One thing that surprised us about Texas was the sudden influx of Lutheran churches. I was raised Lutheran, and we belong to a Lutheran church in Pittsburgh, so we are always on the lookout for Lutheran churches wherever we visit. We are typically surprised if we see 1 in an area, but when we arrived in Texas, especially central Texas, we started seeing them everywhere! It turns out, the German influence is still strong!
We made a couple of trips to New Braunfels during our time in the area and also incorporated a visit to nearby Gruene, both of which were heavily settled by German immigrants. It was very interesting to see the German influences and learn about how and why they chose this area. Cotton was a big draw and was vital to the early success of these communities.
If you Google Gruene, it is touted as a ghost town, though since the 1970s it has been revived with shops and restaurants and is the cutest little town. We arrived mid-morning, which was key to missing the crowds that started arriving for lunch as we left. Will enjoyed stopping at a fly shop, and I did a little browsing in a couple of shops as well, but mostly we just walked around to see the old buildings and read about the town.
The area of New Braunfels we loved the most, though, was Landa Park. We visited twice and hiked the Panther Canyon Nature Trail both times, and I would absolutely go back in a heartbeat. The park has so much to offer from trails to a small train ride to fishing and swimming. The trail was a fairly easy 2-mile hike with a short loop at the end. The loop is not well marked, but we were able to navigate without issue. It follows a (currently dry) creek bed through a canyon (hence the name). The canyon ends at the end of the trail and is surrounded by homes. In some places it feels like you are walking through people’s backyards. However, for the majority of the hike, you have absolutely no feeling of being in the middle of a populated area. It is a really nice break from the hustle just outside the mouth of the canyon. The springs that run through the park are as pristine as you will ever see and start right there in the park. We also added the Founders Oak to our growing list of “really big trees we have seen.” We visited the park on a Saturday morning and on a weekday morning, and both days were hopping, though with distinctly different crowds.
With a name like New Braunfels, I have always known that there was a strong German influence in the area, but actually getting out and exploring to learn and see the influence was enlightening. We only brushed the surface of what this area has to offer, and I would definitely be excited to return for Oktoberfest and a church service in one of the old churches to see what it is really about.