Where Wurst is Best: Wurstfest, New Braunfels

19 Nov

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People often ask me, why did you decide to study German in school, rather than French or (the far more geographically reasonable and useful) Spanish? Ultimately, it came down to two things that most middle schoolers would understand:  1. I wanted to be “different,” in what I assumed would be a cool way (I don’t know just go with it) and 2. I was a total daddy’s girl and my dad taught German and knew the language from having lived there, so I hoped it would bring me closer to him and make him proud. I have to say, it was a really good decision, because 16 years later, it’s the skill that got me a job at the company where I now work, and it may end up being my passport to bigger and better things later on (I’ll keep that vague at this point). It also allowed me to enjoy the yearly trek to Wurstfest in high school. I had never been, but was promised there would be beer and that we’d play Spades, so I was in.

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Wurstfest is the “10 Day Salute to Sausage” that began as just a one-day celebration in 1961. It’s not surprising that a tiny Texas town would celebrate German traditions like Wurst, polka music and beer — a lot of German immigrants moved to Texas, which is why many of our small towns have German names (New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Gruene, etc.) For me, it was the one day a year where I got to go on a special field trip with my German class and get caricatures drawn, look at silly hats, and laugh at people trying to polka with my friends. It always seemed to initiate the holiday season for me — the weather was always getting cooler around that time, and it was fun to wander around the grounds and look at all the little shops and get terrified by riding the rickety-looking ferris wheel. It was also what brought on my vegetarianism in some ways — I took a bite of chewy wurst* because a friend dared me to try the sausage, and I was so disgusted that I decided to adopt my mom’s dietary habits then and there. 

*I can see why chewy wurst would turn you off of meat. Now chicken fried bacon on the other hand. That’s the good stuff.

This year was my first time back since my senior year of high school, and thusly it was the first time I actually got to drink! My dad bought us all a pitcher of Leinenkugel Oktoberfest (bummer they didn’t have more unique one-of-a-kind flavors, but the Oktoberfest one was perfect for our needs anyway) and then I bought us a “Black Forest”-style funnel cake* loaded with melty chocolate chips and dark cherries (YUM), and we found a little corner in the Biergarten where we could sway back and forth to polka music and play a game of Spades. It was really fun to be back in the context of adulthood!

*Great call on the funnel cake. Lance said it tasted like what he wished all donuts tasted like and I agree.

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My shirt says “Alice im Wunderland,” because I am a true nerd.

Since we attended on the Saturday before the final Sunday of the festival, it was super crowded and a little hard to get around*. Still, we made a best effort after polishing off our pitcher of beer, and maneuvered our way around to ooh and aah at handmade Christmas ornaments, hats shaped like beer mugs and unicorns and everything under the sun, buttons and pins, candy and meat**. It was like being at a busy Marktplatz, only with some serious Southern accents instead of German ones. It was such a hoot to hear “Roll Out the Barrel” for the first time in a decade, and we lucked out with parking, staying in a spot right by the Schlitterbahn Resort and therefore hitching a ride with the shuttles they had going back and forth. I hope that we get to make this a more consistent tradition moving forward, because there’s just nothing better than a pitcher of beer, a sweet treat, and a card game*** with the people you love****.

*Especially for me trying to wheel through crowds in my cart. 

**A lot of the treats looked tasty, but I had to try something I hadn’t had before and chicken fried bacon was it. It beat out pork chop on a stick by a pretty large margin.  

***I’m surprised Caitlin didn’t point out that she won our spades game. What a gracious winner. 

****Amen to that. Hopefully we’ll make two trips to New Braunfels a year. One for Schlitterbahn and one for Wurst Fest.

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