FROM GERMAN ROOTS TO VINES OF WINE, FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS IS A COLORFUL TREK

Rova Magazine, June 11th, 2018

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Child among poppies

All around me, the land is awash in fiery red.

Set against the powder blue sky of the Texas Hill Country, the fields and fields and fields of red poppies look like a sea of blood, broken only by the brilliant contrast of green leaves of the live oak trees. Behind me, the red invasion gives way to an ocean of azure as Texas bluebonnets steal the show.

From highway right-of-ways to front yard lawns to sprawling wild seed farms, Texas wildflowers are in their prime, and a wet fall and winter made the spring show even more spectacular. Every year, thousands of visitors descend upon the Texas Hill Country, which sprawls from the northern portions of San Antonio to the western area of Austin, to see nature’s canvas.

Poppies and bluebonnets spring up alongside Indian Paintbrush, Indian Blankets, Pink Evening Primrose and cabernet-colored Wine Cup along the rolling hills of west-central Texas, making this area a favorite for roadtrips, spring break and adventurers looking for indigenous beauty.

In the town of Fredericksburg, flowers are only part of the allure of this German-founded community. The Texas Hill Country, along with the dry and hot landscape of Lubbock, Texas, has become a wine enthusiast’s hotspot as well. More than two dozen wineries surround Fredericksburg, and Texas grapes are earning respect nationwide.

Spring may be the “high season” for tourism in Fredericksburg, but when the flowers go to seed, the town still attracts road trippers with its German cuisine, historic buildings, museums and, of course, wine.

GERMAN ROOTS

Located 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, Fredericksburg was supposed to be the promised land in the 1800s for German immigrants. The town, founded on May 8, 1926, by 120 German immigrants, joined neighboring German communities in the area, like New Braunfels and Fort Martin Scott.

Moving to a wild, unknown land populated by hostile Comanche Indians wasn’t easy for the settlers. The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, operated by the “Adelsverein,” attracted thousands of Germans to Texas with the promise of land and opportunity. Baron Ottfried Hans von Meusebach made an historic treaty with the Comanche Indians of the San Saba River in 1847, which, to this day, may be the only unbroken treaty made between settlers and Native Americans.

“They came to create a German village in the middle of Texas,” said Ernie Loeffler, president of the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Everywhere you look, you can still see those German roots, which makes our community so unique.”

More than 100 years later, visitors can explore the more than 700 historic structures and homes in the area, including one of the famous Texas Painted Churches, the early limestone homes like the Schandau House, original log cabin homes that have expanded over the century and the unique Sunday Houses, which are small townhomes used by German settlers who lived in rural areas.

A walking or trolley tour of Fredericksburg brings you to all the historically-significant structures, including the White Elephant Saloon, the 1853 Zion Lutheran Church, the Old Gillespie County Jail and more.

HISTORIC AND DELICIOUS

The jager schnitzel at Der Lindenbaum biergarten and restaurant was fried perfectly to a delicate fawn-colored hue, and mountains of earthy wild mushrooms covered the top of the famous German pork dish. Paired with one of the 30 German beers at the restaurant, the taste of Fredericksburg’s German history comes alive.

That heritage is found in the city’s numerous German eateries and pubs, and in October, the city revels with Oktoberfest, the traditional harvest celebration that means buckets of beer and polka music.

But Fredericksburg isn’t all German history. It is also home to the National Museum of the Pacific War, the only institution in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific Theater in World War II. This six-acre, three museum honors not only Fredericksburg’s native son Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific Ocean, but also features the only intact Japanese sub used during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Nearby, visitors step back in time to explore early life in the community at the Pioneer Museum, where families can explore original authentic buildings and homes preserved from the 19th Century Pioneer Days and explore the famous Sunday Houses of the 1800s. “Sunday Houses are unique to Fredericksburg,” said Evelyn Weinheimer, programs and activities director at the Pioneer Museum. “I think we’re the only town with the Sunday Homes.”

A SEA OF WILDFLOWERS AND WINE

Springtime is the high season in the Texas Hill Country, and the rolling landscape becomes a wash of blue and red and pinks as the wildflowers create a rainbow quilt across the land. Visitors from across the U.S. and the world trek to see the azure bluebonnets thick across fields and along highways, the delicate waves of red corn poppies and the bursts of yellows, pinks and bronze from more than 5,000 species of flowering plants.

If you love the wildflowers of Texas, you can thank former First Lady “Ladybird” Johnson for the explosion of color every spring in Texas. A champion for what she called “beautification,” Ladybird Johnson advocated for the spreading of wildflower seeds and conservation in general before conservation was cool.

The Lyndon B. Johnson State and Historic Park and the neighboring Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park pay homage to the presidential pair. On the state park side, the Sauer-Beckman Living History Farmstead features park interpreters who wear period clothing and carry out the day-to-day chores of a working Texas-German farm family, including milking cattle, cooking on original wood-burning stoves and birthing spring lambs.

On the National Historic Park side, visitors can tour the “Texas White House” where the 36th U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson conducted much of his business. Famous for signing more education and conservation bills into law than any other president, the personal side of Johnson’s life comes alive during a tour of his family home.

Not far from these historic playgrounds are the waves of wildflowers, which Johnson’s First Lady had a passion for. Wildseed Farms outside of Fredericksburg is one of the only commercial farms dedicated to wildflower seed and farming, and flower-lovers can stroll through the butterfly gardens, spend hundreds in the rustic little gift-shop, relax in the biergarten and even sample the wines from Wedding Oak Winery on site.

“This is a working wildflower farm,” said Owner John Thomas. “This is a place where we invite the public to come to see a real working wildflower farm. We say come for the flowers, and stay for the atmosphere.”

Another way to enjoy the colors of nature is a guided bicycle tour on the back roads of Hill County with Hill Country Bicycle Works or a hike up the immense and geologically-wondrous Enchanted Rock at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

A stop at Luckenbach Texas, made famous by the Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson No. 1 country song "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love),” is a must. Luckenbach maintains a ghost-town feel with remnants of a post office, a dance hall, a working saloon and a general store, and every day but Christmas, Luckenbach still hosts “pickers” musicians and slings cold beer.

FEDERICKSBURG AS A DESTINATION

Today, Fredericksburg is a “boutique community,” boasting of breweries, distilleries, sprawling antique stores and unique little shops like fair-trade store Raven + Lily (made famous by HGTV host of Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines), the L.M Easterling Boot Company which designs custom-fitted Western boots and the brand-new Blackchalk Home and Laundry, a distinctive little home goods store built in an old commercial Laundromat.

Finding a place to rest each night isn’t an issue as the town now boasts of more than 20 hotels and more than 1,200 bed and breakfast inns and guest homes.

“People come here for the history, wine and cuisine,” said Loeffler. “With 18 wine tour companies, bicycling, hiking and rock climbing, you’re not going to get bored.”

For more information on Fredericksburg and activities available, visit www.visitfredericksburgtx.com.

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