Saturday, November 15, 2008

It Was the Wurst of Times

The signs of autumn have arrived here in Texas; the leaves are turning, the mornings are cool, and it's time for the eagerly-awaited New Braunfels Wurstfest! This 10-day salute to sausage galvanizes the entire town as over 100,000 people flock to the Wurstfest grounds to eat German food, listen to polkas, and heft a pitcher or two of German beer. It's a well-oiled machine that has been going on for over 45 years, and offers a theater production ("Raiders of the Lost Wurst"), carnival rides, and an arts & crafts show. We decided to wait until the last day, a Sunday, to visit, hoping that we'd avoid the big crowds (we did). Paying our $8 entrance fees to the liederhosen-clad gate attendant, we entered the grounds and headed for the Wursthall, the largest of the three live-entertainment areas, where the eleven-member Jimmy Sturr orchestra was playing. The hall was nicely decorated, filled with picnic tables, and conveniently located next to the beer and food vendors. We settled in to listen to the polkas, but it wasn't long before I headed for the food area (funnel cake for Brenda, bier bratwurst with sauerkraut for me). We decided to skip the beer ($17 a pitcher domestic, $25 for German) since it was early in the day, but looking around we could see we were in the minority. With entry fee, food, and a few beers a visit to the Wurstfest could become a pricey evening; but hey, you can drop the kids off at the "Kinderhall" where they'll be supervised, tank up on Spaten Munich beer, eat a bier brat or two, dance the polka, and take a shuttle back to your hotel ($10). If the big hall is too crowded, no problem, there are two more entertainment areas, "Das Grosse Zelt" (the big tent) where we listened to Lorelei and Schatzi yodel, or "Das Kleine Zelt", where Oma and the Oopahs were wowing the audience. Taking a moment to look at the crowd, it was interesting to note what we didn't see - men with earrings, teenagers with purple spiked hair (or teenagers, period), mullet haircuts, or noticeable tattoos. There were lots of families, but the bulk of the crowd was those of us who are more senior in age and therefore better able to appreciate a good beer, brat, or polka. It was an interesting and enjoyable visit; next year we'll plan on making an evening of it - too bad we can't park the motorhome within walking distance.
Trying to find a place that would remind us of being back east in the fall, we visited the Lost Maples State Natural Area, a park near Bandera where an area of uncommon Uvalde Bigtooth Maple trees are found. Driving through Bandera, which bills itself the "Cowboy Capital of the World", we both agreed that they could use more "cowgirls" to help dress up what was an unattractive, run-down looking town. Arriving at the park, we found that in keeping with our "wurst of times" theme, we were about a week late to see the maple trees in their fall foliage, but had at least avoided the crowd of over 5000 that had visited the previous Saturday. Still, it was a nice walk through the canyon; it was a beautiful day and there were still a few colorful trees. The hill country of Texas is beautiful place; we enjoyed the drive, although we both wished we still had a Miata to drive on the twisting roads. Ah well, we can only tow one vehicle behind the motorhome at a time, so we'll have to stick with the SUV. We'll be out exploring again soon, stop back and see where!

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