Central Texas stretches from the prairies of the northeast, through the green and fertile Hill Country, and into the chalky limestone landscape of the west. It includes two of Texas’ most pleasant cities: the music-oriented state capital of Austin, and eighty miles to the south, Hispanic-flavoured San Antonio.
Across much of the landscape, agriculture has been the economic mainstay ever since the resistant Comanche were packed off to reservations in the 1840s. The slave-driven cotton plantations of the south and east are gone, but small communities set up by Polish, Czech, Norwegian, German and Swedish immigrants in the Hill Country maintained, even until very recently, the traditions, architecture and languages of their homelands.Read More
The Hill Country
The Hill Country
The rolling hills, lakes and valleys of the HILL COUNTRY, north and west of Austin and San Antonio, were inhabited mostly by Apache and Comanche until after statehood in 1845, when German and Scandinavian settlers arrived. Many of the log-cabin farming communities they established are still here, such as New Braunfels (famous for its sausages and pastries, and, more recently, its watersports), Fredericksburg and Luckenbach. You may still hear German spoken, and the German influence is also felt in local food and music; conjunto, for example, is a blend of Tex-Mex and accordion music. The whole region is a popular retreat and resort area, with some wonderful hill views and lake swimming, and some good places to camp. History buffs will gravitate towards various sites related to the childhood of former US president Lyndon B. Johnson.
With neither the modern skyline of an oil metropolis, nor the tumbleweed-strewn landscape of the Wild West, attractive and festive SAN ANTONIO looks nothing like the stereotypical image of Texas – despite being pivotal in the state’s history. Standing at a geographical crossroads, it encapsulates the complex social and ethnic mixes of all of Texas. Although the Germans, among others, have made a strong cultural contribution, today’s San Antonio is predominantly Hispanic. Now the seventh largest city in the US, it retains an unhurried, organic feel and is one of the nicest places in Texas to spend a few days.
Founded in 1691 by Spanish missionaries, San Antonio became a military garrison in 1718, and was settled by the Anglos in the 1720s and 1730s under Austin’s colonization programme. It is most famous for the legendary Battle of the Alamo, in 1836, when General Santa Anna wiped out a band of ragtag Texas volunteers seeking independence from Mexico. After the Civil War, it became a hard-drinking, hard-fighting “sin city”, at the heart of the Texas cattle and oil empires. Drastic floods in the 1920s wiped out much of the downtown area, but the sensitive WPA programme that revitalized two of the city’s prettiest sites, La Villita and the River Walk, laid the foundations for its future as a major tourist destination. Recently several massive hotels (think Vegas) have been constructed to accommodate the booming tourism and convention industries. The military has a major presence in San Antonio, too, with four bases in the metropolitan area.