvenirs and western wear. It's simply the kind of place where you never know what you'll find. For instance, I went into an average looking coffee shop and found a huge western/cowboy themed mural along one of the walls along with various signs and items that all cried Wild, Wild West.

Restaurants offer an appealing combination of Tex Mex and typical German foods like strudel and schnitzel. I highly recommend the Fredericksburg Brewing Company where beer is made on the premises, for a night of fun in great atmosphere and for lunch or tea; you can't beat Rather Sweet Bakery & Café or the Peach Tree Gift Gallery and Tea room

Different than the rest of Texas in look, feel and culture, Fredericksburg has the aura of a place where you would go for a rejuvenating weekend getaway. The numerous bed and breakfasts add to the quaint atmosphere.

Now there is another option, the new Hangar Hotel which provides an entirely different getaway experience. When I first saw it, I thought that I would be sleeping in a converted hangar and didn't expect much, however, the unassuming exterior makes the hotel that much more attractive when you step inside. Owner Richard Estenson tells me that he thinks of the 40s as one of the most romantic eras of the 20th century (think Casablanca). He decided to create a hotel that combines his love of aviation with his fondness for the South Pacific WWII era.

Hangar Hotel - Fredericksburg, Texas

Estenson was a pilot who wanted to fly in a fighter plane, yet he ended up becoming an engineer. Twelve years ago, attracted to the German culture and the sense of community, he moved with his family to Fredericksburg and bought the Brewery Restaurant and B&B. He then moved on to fulfill his dream of creating a hotel with the feeling of a wartime South Pacific air force base and he put an incredible amount of effort into researching and constructing his vision down to the last detail. Outside of the hotel is a billboard featuring a 40s pinup girl, a large searchlight, a palm tree, and the Airport Diner -- all are extremely authentic looking. The construction took two years and Estenson is pleased with the looks of surprise when guests walk in after seeing the understated outside to find the elegant boutique hotel inside.

Decorative influences continue right down to the last detail; there are even palm tree motifs to be found in the carpets and curtains which are reminiscent of the South Pacific.

This hotel theme fits in nicely with the impressive collection of WWII and South Pacific artifacts at the nearby National Museum of the Pacific War.

Tennis courts, a golf course and a swimming pool are nearby and there is a golf cart path that will allow guests to borrow a cart from the hotel and access these facilities during longer stays.

Hangar Hotel lobby

Staying at the Hangar Hotel is a real experience, from looking at planes taking off from the special observation deck, to eating at the authentic diner, to having a drink at the officers club and enjoying a game of pool before dinner. The decor is plain as Estenson has tried to stay within his theme down to the black, 40s-style dial telephones on the tables but all of the items are of excellent quality. Each room has a king bed made of mahogany wood with rattan inserts, a comfortable chair and ottoman made from brown bomber leather, and a retro black and white tiled bathroom. To further attract women for weekend getaways, I would recommend room service and more extensive television/movie services be added in the future.

Rates range from a reasonable $95 to $139 a night and include a breakfast of your choice at the Airport Diner. The diner really brought me back in time with its roomy booths and long marble counter and gleaming leather stools. The food is that pre-Atkins delicious fare such as burgers, milk shakes and hand battered onion rings. I especially enjoyed my breakfasts of hearty omelets and delicious waffles washed down with cups of smooth tasting coffee.

There are excellent restaurants nearby and one of the nicest is the Cotton Gin where the mixture of German and Tex-Mex culture is obvious as it is in many of the restaurants. Excellent service and an inviting atmosphere, due to the presence of an antique cotton gin, a large stone fireplace and a lovely stained glass window give the place an a nice upscale rural feel- I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Texas.

Don't leave Texas Hill Country without a trip to the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, where herbal remedies and handmade candles are sold. There is a lovely wildflower garden, a spa and a quaint tea room amongst the herb gardens.

Fredericksburg Herb Farm Wildflower Garden

The dedication that Fredericksburg locals show to their history and to their present-day community life sets this town apart and makes it a natural choice for an enjoyable getaway that is a bit out of the ordinary.

There is something for the history buff, power shoppers, aviation lovers and anyone who enjoys friendly people, great food and a chance to lose yourself in another place and time.


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