Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More of the Texas Hill Country: Gruene and New Braunfels, Texas

Naegelin's, the oldest bakery in Texas, is in downtown New Braunfels.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Guadalupe River provided power for a gristmill, the land proved perfect for growing cotton and until the boll weevil and Great Depression, times were good in Gruene [Green], the settlement founded by the Groene family. When the family died out so did the town except for Gruene Hall, the dance hall and saloon.

It never closed and now the town, a small microcosm of turn-of-the-century buildings, is a popular weekend getaway. Old buildings have become trendy specialty shops, the Gristmill is a busy restaurant and Henry Groene Jr.'s home, next to the Hall, is now a spiffy B & B.

Tip: Gruene Mansion Inn  is the place to stay. If you want a touch of yesteryear with modern amenities, stay in the Inn proper, but realize the side overlooking the dance hall is noisy when the bands are playing. If you want quiet, opt for one of the newer units down by the Guadalupe River. The Inn has stairs and the newer units come on a first or second floor so insist on ground level if you need to. Walking is the only way to see the town itself, but it's small, level and doable.

Follow the river to New Braunfels [BROWN-fulls] for a more in-depth look at how the area founded in 1845 by a German prince developed and thrived. History and architecture buffs will find much to enjoy but kids and the young at heart will absolutely love it.

One of the main reasons - Schlitterbahn, America's No. 1 water park according to the Travel Channel. Loosely translated it means "slippery road," and with 40 separate watery attractions there's a lot of slippin' and sliding to be enjoyed. From the end of November until the first week of January, more than one million lights, an ice skating rink and shows turn it into a winter wonderland.

Landa Park is 196-acres of natural beauty with a municipal golf course, tubing chute, trout fishing, arboretum, miniature golf, picnic facilities, miniature train and pools fed by Comal Springs which produces the Comal River, the shortest in the U. S.

Warning: It's hilly.

Locals remind you of the seven museums, call their home "the town of tin ceilings" and, if you're lucky, will direct you to Henne Hardware, the state's oldest hardware store, which has everything, the town murals and Naegelin's. the oldest bakery in Texas. Come the end of October, Wurstfest, a 10-day celebration of sausage, takes over the town.

Tip: Historic Walking Tour Guides of downtown are available at the Visitor Center. We lucked into a tour by raconteur and resident Wayne Rahe, which was one of those you didn't want to end.

The Hill Country really shouldn't be missed. As if to make it irresistible, you can start or finish in two of the state's most enjoyable cities, Austin or San Antonio.


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