Austin TX really is that weird
Austin, Texas, people are pretty weird
"What you might not know yet: Austin is the capital of allergies," jokes Donna Lou, pointing to the trees in bloom all around. The lively older lady offers electric bike tours through the Texan capital - and is something of an exhibit in itself. It stands for old Austin, when it was not yet an Eldorado for tech companies like Dell, Google, Apple and Amazon, which are currently transforming the town of 950,000 into a kind of Silicon Valley.
150 people move to Austin every day, and an imposing skyline has emerged from the ground in recent years. The locals like to tell you how cozy it used to be and complain about the traffic chaos. Austin still looks like a village with skyscrapers to vacationers. You are even greeted when you walk in the park.
Displeasure in the hippie community
Here in the east of the city, where Donna Lou lives, they are still there, the small, colorful wooden houses with gardens that look like an allotment garden. We know each other, grill together on the weekend - Donna speaks of the old hippie crowd to which she belongs. Hollywood stars like Sandra Bullock or Elijah Wood have homes here. What upsets Donna are neighbors like Warren, who owns a swanky mansion crammed with trophies from his big game hunts. "He sometimes opens his house as a museum, so he doesn't pay taxes," says Donna angrily. "That doesn't go down well in our hippie community."
Donna speeds ahead, the small group of tourists follows her. We make a photo stop in front of the downtown silhouette, then turn sharply left to suddenly land in a natural paradise. Lady Bird Lake is a recreational area in the middle of the city. All of Austin is up and about on this sunny day, jogging or walking the dog. The lush, wild shore landscape is reminiscent of the arms of the Danube, turtles frolic in the water. But you are not allowed to bathe here. There is the Barton Springs Pool, which is fed by a very cool spring. The actor Robert Redford is said to have learned to swim here. Admission is free before eight o'clock in the morning, especially in the hot summer the locals come to do their rounds - and enjoy their green oasis.
Lines in front of the food truck
The companies are not only moving here for the tax advantages. The quality of life is high, the university city of Austin is young and has a lively nightlife and music scene. You live in a metropolis - but everything is relaxed. Only Donna sets the pace, she would like to have another Margherita with us, after all, it's the weekend. A queue has formed in front of her favorite bar, everyone is chatting and enjoying the sun. People like to line up patiently in Austin, probably to simulate that big city feeling. This is also evident the next morning: It is 11:17 a.m. and at least 30 people are already waiting for their steaks in front of Micklethwait Craft Meats, one of 2,000 food trucks that are scattered across the city. The audience is hip, the atmosphere is great. Beer is served for free today.
In Texas, grilled food is consumed with no frills: if you need a sauce, it's not prepared properly, is the credo. For example at Franklin Barbecue, one of the most famous grill stalls in town, in front of which people set up folding chairs, that's how long the lines are. "Nobody can cut the line", nobody is allowed to push ahead - the owner insists. Rapper Kanye West was kicked out in 2016 for believing an exception would be made for him. He retaliated on Twitter with a bad review, which backfired. The owner shot back that even a "Mr. Kim Kardashian" had to follow his rules. Texans can not only be pleasantly stubborn when it comes to eating.
Cool music metropolis
Austin is famous for its one and a half million bats that live under one of the largest bridges in the city. They buzz off at dusk, with a crowd always waiting to watch the spectacle. The animals overslept this evening, but the sunset on the terrace of the Line Hotel is impressive even without bats. Then it goes to the Stubb's Club, Austin finally calls itself "Live Music Capital of the World".
A traditional Mexican band is playing, and the audience is mostly made up of older couples who are leisurely shuffling across the dance floor, dressed up in traditional robes. It feels like you've been beamed to Mexico. Next door in the Mohawk is Bidi Bidi Banda, who sings cover versions of the American Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who was something like the Latin version of Madonna in the 1990s. Austin more than lives up to its reputation as a cool music metropolis this evening. But how does Texas feel in the country?
Bandera is a two hour drive from Austin. The sleepy 800-inhabitant town looks like the film set of a western town. In the 19th century, the cattle drives on the Great Western Cattle Trail started from here. That is why the village is now called the "Capital of the Cowboys". There are amazingly funny cowboy shows for tourists, you can ride a horse-drawn carriage through the area, and the small museum is a bizarre cabinet of curiosities, replete with prepared wild animals and a goat with two heads, old horse saddles, rock samples and photos of western pioneers. As touristy as it all sounds, it feels normal. Probably also because the locals are quite relaxed about the hustle and bustle. In the East Dine, where everyone meets for lunch, you keep your cowboy hat on while you eat. The fried chicken is a classic, the portions are huge.
The Mayan Ranch is nearby and is a quaint hotel that offers farm holidays in Texan: horse riding for children, encounter a real longhorn cattle, have a cowboy breakfast with beans and bacon in nature, while a singer with a guitar to the sad love songs The best there. "It's not about reeling off a program. We want visitors to have experiences," says Patricia Moore of the local tourism office, a feisty elderly lady who loves her job - and who would pass as a sheriff on any TV series.
When asked what makes Texas different from other states, Moore's assistant James explains: "We still look people in the eyes when we talk to them." Then he tells how he used to say "Thank you, ma'am" in a bar in New York - until the waitress complained. She is not so old that he has to deal with her so formally.
When Texans present themselves as backwoodsmen, there is usually a wink. Somehow, they even pride themselves on stepping out of line. In fact, most of them also wear cowboy boots. In the hotel bar of the Mayan Ranch, which looks like a saloon, an elderly gentleman with a wide unbuttoned western shirt with gold chain, cowboy hat and mirrored sunglasses is playing country classics. Between the songs he talks about his musical hero George Strait, whose 1980 hit "You Look so Good In Love" he performs. It's heartbreakingly beautiful. You can find such originals in every bar - people sing in Texas even without tourists.
The next morning there is a hurricane warning. It's raining cats and dogs. Not even in the tropics does it pour that hard. Now you can understand the slogan "Things are bigger in Texas". Even the thunderstorms are gigantic, the lightning bolts rush across the sky. The bus driver does not care much about the torrents on the streets, he is happy that something is finally going on. The slogan "Keep Austin weird" is true: the people here are pretty weird and want to stay that way. There are many unique items. The real adventures in Texas are the people. (Karin Cerny, RONDO, September 6, 2019)
Arrival & accommodation
Getting there: Flight z. B. with Lufthansa from Vienna to Austin via Frankfurt
Accommodation: z. E.g. the Mayan Ranch in Bandera from around € 150 per person in a cottage or The Driskill in Austin from around € 190 per room
The trip was supported by Travel Texas and Lufthansa.
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