Sweeping hills, giant platters of sausage and kraut, overflowing beer steins, and hefty men clad in lederhosen playing polka till their fingers turn blue—all in Fredericksburg, a town that is both remarkably German and completely Texan.
8:00 a.m. I started the day north of town at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a must-see natural granite dome rising 425 feet above the surrounding landscape. This natural landmark is so incredible that Native Americans attributed supernatural power to it. The park offers lots of activities, but by far the most popular is hiking to the summit of the Enchanted Rock dome. So, I filled my water bottles (yes, plural) and hit the trail. Very soon the dirt beneath my feet turned to rock, and like an ant climbing a basketball, I found myself in a wide-open scramble to the top of this gigantic smooth stone.
9:30 a.m. After a slow and steady climb, I eventually reached the summit. And just as soon as I started to catch my breath, the views took it away again as I looked out over miles and miles of beautiful Hill Country. I shared high-fives with a few fellow climbers, and then decided to descend into the depths of the Enchanted Rock cave, a crevice near the top of the dome. Guided only by my small flashlight, I squeezed in between rocks and over boulders, following a path of spray-painted arrows. Just when I thought the rock had swallowed me whole, a small ray of light pierced the darkness. I emerged thankful to be alive and began my descent.
12:00 p.m. On my way into town, I stopped at Kuckuck’s Nest. Run by German-turned-Texan Paula Kager, this store imports lederhosen, bundhosen, and any other type of “hosen” a grown man can get away with wearing in public. It was the perfect way to begin my German immersion.
1:00 p.m. Donning my new get-up, I drove to Main Street for lunch at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company. I ordered a plate of Schinken Schnitzel—a fried pork cutlet topped with ham, cheese, and Dijon sauce—with sides of hot potato salad and sauerkraut, and celebrated my successful summit expedition with a pint of house-brewed Enchanted Rock Red Ale.
2:00 p.m. With my new German belly bulge, I hit Main Street to spend some time browsing its blocks of local shops. I sampled countless hot sauces at Rustlin’ Rob’s and then stopped into Clear River for a scoop of homemade “Amaretto, Peach, & Pecan” ice cream made from local peaches in season. I indulged in a history lesson at the Vereins Kirche museum and even did a little pickin’ and grinnin’ at Hill Country Music.
3:00 p.m. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the National Museum of the Pacific War, which tells the story of World War II’s Pacific Theater with a world-class collection of artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays. The museum, which also preserves the legacy of Fredericksburg native Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater, brings to life the harsh reality of war and honors all the men and women who sacrificed for our country. It stands in solemn contrast to the excitement of Main Street, but only adds to the historically diverse community that is Fredericksburg.
7:00 p.m. For dinner, I decided to splurge at the Navajo Grill, a gastronomically delectable, Southwest-inspired restaurant. My grilled pork chop topped with pear chutney was absolutely delicious, and along with a side of ancho mashed potatoes, created one of the best meals I’ve ever had in the Hill Country. The white-chocolate bread pudding added to my belly bulge.
As you see, there’s little reason to cross the pond to the old country, when Texas’ own Little Bavaria is just a day trip away. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper travel show on PBS.